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Acacia Flexes Their ‘Mussels’ 

Michael Cassano and Matthew Maxwell opened the doors of Acacia just in time for Dine Huntington Restaurant Week.

Mussels are “the focal point,” of Acacia’s menu, chef Matthew Maxwell explains. He estimates he whipped up about 200 pounds of plump wild mussels from the north of Maine last Thursday-Saturday alone. And with a list of renditions that draw inspiration from around the world, it’s little surprise the mussels are practically flying out the kitchen door.

Ahead of their first day on Oct. 13, owner Michael Cassano and the team have been hard at work on the space since February, transforming the Oak Room at Meehan’s into a hip, sophisticated destination for fine dining, complete with an LED ceiling and ample wood accents.

Michael was a stockbroker from 1995-2008 before making his way into the restaurant business. Chef Matthew, a Culinary Institute of America grad, brings with him to Acacia experience in Manhattan restaurants like Brasserie on 53rd Street and the Water Club on the East River.

Three of the pots we enjoyed illustrate the diversity of flavors available on their mussel menu. The Cioppino pot ($26) bursting with shrimp, Little Neck clams and scallops, brings Italian flair to the table with Italian broth and chunky marinara, topped with Parmesan crostini. While Cioppino offers a lighter flavor profile – you won’t miss the pasta, we promise – richness rules in Acacia’s Best ($29), a decadent pot filled with tender lobster claw meat, black truffles, pancetta and aromatic cheese fondue that wafts upward and just about dares you to dive in. Turn your gaze to New Orleans when you dig into the Louisiana pot ($23), a spiced, flavorful medley packed with shrimp, okra, scallions, smoky, chunks of spicy and smoky Andouille sausage and juicy, tender shrimp.

Those in the mood for something from the turf will do very well at Acacia. Their 8 oz filet mignon ($32) is another hands-down favorite. Paired with flavorful three-cheese scalloped potatoes, the melt-in-your-mouth steak is grilled to perfection and supremely satisfying as magnified by a peppery bordelaise.

Appetizers are equally impressive. Tuna tartare ($13) is Michael’s favorite, and we saw why in a hurry – served atop a mound of vinegar and green tobiko-dressed cucumber, it’s a beautiful plate. Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes ($14) burst with Chesapeake goodness and are served atop unique hot and sour cucumbers. Proscuitto-wrapped Figs ($12), filled with truffle cheese and a mint leaf, create a muted, yet lovely, sweet-and-salty contrast that whets your appetite for the delights to come. Gluten-averse foodies will do well here, too – 16 of the 27 menu items are gluten-free. Rosemary-infused olive oil is a delicious accompaniment for fresh-baked bread, too.

Mesculin salad ($11) is full of flavor as well, with impossibly rich oven-dried tomatoes starring on a plate with brioche croutons, shave Grana Padano cheese and mixed greens tossed in a zesty, surprisingly light creamy Dijon. Another light choice is the Oven Roasted Red Beet Salad ($8), a pairing of smooth-as-silk Montrachet Goat cheese, orange, mint and beet chunks tossed in citrus vinaigrette.

With diverse and excellent offerings like these filling its menu, Acacia is off to a well-earned fast start, and we’re hoping the good vibes will continue to spread in the months to come.

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