Détente Restaurant, in Edgartown, is ten years old this summer. Owners Kevin and Suzanna Crowell pride themselves on their menu of adventurous modern local cuisine and a substantial selection of wines from around the world.
Détente is positioned, unremarkably, in a corner in the back of Nevin Square in Edgartown, halfway between North Water and North Summer Streets. There is little in the way of walk-in traffic but their reputation for fine food and service has led to a decade of success.
Dinners are served either in the intimate dining rooms, or on the outdoor terrace, a perfect spot for a quiet meal by candlelight. The full menu is also offered at the beautiful soapstone bar. The offerings change frequently to take advantage of the best in locally grown and raised ingredients.
The Crowell’s met in the late 1990’s while working at an Edgartown restaurant called Savior Faire, she as a waitress, he a sous chef. When the owners closed the restaurant to start another called Alchemy they stayed with them and worked for a couple of seasons before taking a summer off. “We worked private dinner parties while we tried to figure out our hopes and dreams,” Ms. Crowell said. The following winter they jumped at the chance to stay in Paris when a friend had an available apartment. Their travel plans included getting married in Italy with about 40 of their friends.
Ms. Crowell took some time to tell The Times about Détente and its history.
How did you first get into the restaurant business?
Neither one of us had any idea that we wanted to work in the restaurant industry. In college, Kevin’s best friend invited him to work with him on the Cape as a line cook, and he loved it. It was the first job he ever had where he wasn’t watching the clock. The work days actually felt too short.
Suzanna has an older brother who’s a chef, and other family and close family friends who owned restaurants. Always surrounded by good food, it just felt natural to get into the restaurant business.
How did Détente begin and where did the name come from?
We knew we wanted to start our own restaurant some day. In the winter of 2003/4, we got the opportunity to spend three months in Paris, and we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into their culture of food and wine. We searched out tiny bistros and wine bars and dreamed. We took pictures, picked out colors, took notes everywhere we ate.
We even came up with the name on that trip. Kevin was reading a book in which the word détente kept popping up. We asked around what the word meant, and we were told relaxation. We thought that was perfect. We would want our restaurant to be a place where people came to relax and enjoy. When we got home from that trip, we had the opportunity to buy this space, and we didn’t hesitate.
What are you the most proud of?
We’re proud that people have supported our efforts. It’s a difficult location that is not often stumbled upon — people have to seek us out. When we bought the restaurant, it was a shell of a space that needed a ton of work. It feels good to know that we created the restaurant together, everything from the drywall to the wine list.
How has the menu changed over the years?
It’s always changing. Kevin is inspired by our travels, trips to farms, classics revisited, and modern approaches to food. In the beginning it was mostly influenced by French and Italian style cooking. Over the years it has drawn from a more diverse pool of cuisines.
What is the most fun part of your business?
There are certain nights when everything just clicks and falls perfectly into place, the customers are happy, the staff is in a groove, everyone is enjoying themselves. Those are the times when it’s the most fun running a restaurant. It makes you feel like a proud parent.
What is the funniest thing that has happened at the restaurant?
Most of it’s not suitable for print, but believe us it’s funny.
Well, if you can’t tell us about the funniest event can you tell us about the most memorable?
The first night we hosted a wedding reception. We were still pretty new, and we were so honored that they chose Détente. It was a beautiful evening, and after a lovely meal they moved all of the tables to the side and turned our dining room into a nightclub for the rest of the night. They had so much fun and were so in love. You can still see the marks on the floor from their shoes, and they hold a special place in our hearts.
What changes do you plan for this year?
We’d like to offer more wine tasting dinners and expand our catering/ special events program.
Any goals you haven’t achieved?
There’s always more to dream about. After we bought The Sweet Life Café last year, in Oak Bluffs, we’ve been pretty content with two young kids and two restaurants, but you never know.
Détente is open 5:30-9 pm, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Starting mid-May open Tuesday through Saturday, then 7 days a week in the summer starting mid-June from 5:30 until 10 pm.