A change of guard has taken place at the old Blue Canoe property on Beach Road. Acclaimed New England chef Robert Sisca has introduced a new concept at the Vineyard’s latest restaurant, Garde East. That spot has always been one of my favorites when dining in Vineyard Haven for its incredible waterfront views. Now, tasting the way Chef Sisca approaches seasonal food sources on Martha’s Vineyard, I’m even more excited.
“I have an immense appreciation and affinity for Martha’s Vineyard,” Chef Sisca said. “Opening a restaurant here has been a dream of mine for quite some time. The one-of-a-kind farms and purveyors on the Island are remarkable, and it is a true gift to have the ability to utilize their ingredients for the menu at Garde East.”
Chef Sisca will be sourcing from a variety of farms including Grey Barn, the GOOD Farm, and the Oak Bluffs Fish Market, among others. Because Chef Sisca has a background cooking some of the best seafood dishes at the popular restaurant Le Bernardin, you are sure to find a great focus on fish and seafood cookery on the menu. Chef Sisca said raw fish is his favorite preparation, honoring Mother Nature in its most delicate state and showcasing the product in its best light.
You’ll find a variety of raw preparations on the Garde East menu this summer. I had the opportunity to taste the fluke crudo with avocado, Asian pear, and saffron rice crispies, which was a delicate composition of flavors that let the fluke shine in all its glory. Another favorite was the yellowfin tuna topped with duck cracklings, freeze-dried corn, and foie gras “beach sand,” a playful collaboration of colors and textures. If the prawns are on the menu, I suggest you order them. Prawns, served with heirloom tomatoes, almonds, grapes, and a white gazpacho that is poured tableside, will blow your tastebuds out of the water. The warm prawns combine deliciously with the cold gazpacho and the bright, juicy grapes. I could have had four servings of this dish.
The menu is set up simply, with categories such as raw, first, fish, meat, to share, and sides. Each category has under six options, so choosing is not such a daunting task. At a fine-dining, seafood-forward restaurant, it’s always the smartest idea to try whatever their fresh catch is that day. The day i visited, it was halibut served with plump golden raisins, chorizo emulsion, and broccoli rabe. The sweetness of the raisins, the saltiness of the chorizo, and the bitterness of the broccoli rabe balanced incredibly well with the fork-tender halibut. The fish’s crust was so crunchy and intriguing, I called over manager Ian Toogood and asked what magic was behind this delicate coating. He explained Chef Sisca’s technique for roasting thin bread slices, then adhering them to the fish. I was blown away by this attention to detail.
The beverage program at Garde East is meticulously curated by certified sommelier Erica Doudna. (I didn’t have a chance to dive into it just yet, as my liver was still resting in the aftermath of Taste of the Vineyard.) But most wines at Garde East are sourced from France and the U.S., with a focus on gorgeous wines by the glass as well as carefully crafted cocktails. On my next visit, I plan to taste a couple of these offerings, but in the meantime, I will dream about that gorgeously cooked halibut. I’m hoping you have a chance to visit and taste the daily catch of dreams too.
Garde East is located in at 52 Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. They are open daily for dinner at 5 pm. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2:30 pm. For more information, follow the team on social media, check out GardeEast.com, or call 508-687-9926.