Sitting 25 feet above the water, shaded by massive oak trees and overlooking the Wilson Harbor on Lake Ontario, the Sunset Bar and Grill provides an idyllic setting for watching a late-summer sunset. Their daily posting of each night’s sunset time shows how this spot aims to cater to sunset watchers.
Plenty of outdoor seating space is available with a newly extended patio and outdoor bar with a large fire pit for cool nights. A large dining room with marina views is available too, if that is more to your liking. On a recent Saturday evening we were seated at a table with a view of festively lit boats docked below, and were able to watch others gently glide by.
Our server suggested we start with the house favorite, tuna nachos ($13). We began our meal with this suggestion along with a cup of the soup of the day, New England clam chowder ($2), made fresh every Friday and served through the weekend. The generous portion of chowder arrived piping hot and was loaded with clams, unlike some clam chowders, and large chunks of red-skinned potatoes. The broth was creamy, but not thick or glutinous, a true chowder. The subtle undertones of butter and onion were complemented with the pronounced flavor of the star of the soup, the clams.
The tuna nachos, a recipe of owner Shelly Elia, were served on a bed of fried wontons layered with a tangy seaweed salad, seared ahi tuna and finished with a wasabi aioli and sweet chili sauce topped with sesame seeds. Texturally, the combination of the crunchy fried wontons, the tender tuna and creamy sauce was spot-on. The wasabi and chili sauce provided contrast to the mild fish, while the vibrant kelly-green seaweed salad afforded not only an aesthetic element but intensified the seafood flavor. The wontons were simply spiced with ground ginger and performed duty as utensils as we scooped up every last bite. It was enough for two or three people to share, or as a main dish for one.
A recent Saturday night special was clams casino stuffed grouper ($19) served with a house-made coleslaw and thinly sliced home-made french fries. The grouper was moist and tender. The rich stuffing was comprised of tomato, lemon, bacon and, of course, clams, and seasoned with paprika and white pepper, spicy without being overwhelming. Cold, Wilson-brewed and on draft Woodcock Ale was a nice way to squelch the heat before indulging in the next bite, and the uncomplicated slaw cooled the palate as well.
Grilled portabellas ($15) arrived with rice pilaf and sautéed zucchini. The mushrooms were stuffed with roasted red peppers and caramelized onions, and were drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction. The rice was fluffy, but the star of this dish was the sautéed, locally grown zucchini and onions. Thick zucchini slices were prepared al dente with just a bit of crunch to them. The only other ingredient was onion, sautéed in butter. It reminded me of my Polish grandma’s no-fuss cooking, with ingredients pulled straight from the garden and full of natural flavor and goodness.
Their “create your own” mac and cheese ($15) is another customer favorite. My 14-year old guest opted for the three-cheese cheddar with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and peas. The colorful selections were served with penne pasta and a substantial, gooey amount of real cheese. Creamy, dreamy, rich and filling, there was plenty to share or bring home for lunch.
While finishing our entrees I overheard a woman at the next table exclaim, “Isn’t that the most amazing thing you have ever had?” What she was talking about was the “Almond Joy” crème brulee ($6.50). A creamy custard with the subtle flavor of coconut and a few unexpected chunks of chocolate, melted just enough to be creamy in your mouth yet hold their own in the midst of creamy decadence, covered with a crispy shell and slivered toasted almonds.
Chef Sean Meteer said he has been playing with crème brulee recipes for a while and enjoys developing creative twists on this iconic dessert. Past favorites include orange Creamsicle, maple candied bacon and almond amaretto, with banana split to come.
The Sunset Bar and Grill’s season ends Sept. 30, but Meteer will be hosting the restaurant’s annual five-course wine dinner on Oct. 1 and 2. This event has grown from accommodating 20 guests to almost 100, necessitating a two-night run, he said. It’s $75 per person including drinks and tip.
This year’s menu will include lamb meatballs stuffed with smoked garlic cloves, pork belly spring rolls with sweet potato hash, duck breast with roasted cherry balsamic reduction and a double crème brulee with baked apples served in a hollowed apple. This “double” crème brulee will have a double crunch topping with fruit between two layers of caramelization. Each course comes with wine pairings. More information will be available on their website.
If you don’t want to let the last few precious summer nights of 2015 pass you by, grab your friends and say, “Let’s go down to the Sunset Grill."