Whenever a new restaurant opens on the Island, you know some thought and research went into the entire experience. In the case of the new Down Island restaurant in Oak Bluffs, the experience includes food that’s creative and sustainably sourced, with a city feel, in a setting that lacks the dress code and stuffiness of typical fine-dining establishments.
Celestial Group (Adam Jaime, Doug Abdelnour, David Gaffey, and Steve Ansara), owners of both 20bynine and the new Down Island, have spent the past two years developing a concept that, in my opinion, will surely bring a new dining experience to the Island. Executive Chef Scott Cummings, chef de cuisine Gustavo Aguiar, sous-chef Connor Sinn, and pastry chef Becky Childers have built a stellar team that’s ready to change the way Martha’s Vineyard sees fine dining.
“Our food is defined by sound cooking techniques and a classical foundation with modern practices and plating,” Chef Scott Cummings said. “This may sound complex, but we keep it very approachable to the everyday consumer. We do everything from scratch, and all products are thoughtfully sourced and prepared to the highest standards. Every element on the plate was built from real ingredients.”
The menu includes six courses (including bread service) served nightly, which will change throughout the season. For $49, guests enjoy a tasting of appetizers, entrées, and dessert. For an added $29, a thoughtful wine pairing elevates the experience. Having a set menu takes the work out of ordering. Rhyme and reason: That’s what their menus are all about. From the light-as-air zucchini fritters to the 48-hour-cooked brisket topped with crispy duck fat and served alongside local lobster stuffed with scallop mousse, this food makes you happy. By the time you taste the crispy meringues on the creamsicle dessert, you’ll have a smile on your face.
For those with dietary restrictions and lifestyles, like gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, etc., giving the restaurant a heads-up before you arrive is the way to go. Down Island wants to take the time to conceptualize a new dish catered to your needs. Let them know when you make reservations, and you’ll be impressed.
Another thing that made me leave feeling inspired is how carefully every ingredient is sourced. Nothing is put on a plate on a whim, as each ingredient provides a means to an end. “We are dedicated to buying from sustainable local and regional food sources that provide the best products at the best prices and, most important, do things right,” Chef Cummings said. “We look for all local seafood from the Menemsha Fish House, we get all
our salt from MV Sea Salt, and take all we can get from North Tabor Farm as the growing season starts to blossom. We’re building relationships with Scapegoat’s farm program, and the GOOD Farm. At the same time we are also getting responsibly raised and produced wagyu beef brisket from a family farm in Idaho, and beautiful garnishes from the Chef’s Garden in Ohio. We look as close as possible, but when what we need can’t be sourced here, we look for responsible producers elsewhere in the U.S.”
The goal is noble, yet realistic. Sure, we all want to be cooking with only locally sourced ingredients grown and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, but living and working on a small Island in New England has its limitations. The fact that Down Island is working hard on those local connections is admirable.
“Working in Island establishments has really anchored me to the Island,” Chef Cummings said. “The bounty from the farms and seas around here is very special, and so are the people. My wife and I have built our home here, and want to live our lives here. That’s why the success and future of our restaurant group is so important to me.”
Down Island is located at 6 Circuit Avenue, with the entrance in the rear of the building on Kennebec Ave (across from the Red Cat). For reservations, visit downislandmv.com or call 508-338-2503. Follow along on social media at @downislandmv.