By Su-Jit Lin | Since the Beachtree Café’s April closure, speculation and anticipation has been mounting for its replacement: a South Shore outpost of The Bohlsen Restaurant Group’s seafood concept restaurant, H2O: Seafood & Sushi.

Friday night, greaterbayshore.com was treated to a sneak peek of what the community can look forward to come H20’s grand opening on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

The invite-only cocktail party kicked off what’s expected to be several weeks of soft opening special events, including a 50% credit for diners to use toward a future meal at the restaurant after New Year’s.

We can confidently — and objectively — report that if what was served to friends, family and industry insiders Friday night is any indication, there will be plenty of tempting uses for that gift card.

On the menu are favorites from the Smithtown location, as well as seasonal specials and just-for-East Islip dishes. Furthermore, in January, brunch and lunch will introduce a new line of options from H20.

Highlights from the passed hors d’oeuvres by Executive Chef Luis Polanco included:

  • Both renditions of the Tornado Roll: king crab, avocado, cucumber and eel sauce or spicy tuna, scallion, spicy mayo and eel sauce wrapped in curlicue spirals of deep-fried potatoes
  • Minced shrimp- and lobster-stuffed pan-seared “wontons” with hoisin and miso mustard sauce
  • Sashimi pizza, with fresh salmon and tuna sliced thin and served on blistered flatbread
  • Claw meat crab cakes with lemon and watercress, topped with Creole mayo
  • Shrimp buns: soft mantou buns stuffed taco-style with compressed shrimp patties, Bibb lettuce and spicy mayo
  • Chicken teriyaki and beef with sweet chili satays
  • Chicken and waffles, which will appear on the brunch menu that is yet to be finalized

Craft cocktails were also served, such as the Babylon Express, popular in many of The Bohlsen Restaurant Group establishments. Sparkling, red and white wine were poured.

The gourmet execution and presentation of the food and beverage service was one that was befitting the new space, which was gut-renovated to better meet the standards of the more upscale H2O brand.

New tile floors in a mosaic pattern, industrial-style steel cable handrails on the staircase, warm golden oak tables and trim, and rich nautical colors in the soft goods give the space coastal appeal and offer understated elegance.

The upstairs dining area now boasts exposed white beams that criss-cross soaring ceilings, modern white chairs, and even a tower alcove for a semi-private dining experience.

On the ground floor, one of the more significant changes is the removal of several tables to accommodate a new oval-shaped bar. Open to the rest of the main dining room, this promises to become a convivial gathering space for those meeting before a meal.

Amenities such as a coat check and valet complete the change in tone.

H20 of East Islip