Let me say up front that it taxes my abilities to keep up with everything when I’m part of a party of nine. Prepare yourself for a steadily deteriorating report.
While we were in St. Thomas, our next door neighbors, Scott and Julie Hammons and their son, Hudson, also were there. We’re all great friends, and Hudson (5) plays regularly with Ella (4) and Lily (almost 2). Scott has spent a lot of time in St. Thomas with the reconstruction of the big Marriott resort hotel that, alas, was gutted by Hurricane Irma. Scott’s company is redoing it in truly grand fashion — we got a tour of the site and the plans — and that’s kept him bouncing back and forth between home and a house in St. Thomas that the company got for him and others. We exchanged dinners, Nancy and my memorable first night on the island at their place, and we cooked dinner at our place one night. Great meals.
We planned some dinners out together, and Scott recommended the XO Bistro, a favorite of the Marriott rebuild team. Remarkably, we were able to get a reservation for a party of nine — six adults and young three children.
XO Bistro is in the shopping center directly across from Duffy’s Love Shack. You park easily enough, and stride past a group of people who did not make reservations into a darkish but lively place. You walk past the bar
and into dining rooms to the left and right. The walls are a blue plaster above warm wood. It’s lively, but not too loud, if you except a certain party of nine.
We ordered drinks and several appetizers. I picked the catch of the day (wahoo) ceviche, which I largely hogged for myself.
We also ordered the street corn guacamole — guacamole topped with street corn and feta cheese, and with chipotle and a touch of truffle oil — the spinach and artichoke dip in a sourdough bread bowl, and garlic bread served with a marinara for dipping. I have no picture of any of this. Life is complicated with a party of nine, including three pirates.
I can say, I hope in fewer than 1,000 words, that the appetizers were great. The ceviche, which, as I say, I hogged, was delicious. I generally like ceviche and this was superb. It had a nice kick from the Fresno peppers and a decorative squirt of jalapeño sriracha sauce. The kick was sufficient that I had to eat some bread before I could appreciate anything else. Get some of this.
Once I got my bearings, I had a nibble at the guacamole. It was good and quite interesting. The truffle oil added an intriguing layer of flavor, especially as it merged into the chipotle. Get some of this.
The spinach and artichoke dip also was good and, again, had a peppery flavor that set it apart from the mundane — let’s face it, spinach and artichoke dip can be tired. (Compare the collard and artichoke dip at Southern Craft Stove + Tap, which is really good.) And the garlic bread was good. It’s hard to mess up garlic bread, and this avoided the pitfalls by a wide margin. The accompanying marinara sauce for dipping continued the theme of nicely spiced food.
In terms of main courses, things get kind of fuzzy as I gave more and more attention to my food and my companions. Liza probably ordered the blackened tuna appetizer, and Nancy and Julie certainly both ordered half salads, Julie’s with chicken and probably with fish for Nancy. Really, it’s hard to keep up with orders for that many people, especially if you have an idea of enjoying your own meal — not to mention not ruining everyone else’s.
The rest of of us ordered the catch of the day, wahoo. Scott and Michael got it rubbed with jerk seasonings and topped with a grilled fruit salsa, while I ordered it grilled and topped with chimichurri and a lemon-truffle vinaigrette. I did photograph my own meal.
The wahoo was grilled to medium rare/medium. It had a meaty texture and was not at all overcooked. As any good catch of the day, it was fresh as can be, and it was very tasty. I ordered it with the chimichurri because I thought it was an odd combination — you usually put chimichurri on a steak or other hunk of meat. Would it work on fish? Why, yes. it was very nice. I wouldn’t try it on flounder or, God forbid, sole, but it works nicely on a meaty fish like wahoo. It would be good on swordfish, too, which is often grilled and topped with pesto. You should try it.
It was a great meal, confusion and all. Social distancing more or less went to the winds, but then everyone who comes to St. Thomas has been tested for COVID, and that and the vaccine do wonders for your comfort zone. Scott tells us that XO never changes its menu. They have discovered what they can do, and they certainly — certainly — do it well. Give XO Bistro a try if you’re in St. Thomas. It works.
And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box. Or bookmark us and check in from time to time. If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event). Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome. And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.