Rumba: Inspired Island Cuisine & Rum Bar

It was 8 p.m. on a Friday in Hampton Bays. It was also late March, which is to say, there’s not usually much going on. Pulling up to Rumba on Canoe Place Road, there was an attendant outside directing the cars queued up for valet parking. A line? Shocking!

Antsy and worried about our table, I broke into city-mode and jumped out of the car to run in, leaving my more relaxed, now perplexed, boyfriend to the parking situation. Once inside, I felt silly. Reggae music was playing, and people of all ages were leaning over the surfboard-made-into-bar table, enjoying fun-looking beverages served in jars. The laidback host said there was a slight wait for the table but that he’d come and find us. Not a problem! I haven’t seen people out and about like this since summer. My boyfriend came in and found me and just as I was about to order a cocktail, we were led to our table.

I’m glad our table was in the main room, so we could both enjoy the cheerful atmosphere of the bar area and do a little people watching. Scoping the scene, we concluded a large portion of the young people must have been around for Easter and Passover. Realizing at that moment it was Good Friday, I decided to balance my hedonistic “Mr. Big’s Top Shelf” margarita, with a full order of seafood. This should land me somewhere in purgatory, which I’m totally okay with at this point because the concoction of Don Julio Silver 100% Blue Agave tequila, Combier and fresh squeezed juices was divine. There was no taste of tequila, nor was there an overpowering sweetness, as many margaritas have. My favorite part was the froth. Note to the ladies: One does the job.

For appetizers, we shared the grilled artichokes and seared Ahi tuna. The project of eating an artichoke is enjoyable in and of itself, much like playing with one’s food. Slightly charred, they had a nice smoky taste, and were so flavorful that I didn’t even use the buttery remoulade sauce. The seared tuna, which we ordered medium-rare, was very fresh, as to be expected from a Shinnecock canal restaurant and full of flavor. It was served on a slender rectangular plate, slices arranged like toppled dominoes, over coleslaw, drizzled with gingery “yummy yummy sauce” and sprinkled with fresh cilantro. The coleslaw puts your Memorial Day picnic slaw to instant shame: very thinly sliced and mixed around with the sauce, it was indeed yummy.

For the main course, we ordered the special, a mahi-mahi steak with scallops and a creamy red wine reduction sauce, and the soy and sugar cane salmon. Both dishes arrived steaming hot and with the same sides—coconut risotto and spinach. The rice and veggies were good, but clearly upstaged by their fish, and we both left them barely touched while devouring every last bit of salmon, mahi and scallop. The salmon was prepared exactly as I had asked, medium well, and was the perfect shade of pink to my liking, with very few of those white lines. It was so tasty it barely needed the soy and sugar cane glaze. My boyfriend’s mahi and scallops were gone in a matter of minutes, a good sign, and before we knew it the host came by with two little shots of homemade vanilla rum for us, which he assured us was not out of the ordinary. “Christmas in your mouth” was how my partner in crime described it. It was dessert enough for me, but we nonetheless caved for the Tres Leches. Homemade and served with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, not-too-sweet whipped cream and shaved almonds, it was moist and bouncy and quite a note to end on.

In the summer you can sit outside on the deck and watch the boats pass by. You can even hop on Rumba’s own boat and take a little ride over to Cowfish.

Rumba, 43 Canoe Place Road, Hampton Bays, 631-594-3544, rumbarumbar.com.

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