My first night in St. John and my dinner plans for the evening had me going to La Tapa. Located in Cruz Bay, executive chef and owner Alexandra Ewald serves what she calls “contemporary meditarranean with its own personal interpretation.” Open seven nights a week from December through April; off season the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays; and the restaurant does shut its doors between August and October.
Luckily, I was there in December and had the chance to enjoy the great food, service, and atmosphere at La Tapa. Located in an old West Indian building in the heart of Cruz Bay, the restaurant can seat 68 guests in their indoor dining room and outdoor seating area. We sat inside with a view of the street, but that certainly didn’t ruin my experience as I preferred it over sitting right along the street. With an enthusiastic and young wait staff and an atmosphere conducive to the island vibe, from the moment I sat down I knew my evening was going at La Tapa was going to be a good one. This is a view from my table looking inside toward the bar. On the wall near the bar are their custom La Tapa t-shirts for men and women as well as tank tops.
There was no better way to start the meal than with a glass of sangria while I looked over the menu. The menu is divided into two sections: Platos Pequeños (small plates) and Platos Grandes (large plates). The platos pequeños is in the tradition of tapas so you can order a few of these to share at your table. The salads are quite large and look delicious so you may not want to share! The menu does change nightly so what we had may not be what is available, but will give you an idea of what you are able to choose from at the restaurant. I started my dinner with the gazpacho and I have to say it is the best gazpacho I have ever had. The presentation of the dish was beautiful, but the gazpacho itself was so good that words cannot describe it with sufficient justice. Served with a few chopped veggies and croutons on the plate, simply drop them in and enjoy. The fresh taste of the chilled soup on a hot evening paired with a delicious glass of sangria fully transported me to my tropical heaven.
The other options that night from the Platos Pequeños section of the menu included toasted eggplant soup, three fine cheeses from the La Tapa cheese board, and whole steamed artichoke with pimenton, smoked sea salt, and beurre blanc.
For my main course, I opted for the local organic baby greens with cashew encrusted goat cheese. Yes, dairy — I know, but when traveling it is nearly impossible to go entirely vegan and when you’re looking for protein, dairy has to do it. Believe me, I would much rather not have had dairy, but if I’m going down, this was the way to do it. The salad was perfectly dressed and the goat cheese was a great accompaniment to the baby greens. Delicious!
The couple at my table opted for the La Tapa Paella (para dos) that included chicken, fresh seafood, spicy sausage, and saffron risotto. Served on a large platter, there was enough food there for more than two people easily. Other menu items on the Platos Grandes portion of the menu included:
- Pan sauteed local wahoo, lobster – vanilla bean crema, red & golden beets, birchwood parched wild rice
- Grilled black angus ribeye, tarragon hollandaise, bell pepper relish, parsnip whipped fingerling potatoes.
The entrees start at around $35 each so they aren’t on the cheaper end of pricing, but good food warrants these prices. This will be a meal to remember as the chef and her team make sure your experience is a momentous one.
Dessert was not one to be missed and I opted for the special eggnog creme brulée, which absolutely divine. The crispy, caramelized sugar on top was perfectly crisp for cracking with my spoon and I couldn’t wait to dive into it. Some of the Ever Changing Desserts include:
- Tarte tatin with calvados ice cream
- Chocolate truffle cake with carajillo ice cream
- House made ice creams like lemon-lavender, vanilla-saffron-turron, mojito sorbet, cranberry-orange vodka sorbet, and moreIn case you want to look over their sample menu, go to their web site to see that as well as pictures and reviews.
One of the highlights of my evening was our server, George. This handsome young man had only been on St. John for a few weeks. He hails from Nantucket, MA (there was once a young man from Nantucket…) and was eager, sweet, and an example of all that is right with La Tapa. He never hesitated to answer any one of a hundred questions that I posed to him and even accommodated my wild request of a picture for my blog. Young, single ladies you know where to go in St. John now – don’t you? Thanks George for showing this often jaded writer that manners are still alive and well in this world and that there are places like La Tapa that believe in providing their guests with great food and service. Before I left, I picked up a La Tapa t-shirt and spoke with a few of the employees who obviously love what they do. If you are looking for the place to go to in St. John, you have to go to La Tapa. Next time I’m back and believe me, I will be — I am heading right for La Tapa, even if for only a sangria, but I suspect I’ll stay for dinner, too.
Rte. 10, St. John USVI