Home News Local news Yacht Haven Eatery Opens to 'Wikkedly' Good Reviews

Yacht Haven Eatery Opens to 'Wikkedly' Good Reviews

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Jan. 12, 2007 –- The sun shone brightly off the water on the tables on the porch, with handsome yachts docked across the way. A smiling waitstaff bustled about, a steel band played and people munched happily away as Wikked, the first restaurant at Yacht Haven Grande, opened Friday.
It was not an official opening, as such, but it was grand in its way. Folks greeted one another, remarking on the food and the ambience. "We didn't do any advertising," said Alex Andrade, the development's general manager. And that was just as well: the place was packed.
Andrade, along with food and beverage director William Cus, were as excited as school kids talking about their new endeavor. Elie Finegold, president of parent company, Island Global Yachting, dropped by to share in the enthusiasm. It's been a group effort, and after three years, he is gratified to look around him (See "Yacht Haven Grande Welcomes First Megayacht").
Wikked sits right on the water, looking out at the marina, which was filled with big, bright, shiny yachts. The other side of the restaurant, flanked by a long rectangular bar, faces a brick courtyard, where the Bertha C. Boschulte steel band was playing with an eye to some refreshments afterward.
A hot dog stand with what Cus described as "real Sabrett New York hot dogs, the kind they sell on the corners" and a Ben and Jerry's ice cream stand wait nearby.
Wikked was having a "soft opening," with no advance publicity. In late February, The Fat Turtle will open, followed in mid-March by the Grand Cru, Andrade says.
The Fat Turtle will cater mostly to a younger crowd, with lots of barbeque items and appetizers, where Grand Cru, a martini bar and bistro, is geared to a more sophisticated crowd. The creme de la creme of the eateries will be Three60, situated on a dock in the center of the marina, slated to open in August. The first floor will be a private yacht club, with the main dining room upstairs — strictly upscale.
The restaurants will provide evening dining in a safe, well-lighted area with an esplanade to stroll on, and, often, music.
All the restaurants are under the supervision of well-known island chef Brian Katz, who presided at the Old Stone Farmhouse for seven years before taking on his new responsibilities. Katz, though looking a little weary after the lunch rush, was happy to talk about his new post.
"This is the first time I've done casual food," he said. "It's an adventure; it's challenging. It's all from scratch. It has to be creative, but it has to be approachable." Approachable? "It has to be where people feel confident digging in," he said. In other words, no towering crowns of arugula.
Katz said, "We've spent the last three months testing and revising menus. It's four different genres of cuisine." He has 14 culinary managers and an additional 60 cooks. "We will all be open seven days, and we will have our own bake shop soon." That doesn't count the restaurant waitstaffs. There will be from 250 to 270 employees in the food and beverage division. Wikked employs about 45.
And, that staff is well-trained, which showed Friday in the attentive, friendly service, on a bustling opening day. Andrade said they have completed a thorough two-week training in all aspects of the business, especially customer service. "If you can't be gracious, we don't want you," he said.
The restaurant is done in varying hues of natural wood, with an awning over the porch. The staff compliments that in black-and-orange outfits, befitting the Wikked theme.
Attorney Karin Bentz and her office staff sat at an outside table, enjoying the marina view. "The food is excellent," Bentz said, enjoying a mahi mahi sandwich, served with a caper hummus, while one of her group was digging into an enormous hamburger.
Andrade said, "One of the things we wanted to do was have the very best hamburger on the island, and I think we do. It's served on a home-baked roll with roasted onions, roasted peppers, mushrooms, smoked gouda, and cheddar or gorgonzola cheese." Actually, Andrade was having one of his specials, and it looked as good as he said.
Other selections include pastas, steak, a curry, and chicken wings with five sauces, including a ginger coconut. "The calamari nachos are great, too," said Cus. "Really original."
Andrade and Cus enthuse about their breakfast menu, which they will begin serving Saturday. It includes a "Wikked Benedict," poached eggs over a house-made johnny cake with avocado, grilled ham and spicy hollandaise, along with flapjacks and "Martinique Toast," a coconut-crusted French toast.
Cus and Andrade both come from corporate hotel backgrounds. Cus is relishing the freedom his new post affords him. He said, "In the corporate hotel chains, the recipes are almost the same in all the hotels, the china is the same, you don't innovate. Here, we are able to use our own ideas."
To illustrate his point, Cus strides over to the kitchen, saying, "Wait till you see how we serve our french fries." He comes back with what looks like a mini-french fryer, which, in fact, it is. "I found this in a kitchen supply store," he says. "Isn't it great? We fill the basket with a paper holder, and put in the fries."
Several of the designer shops will be opening Monday. A number of shops — White House/Black Market, Chico, Coach, Roberto Coin and Little Switzerland — were busy Friday, putting finishing touches to their windows. The marina was filled with about 16 or so luxury yachts. "We had 26 last week," Andrade says, strolling down the graceful promenade connecting the shops.
The development is a study in contrasts now, with construction still under way, and fancy golf carts whizzing about escorting the marina guests. Andrade said he looks forward to a grand opening some time in March for Phase I of the development. This phase of the construction includes 80,000 square feet of retail space, 30,000 square feet of office space, the three waterfront restaurants, 12 condominium units and a yacht club. At the opening, one of the condo units, which go for about $2 million, will be on display.
Island Global Yachting manages Yacht Haven and other marinas in the Caribbean, but Finegold favors the St. Thomas development. He said, "We want St. Thomas to be the premier yachting destination it once was."
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