East End Eats: I Wanted to Like It

A rather expensive disappointment
Entering Tauk at Trail’s End, there is a sense of deja vu, as in “I think I’ve been to this recently renovated restaurant in Montauk.” Jane Bimson

Tauk at Trail’s End
63 South Euclid Avenue
Dinner, 5 p.m.
Lunch, Saturday and Sunday, noon. Closed Wednesday

It is especially hard to write a review of a place that you wanted to like, thought you should like, and hoped to like, but it ends up being a rather expensive disappointment. Such was the case with Tauk at Trail’s End.

Upon entering, one gets a sense of déja vu, as in “I think I’ve been to this recently renovated restaurant in Montauk.” The color scheme is white and blue, lots of wood, outdoor furniture indoors, metal chairs, a surfboard on the wall, and some artwork that is somewhere between Jackson Pollock’s dripped paint and a child’s spin art. 

Once seated, we got some warm Italian bread dotted with sesame seeds and some herbed olive oil. For starters we tried a fried calamari special, shrimp and crab wontons, and tuna poke. 

The tuna poke was fresh and delicious, small cubes of tuna lightly tossed in a ponzu dressing and served with some crisp wonton triangles and a dab of wakame (seaweed) salad. The calamari was okay — tender but pale and a bit oily. The marinara sauce was good, chunky, spicy, and garlicky, but needed salt. The five wontons were pretty good, and the dipping sauce was tasty with ginger, spice, and a hint of sweetness. The slaw served with it was a bit weird, kind of tan and purple, tasting mostly of sesame oil. 

For entrees we ordered the lobster linguini and two specials: Long Island duck breast and crisp tilefish. The lobster linguini dish was a huge platter of pink and creamy pasta. It had a bit of an off-smell, which we were pretty sure wasn’t the funky-odored pecorino served with it. We tried a few bites and left the rest. The duck dish was sliced duck served more medium than medium rare. The sauce, described as fig-raspberry-brandy, mostly tasted of  raspberry jam. One side dish was a vegetable medley of carrots, broccoli, red peppers, and zucchini, waaaaay overcooked and swathed with bits of garlic. It would have been tasty if the vegetables hadn’t been so soft. The additional accompaniment of cubes of roasted sweet potatoes lacked seasoning. 

The crisped-skin tilefish was also a whisper past its sale date. It also was not crisped. This dish was served with the aforementioned overly pliable vegetables and some lukewarm red-skin mashed potatoes.

The service on the night of our visit was very friendly. Our waiter, Sean, was knowledgeable and professional. The prices are moderate to expensive, way too expensive for the quality of the food. Appetizers are $14 to $36, salads $12 and $15, entrees are $18 to $44, sides are $8 to $16, and desserts are $12 to $14.

For dessert we tried the special of apple crisp and Tauk’s signature dessert “Snafflized” cheesecake. The apple crisp was no longer crisp; the topping had receded into the fruit a while ago. The flavors were good though, and the garnish of Granny Smith apple slices drizzled with caramel sauce was pretty. 

The Snafflized cheesecake is house-made cheesecake covered with Reddi-Wip, then branded with a brown sugar crust. Bruleed brown sugar usually tastes pretty darned good but this tasted like a cross between a marshmallow and gas from a blowtorch (or overheated salamander oven). We asked what “snafflized” meant and nobody knew, but one wag suggested checking the Urban Dictionary. Indeed, there it is: “The snaffles, obtained through smoking marijuana, are when you reach the stage where you feel physically bloated, and would, under sober circumstances, never continue eating, yet you do.” That sounds about right. Snaffle also has a few more definitions in this dictionary but this was the cleanest one I could share in this family newspaper.

Tauk at Trail’s End is a cute place with a charming and friendly staff, and God bless them for staying open in the winter; there aren’t a lot of choices in downtown Montauk this time of year. But for the quality of the food, the prices should be lower, and, no matter the price, the fish fresher.