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Walk into Hagan’s Grill and the first thing you’ll notice is a surfboard mounted horizontally across the barrier wall. There is no doubt you’ve arrived for dinner in a beach town. And that town is Hampton, New Hampshire, home to the well-known tourist attraction known as Hampton Beach.

For eight years, Hagan’s Grill has offered casual dining in its dimly lit galley-style restaurant. There are three areas of choice: a seat at the bar, at one of several high-top tables, or regular level tables that accommodate larger parties. Since it opened, chefs have come and gone, but for the past three years, sought-after Chef Jacques Desire Moonsamy has been at the kitchen helm, and the menu has taken on a multicultural flavor. Moonsamy’s culinary roots stem from his native Mauritius, an island off the southeast coast of Africa, along with experience studying culinary arts in France and Italy and time spent working at Club Med. Add to this his know-how in working a line, access to the freshest products in town, his long-standing local reputation (he’s been a chef in the area for 35 years), and you’ve got a winning combination.

Start with Baked Brie in a puff pastry with a mixed fruit conserve and garlic crostini, or Fresh Lobster and Maine Crab Cakes. Perhaps you’d prefer a salad, like the chef-suggested Beet Salad of pickled red beet slices on a bed of arugula and garnished with artichoke hearts and house-roasted walnuts. You need not scrutinize over the wine menu—there are several select wines on the list, all with reputable names: Louis Martini, Hess Select, Duckhorn, La Crema, and Kendall Jackson to name a handful from California. There’s also a selection of world wines to match the menu’s international flair. Tempting cocktails include a Ruby Red Cosmo.

Saffron Bouillabaisse beckons as the signature dish that sends owner Dora Hand swooning over its enticing taste. “It’s the broth that makes the bouillabaisse,” she says. That, plus the fresh chunks of salmon, oversized sweet scallops, mussels, shrimp, a half lobster in shell, and slices of hot Italian sausage. The garlicky broth is accented with cilantro, fennel, and saffron. Two large slices of a crusty baguette are at the ready for dipping that must take place in between seafood and sausage bites.

The fresh-caught seafood of the day varies. On a recent visit, offerings included Coconut-Encrusted Mahi Mahi and Grilled Swordfish, with a thick disk of whipped honey ginger, mango, and truffle butter, a nod to Chef Moonsamy’s “mixing it up” experience at Club Med. Sam Adams beer-battered Fish and Chips will appeal to both kids and adults.

On the meaty side, menu selections include an Italian-inspired Boneless Chicken Breast Saltimbocca, Oven Roast Duck with blueberry glaze, Grilled Aged 21 Day Tenderloin with herbes de Provence fries, and grass-fed Braised Short Ribs.

And then there’s dessert. Moonsamy is known for his Bread Pudding, a dense, delectable indulgence with a noticeable bourbon kick. White Russian Coffee is also a nice finish to the meal. Just when you think you cannot devour another morsel, a plate of house-prepared semi-sweet truffles is served with your check, as a thank you. The world becomes a smaller place through Moonsamy’s intricate culinary offerings.

Hagan’s Grill
6 High Street
Hampton, N.H.

Photographs by Tony Scarpetta