Garde East is entering its third season on Martha’s Vineyard, and if you’re looking for something a little fancier, tastier, and more beautiful than what’s already expected of this Island, it’s a spot worth checking out.
The menu is broken into sections: signature cocktails, beer, firsts, seconds, thirds, sides, and dessert. Plus a separate wine list, which an on-hand sommelier is happy to take you through. They say life’s about the journey — dining at Garde East is most definitely about the journey.
Drinks come out first. There’s something about million-dollar views and endless sea that makes you want to sip on something fancy. A Moscow Mule is always a good call, but the Collusion Moscow Mule ($14) at Garde East is an especially good call. It’s a blend of ginger beer, Tito’s vodka, and lime juice — simple, easy, and refreshing. It’s served in a copper cup filled with crushed ice, garnished with candied ginger and lime wedge. The Haven Lemonade ($14) is another splash of summer. It’s made with berry vodka, lemonade, lemon and lime, and blueberry compote served in a tall champagne glass. The blend fades from light to dark pink where the blueberry compote settles to the bottom. I want to live in a world where this is the lemonade sold at the end of my neighbor’s driveway. Sip on the CC Sazerac ($16), and it’ll be hard to not feel like a Kennedy. The dark, neat drink is made with Moonshine wash, Bulleit rye, and cranberry bitters. It’s garnished with candied cranberry and a lemon wedge.
Let’s start with firsts. The Tuna Poke ($18) is a display of delicate raw slices of yellowfin tuna. Poke, pronounced pou-ke, is a Hawaiian word for “to section” or “to slice.” This appetizer, traditionally served in Hawaiian cuisine, is soft and raw in texture, and soaked with flavor. Bite-size pieces of raw pink fish are served in a truffle-ponzu sauce with miso caramel and avocado cream. It’s sprinkled with sesame seeds and whole leafs of the yucca plant. Garde’s Tuna Poke is not only packed with rich flavor and hints of herbs, but it’s presented as a work of culinary art. Each piece is placed along the outside edge of the plate, framing itself as a delicacy. Your Garde server will even give you a pair of chopsticks served on a silver platter.
The Cauliflower “tartare” ($14) came out next. Tartare is in quotations, because the word usually refers to something raw, traditionally meat or fish. This is your vegetarian’s tartare. It’s served with parsnip, cucumber, mint, Okinawan sweet potato chip, and harissa yogurt. Thinly sliced cauliflower takes on a grain-like texture, and each parsnip and sweet potato chip is meticulously placed on top of the spread. There’s also some yellow and red heirloom tomatoes and a dusting of, wait for it, Oreo cookie crumbs.
Executive Chef Carlos Montoya knows best. He’s been a chef on the Island for years, and took over as executive chef from Robert Sisca this year. Montoya was executive sous chef at Garde East, a position now fulfilled by Darko Meduric. Chef Montoya and Meduric previously worked together at the Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs.
The Beet Root Gnocchi ($14) is exactly where you should head for the seconds portion of your meal. It’s made with parmesan, pickled ramps, pine nuts, and goat cheese. You don’t have to like beets, goat cheese, or even gnocchi, really, to enjoy this dish. It’s in a league of its own. The potato pasta gnocchi are dyed beet pink, and are soft, delicate, and mysteriously flavorful.
For thirds, you can’t go wrong with the Pan Seared Black Sea Bass ($37). It’s a white flakey fish cooked with the skin on top served over broccoli rabe, chorizo, stone fruit, fingerling potatoes, and drizzled chorizo emulsion. The GOOD Farm Chicken Breast ($35), is also another popular choice. It’s made with black trumpet purée, Swiss chard, confit leg, hon shimeji, and chicken jus.
If you have room for a side, go with the Polenta Fries ($9). They’re stacked like Jenga blocks, and packed with unexpected flavor. They’re made with a vadouvan spice blend, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, an Italian granular cheese. They’re topped with curry flakes, and softer than french fries when you bite into them.
Last but not least, dessert. The Hazelnut Mousse ($13) is made with chocolate soil made from Oreo cookies, sorrel, Martha’s Vineyard sea salt–caramel ice cream. The brittle caramel crust is the first thing you’ll notice. It’s made with crushed crepes with milk chocolate, and it’s slightly frozen to create the tiniest crunchy texture you’ve ever experienced.
For those of you doing the math, I know what you’re thinking. These dishes add up. But there are ways to scale your meal up and down. Just do dessert. Just do drinks. Share everything. If you can make it work, give it a try, because dining at Garde East is a journey worth embarking on.
Garde East is located at 52 Beach Rd. in Vineyard Haven. They’re open 5 to 9 pm Wednesday through Sunday, and will be open every day starting July 1. For more information, visit gardeeast.com.