There’s something to be said for a restaurant that gives the patron a particular feeling. Many restaurants never accomplish that feat and most that do aren’t able to pull it off until food comes to the table.
But sometimes you walk into a place and immediately get a sense of something. At Dagim, that something is the inherent underwater vibe.
Your first steps into the Great Neck building that conjure up that atmosphere are … well … steps. Situated on the lower level of the building, Dagim actually has several tiers that carry you farther below ground.
Owner Edmond Adelipour worked with local artist Arlene Mcloughin to design the interior of the restaurant and the effort shows. The color palette and hand-painted murals on the walls will have you feeling like you’re below sea level, not just street level.
When I was invited to experience Dagim, I chose to start with some real freshness. The Blackened Tuna Bites were an interesting take on a familiar appetizer for two reasons. The first was the use of pepper-crusted tuna to add a bit of spice and the second was the choice to use chunks of both the tuna and avocado instead of the usual smoother textures. The wonton chips provided a good vehicle for the combination and the more distinct chunks allowed the creaminess of the avocado to stand out.
Dagim features a sushi menu with a nice selection of specialty rolls that vary wildly in components. And while I usually don’t favor mango in my sushi, my favorite was the Bond Street Roll. Named after their address, this roll had mango and pepper-crusted tuna on the inside, avocado and tobiko (flying fish roe) on the top, and a miso glaze and sweet sauce drizzled on top. The flavors came together brilliantly as the sweetness of the mango, the spiciness of the tuna, the smokey hints from the tobiko, and the salty finish of the miso glaze combined for a well-balanced bite.
If you go to a restaurant called Dagim, I’d assume that you like fish. But just in case you aren’t exactly in the mood for that, Dagim still has you covered. They have a few pasta dishes on the menu (adding salmon is an option of course) and I’d recommend trying the Linguini Primavera if you’re looking for a non-pescatarian meal. Made with their house marinara sauce, you’ll find a good amount of vegetables dispersed throughout your pasta. The carrots, squash, and zucchini are all cooked to a point where they are firm enough to easily distinguish themselves and not disappear into the linguini. The fresh garlic and onion give the sauce a nice fullness that acts as a great base for the plate.
Choosing an entree from the menu at Dagim is difficult given the number of options and different preparations offered.
If you’re looking for something that is both simple and luxurious, try the Miso Chilean Sea Bass. The miso flavor is absorbed into the fish during a 24-hour marinating process, but the mouthfeel might be this dish’s best asset. Chilean Sea Bass is very delicate, but here it is expertly pan-seared so that a slight crisp develops on the outside to provide both a nice texture and a casing to keep the filet from falling apart.
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, try the Mykonos Branzino. Using both whole filets from a branzino, this dish comes with the two filets rolled around a filling of spinach and feta cheese. Not only does the result look impressive, but the taste is there too. The combination of the acidity and saltiness of the lemon caper sauce with the rich taste of the feta will have you savoring every bite.
As you approach the end of your meal, you’re going to want to leave room for dessert. Dairy restaurants usually hold an advantage over their meat counterparts and Dagim is no exception to that rule.
With a pastry chef that makes different creations every week, you will definitely want to weigh your options. But one suggestion I can make is the Layer Cake. No, this isn’t like something you’d find after your Pesach seder. This is a cake made of many layers of crêpes alternating with cream to form a light and fluffy masterpiece. It’s great on its own, but don’t be shy about adding to it with one of their house-made ice cream flavors.
So, if you’re looking for a high-end experience that isn’t just another steakhouse, give Dagim a try. The ambiance is aquatic and the flavors are fabulous.
Take the plunge.