Richelle and her husband Bob O'Neill, owners of Richelle's Place in Edgartown. Photo by Ben Scott
(From left) Richelle and her husband Bob O'Neill, owners of Richelle's Place in Edgartown. Photos by Ben Scott

Richelle's Place: a giant step up at David Ryan's

By Karla Araujo - August 17, 2006

David Ryan's has always been a noteworthy watering hole in downtown Edgartown. In season, the North Water Street bar crowd seems to spill out the door, and a look through the large first floor window offers a glimpse of the packed environment. Until now, food has never appeared to be its raison d'etre.

This summer, the second floor of David Ryan's has been transformed into a separate fine dining restaurant, Richelle's Place, named after co-owner Richelle O'Neil. She and husband Bob have created a new menu and a new standard for restaurant fare in Edgartown. Richelle's is the pleasant surprise of the 2006 season.

Richelle's Place. Photo by Ben Scott
The second floor restaurant, above David Ryan's, is a busy place.

For a step up from pub fare, take the stairs to the restaurant's second floor. Richelle's muted lighting, pale wood tables and chairs, soft candlelight and large window overlooking the North Water Street hubbub add up to a tranquil oasis. Dark walls provide a dramatic contrast to Alison Shaw's striking color photographs of the Vineyard.

The new menu offers a thoughtful, well-priced wine list and an array of appetizers and entrees that highlight the Island's seafood and farm-fresh produce. You can choose from such starters as local Whippoorwill greens tossed with Morning Glory Farm seasonal vegetables, pan-seared softshell crab, local oysters and littlenecks on the half shell, or a cheese and fresh fruit plate with a selection of European and domestic cheeses.

We began our meal with two appetizers: seared foie gras and seared scallops. The foie gras was served with a cipollini jam and vanilla bean Riesling glaze, accompanied by toast points and a fruit garnish. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious; the jam and subtle vanilla glaze a sweet complement. The seared scallops were served with a creamy cauliflower puree and a truffled corn cream sauce. My dinner companion praised its perfectly balanced seasoning and chef Scott Collins's admirable restraint with the easily overpowering truffle oil. The crusty, slightly salty scallops were, as she phrased it, "subtly perfumed" with the fragrant oil.

As a main course, I ordered the miso-glazed striped bass prepared with carrot ginger puree and baby bok choy with a chili honey drizzle. The fish was fresh tasting, tender and moist, the chef again allowing the other ingredients to balance rather than overwhelm the delicate fish. My friend chose the seared lamb rack with local goat cheese and grilled asparagus crepes with a blackberry glaze. The dish was beautifully presented, the asparagus crepes an imaginative touch. The lamb was tender and perfectly cooked and served au jus with red wine and fresh blackberries.

The dessert menu featured five selections, all made in-house by Richelle's pastry chef Jody Collins. The 20-layer crepe cake filled with hazelnut mousse, covered with chocolate ganache and served with a raspberry sauce was a light, semi-sweet surprise - its nutty textured mousse layered between delicate crepes. The warm cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream was heartier and satisfyingly old-fashioned, the flavor of native Massachusetts fresh Bing cherries a perfect complement to the rich ice cream. Finally, the tiramisu - espresso Kahlua-dipped ladyfingers layered with white chocolate mousse - was pronounced "as good as any restaurant in Italy," by my well-traveled friend.

Appetizers start at $7 for a local mixed green salad and go up to $20 for seared foie gras. Entrees range from $24 for fresh ravioli sautéed with Portobello and asparagus to $38 for butter poached lobster. Most desserts are priced at $8.

Service at Richelle's was thoughtful and attentive. Todd, our waiter, was happy to provide educated insights into the menu as well as to adjust the thermostat to keep our table alternately warmer or cooler. The occasional subtle vibration of a bass from the music below was the only reminder that David Ryan's hopping bar was downstairs. Richelle's proved to be a welcome addition to the fine dining scene in downtown Edgartown.

Richelle's Place is located upstairs at David Ryan's, 11 N. Water Street, Edgartown. Café menu for lunch served 11:30 am to 3 pm daily; dinner every evening from 5:30 pm. Reservations are suggested. 508-627-4100.

Karla Araujo is a freelance writer and tennis instructor who lives on Martha's Vineyard and in the Florida Keys.