Lambert’s Cove Inn is tucked in the thick of a wooded dirt road in West Tisbury. It’s a quaint and quiet area with a familiar feel — a hard-to-find, easy-to-be type of place. It’s a destination location for dinner or a weekend away, and Chef Joe DaSilva is back in the kitchen.
“I’m a restaurant guy,” he laughed, “I wish I could get that out of my head, but I can’t.”
Mr. DaSilva has cooked in restaurants all over the Island for the past 23 years. He became a familiar face at Dry Town Cafe, Stand By Cafe, Zephrus Restaurant, and other old-time spots. He worked at Lambert’s Cove Inn from 2005 to 2010, then Saltwater Restaurant until its doors closed, and he’s been in the private chef business ever since.
“The hours are better, but it’s not steady year-round,” Mr. DaSilva said. That’s why the decision was easy enough when inn owner Scott Jones asked him to jump back on board.
“We were looking to go back to our roots a little bit,” Mr. Jones told The Times. “I’ve worked with Joe in the past, and I know he does a good job.”
Mr. DaSilva first came to Lambert’s Cove Inn in 2005 to freshen up the menu and bring in more clientele. He’s hoping to do the same this time around. The menu is still a work in progress, but Mr. DaSilva said it’ll be a combination of both dishes he’s done before and ones that are new to everyone. “As soon as I know who exactly my staff is going to be, I’ll have a much better idea of the food,” he said.
Mr. DaSilva’s menus tend to evolve from the people he works with, and as head chef, he likes to keep his cooks involved. Part of that process is letting them in on the creativity. “It’s easy to say, ‘This is my way,’” Mr. DaSilva said. “But when your cooks are working 12-hour days in a very hot kitchen without any input, that takes a psychological beating. At the end of the day, every cook needs a little time to be creative. A happy cook makes me better.”
The physical location of the restaurant is also reflected in Mr. DaSilva’s menus. According to Mr. DaSilva, when people drive out to the middle of the woods for dinner, their appetite is different from if they’re overlooking Vineyard Haven Harbor. Customers want heartier foods, like steaks and lamb racks, as opposed to the tuna and swordfish they crave by the water. “It took a while for me to figure that one out,” he said.
Mr. DaSilva cooks as locally as possible, using the fruits and herbs grown on site. He’s careful with his vegetables, and believes they’re more than just a garnish. Mr. DaSilva is originally from Portugal, so many of his dishes have a Mediterranean flair. His go-to ingredients are fresh herbs, citrus, limes, lemons, and olive oil. He cooks simply, and doesn’t like to distract from the focal point. “If I’m cooking scallops, I want you to taste scallops, so I won’t put a million things on it,” he said. “I don’t have that kind of attention span.”
A whole world exists outside the kitchen, and Mr. DaSilva takes that seriously. “We have to create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome,” he said. “Returning guests should be greeted by first name. The idea is not to make food as fast as possible. When people are here, they’re here.”
Mr. DaSilva plans to work alongside a small staff — two cooks, a dishwasher, and himself. “I always run a very skeleton crew, but I like it because it gives me more control of the situation, and you can’t diffuse responsibility,” he said. “You work harder, there are less breaks, and the night goes by really fast.”
He sets high standards and runs a tight ship, but he treats his workers like family. His longtime sous-chef, Casey Eason, who Mr. DaSilva calls his adopted son, will also be returning to Lambert’s Cove Inn.
“He doesn’t have a choice, he’s coming back,” Mr. DaSilva joked.
The restaurant opens for the season Thursday, May 25, and will be open through Sunday. Visit lambertscoveinn.com for more information.