The Easterly, Red Hook, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

On our last night in St. Thomas, Michael, Liza, and I had an outstanding dinner at The Easterly. As I look back, it was the best restaurant dinner of our trip.

I know, I know. But really, Nancy insisted on staying home to babysit Ella and Lily, and wouldn’t hear of me staying home with her. It wouldn’t be the sort of thing I would want to fight about, if I ever wanted to fight about anything, which I don’t.

Back to The Easterly. It’s on the main street in Red Hook, more or less across the street from Duffy’s Love Shack. The Easterly has a very different ambience than Duffy’s, a different kind of delightful. This is not a beach bar. It is a lovely space, open to the elements on two sides (in good weather), with one end overlooking the water. There’s nice cross ventilation assisted by plenty of ceiling fans when necessary. The tables are widely spaced, and it is very comfortable.

The decor is stylish with a subdued elegance. The walls are subtly textured with oyster shells that have been painted over. You can see them in the wall behind Liza and Michael,

and on the far wall behind me.

There I am again in a John Morgan shirt, face mask safely at hand. When I emerged before we left, dressed wearing the John Morgan, Lily said, “Papa looks pretty!” That’s proof that you can make a silk purse out of … never mind. At any rate, that’s a remarkable tribute to the shirt.

We started with cocktails, with a She Draggin’ for Liza. It’s a blend of dragon fruit infused vodka, elderflower liqueur, grapefruit, lemon, honey mint syrup, and honey foam. (I copied that off the menu.) Michael and I both ordered Fire Killers, a rum and fruit drink that is no longer on the on line menu — not another rum punch, but a really good drink.  Good enough that I considered another, but a cooler head prevailed.

As appetizers, we ordered roasted pork belly with potato puree.

Isn’t that a great char? It had just the right amount of fat, and the potato puree was very good.

We also ordered the Ahi Crudo, which had a wonderful flavor.

Like XO Bistro, The Easterly made good use of Fresno peppers, which taste a lot better there than here. It must be the soil and the climate, the terroir, that makes them so good, sort of like the onions around Vidalia, Georgia, or the green chiles around Hatch, New Mexico.

For main courses, Liza ordered the rare Yellowfin Tuna, which came with a quinoa salad with local tropical fruit. I seem to have failed to photograph it — I actually do limit my photography in nice restaurants — but I recall that it looked delicious, and that she loved it.

Michael and I conferred, and decided to share the catch of the day, a whole red snapper, cooked in a banana leaf, and the wood-grilled picanha.  They arrived together on a tray, which was set between us. Here’s the whole snapper end with the banana leaf unrolled.

There it is, giving you the fish eye, and here’s the picanha end of the tray:

That’s not much of a picture, is it? But if you look closely you can see that beautiful deep red. That’s an avocado salsa and some … micro greens? In between is some corn and yucca topped with a garlicky sauce. The side dish was quite good, as I recall, but I pretty much focused on the picanha and snapper.

The whole snapper was delicious. The banana leaf preparation has one disadvantage — an absence of caramelization — but the herbs and Fresno peppers balanced that beautifully.

Picanha, for the uninitiated, is the sirloin cap, which comes topped with a nice layer of fat that, ideally, melts down into the meat and tenderizes what otherwise would be a relatively tough cut. The Easterly’s preparation gets an A+. The meat was wood-grilled, cooked to a beautiful medium rare, and full of flavor.

We also ordered a bottle of pinot noir, and it was excellent.

I think, or thought, of pinot noir as either (a) from Oregon, (b) from California, (c) from France, or (d) not very good. Shows what I know. This very, very good pinot noir came from, of all places, New Zealand. There’s nothing like a glass of wine to broaden your horizons.

Oh, you should try The Easterly. We had such a wonderful dinner. Wonderful food, wonderful service, wonderful setting … do you start to sense a theme? We had very good dinners at Bleuwater and the XO Bistro, but this was the best meal we had in St. Thomas. Put The Easterly on your bucket list.

I’ll add as a postscript that Nancy loved being with Ella and Lily. Nancy is wonderful with children — she enjoys them much more than she enjoys restaurants. Her life’s work has been small children since she helped at an orphanage in Puerto Rico as a teenager — teaching small children, caring for them, working with Operation Smile in a dozen countries, tutoring older children, volunteering at various Children’s Hospitals, and so on. She’s a wonder, and her best times are with small children, and sometimes with a rather large one.

***

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