The letter X can stand for many things. For Port Washington’s Restaurant X, which quietly opened its doors in late October, it symbolizes an entire philosophy aimed at bending the rules of what it means to both eat and run a restaurant.
“We have a small menu that’s always changing, and there’s not a lot of rigidity, hence the ‘X’,” said Gabriel Moroianu, a partner. “It’s unobtrusive – anything goes.”
For the first few weeks of Restaurant X’s existence, there wasn’t even a sign over the door—just a row of misted-up windows on Main Street, beyond which diners would find a plush, gray-on-gray dining room. Each banquet comes with a sealed gray envelope, and inside it a multi-course tasting menu that changes every two weeks. Charged with that constant reinvention is Chef Tomo Kabayashi, Chef de cuisine Cesar Aguilar and a rotating roster of visiting chefs (Chef Xs) which will start in January.
“We saw Chef Tomo as our culinary anchor for this project,” says Moroianu. “Chefs Tomo and Cesar have carte blanche with creativity, to put their best foot forward and use their brains to create something unique.”
Originally from the Japanese prefecture of Yamaguchi, Kobayashi is a familiar face on the local gastronomic circuit, including a stint as head chef of Toku Modern Asian in Manhasset.
Kobayashi and Aguilar have known each other for years, and it was in Toku where most of the partners met; next to Moroianu they are Buck Canon, Calvin Lau and Juan De La Cruz. (Robert S. Heicklen, a real estate agent, is also a partner). Together, they used their collective experience to reverse engineer restaurant life and create an adventurous, ever-changing place where stress and toxicity are minimized.
“We’ve worked in chaos for so many years, so we wanted to create calm,” says Canon, a former chef who doubles as a bartender, serving custom-made mixed drinks behind the dramatic, illuminated marble bar.
Each two-week era is themed, and diners are encouraged to keep their menus closed so they’ll be surprised by every twist on the nine-course tasting, which costs $160 per person, or $215 with wine pairing. There is a parallel vegetarian menu for $120 per person, $175 with wine pairing.
Restaurant X’s opening menu was French-Asian themed. The small plates feature Berkshire pork “char siu porchetta” in a plum-mustard-ginger glaze; a fillet of madai (Japanese sea bream) dramatically served in clear parchment (en papillote) cut open by a server and topped with tomato shiso fondue; and a charred wagyu beef cheek with a clear yuzu koshou gravy. The vegetarian menu featured dishes such as roasted maitake mushrooms with potato galette, shiso butter and truffle puree.
Pastry chef Joemi Reyes, once the pastry chef of Jericho’s One North, makes layered, silent show-stopping desserts such as coconut panna cotta with azuki bean gelée and spiced mango candy, accented with dianthus blossoms.
Moroianu, a sommelier, creates the wine pairings for each menu. “Pairing wine with each course brings out nuance,” he said.
A shorter four-course tasting menu is available at the bar, for $80, and already seems to be attracting a following; many of the chef’s tasting dishes are available as small a la carte plates, from $10 to $24.
In December, Restaurant X will debut a wild-game themed menu; in January, they welcome their first guest chef: Christian Delouvrier, the once-Michelin-starred chef of the late, great Lespinasse in New York City.
Restaurant X is open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner and Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner at 170 Main St., Port Washington, 516-918-9446. restaurantxli.com