Even when we plan not to go to Provo, we go to Provo. Even when we plan not to order the steak at Le Bouchon, we order the steak. These magnetic forces are powerful and magical, even when the weather isnt cooperating. I lost count, but its around 16 trips now to our second adopted home of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. Here’s the latest food recap. Note: I know there are a lot of followers out there waiting for this, but keep in mind… This is a vacation first, a job second. As much as I try to find new places, recent history suggests I should stick to the proven to avoid unnecessary vacation crankiness. Especially on a short 5 nighter…
Da Conch Shack
Sunday is apparently Funday at the shack. To me a beach shack like this loses some of the magic when its so packed, people are lining up for a table. But I cant fault a place for being popular especially now that its next door neighbor closed and relocated (Kalooki’s). We used to have a love hate relationship with the shack but now its just Love. Jerk wings came lukewarm this time but still packed with that nice jerky flavor. That sauce! Whole Snapper was a mistake (we ordered a grilled Grouper) but we decided to say nothing once we saw it, and enjoyed it. Red conch chowder still da bomb!
Possibly my favorite new discovery of this trip. Just myself, Mrs Z and a goat, Billy, in a Curried form on the balcony of our 5th floor ocean front at the Seven Stars. Oh and there was also a plate of tender Oxtail, but that goat was pure joy. Delicious Dishes is mostly a takeout place extremely popular with locals. There are two locations, one of which near the hub. From Seven Stars when you reach Leeward hwy, turn left, and it’s right there on the right side. It’s inside a mini market with a couple of tables if you want to stay in. It’s mostly prepared food that’s not looking very appetizing, but they keep things nice and juicy.
One of the usual suspects, and one of two musts for dinner on every trip. Quite the contrast to the established Provence (See bottom). Unpretentious French bistro cooking with Caribbean flair. The most underrated items here I feel are the soups. Black bean and conch chowder. The chowder packs plenty of heat and they still got the Hutzpah to add this Harissa salsa thingy (foody term) on the side in case you require more heat. Salmon gravlux was outstanding. If you enjoy good lux, get this. Biggest discovery early on however was the “conch ceviche” which is sliced more like Carpaccio style, giving it a nice garlicky bite.
The steak is the same old tender awesomeness. The “Strawberry Grouper” is firmer than Nassau Grouper, almost lobster like. They serve it with garlicky butter to loosen it up, and its delicious. Other places just call it “grouper” on the menu, but here they elect to call it by the full name
We are in the extreme minority of Seven Stars guests who almost never eat at the resort other than breakfast (which keeps improving. Buffet is like an egg lover wet dream these days). With kids I prefer to skip the finer dining and I’m just not the resort dining type. But this time we came without kids and after a little hiatus we returned to Seven.
Edwin the executive chef suggested the tasting menu and that’s what we had. Some minor hiccups here and there but a very enjoyable meal throughout with plenty of hints of brilliance, some even Michelin worthy. The scallops and the two-way tuna were the standouts. I would come back just for these.
Another regular rotation stop for the fish and chips and fish tacos. This was our first meal ever in Provo over 10 years ago when we stayed at the Sands, so it holds a special place. Whenever I eat fish and chips in NYC I start to quietly weep. If anyone asks whats wrong, I say I’m allergic to fish. And chips.
Regular rotation stop for the views, legendary Curried Grouper and the underrated jerk chicken. The place was packed and everyone around us was eating burgers. Instead of adding more haute and the trending, I would love to see more places like this open on the island
A smashed iPod? Redundant Lucy? What’s the expression for “beyond broken record”. I’m tired of recommending this place. Even on a 5 day trip, we have to dine here twice. The only dish I didn’t care for so much this time was the mixed seafood ceviche. Nothing really wrong with it, just missing some of that originality found in other dishes. Like that Octopus! You can’t find better texture/flavor combination than this. It comes with this chickpea mash, a few tahini and lemon drizzles away from becoming a delicious hummus. Lobster Fra Diavolo was the same old awesomeness.
On both nights they had fresh Grouper and of course we had to order it on both nights. You cant get this in NYC. Simply dusted with magic dust and grilled to flaky perfection. Great crab cake special which we enjoyed in the past. And yet another new pasta, a green Troccoli, “Chitara” where chef Massimo uses his “guitar” pasta instrument to make Troccoli which is like spaghetti on steroids. He tops it with this rich ragu of Lamb shank and cheese. I keep recommending Caicos Cafe to seafood lovers especially, but the meat dishes here never disappoint. Last time they removed the ribs from the menu there was an airport strike.
Like a dark horse coming out of nowhere in the last round, “No View Chinson” (thats the horse’s name) becoming our favorite overall lunch place in Provo. While all our faves got their classics that we order each time (see Flamingo’s, Hemmingways) , Chinson’s may be the most well rounded of them all. In the past we enjoyed the curried goat, oxtail, pulled pork and more. This time solid Jerk chicken as usual but the big discovery this time was the steamed Grouper in parchment paper. Huge, super tender flaky goodness with just the right gentle spicing. So big we couldn’t finish it. Get this!
If Provo would have a Hot or Buzz list like in NYC and many other cities, it would be an especially sad list of one. Provence is the hottest most talked about restaurant on the island at the moment. We had a taste of Eric Vernice’s cooking when he was at the Beach House about 6 years ago. Provence is oddly casual, considering how expensive it is. Its Coyaba expensive, without the service and any sort of setting to match. Perhaps unless you are lucky to sit at the counter facing the chef.
We weren’t so lucky. Even with reservations we sat at the bakery next door facing a shelf of one small truffle cream and the lone toilet. Zero ambiance turned negative when a group of 4 people sat right next to us and someone forgot to tell them that there are other people in the room, some of which sitting right next to them. Service is a little confused. “We have lobster”, “we don’t have lobster”, “WE FOUND LOBSTER”, “wait, it’s lamb”, “no, it’s def lobster”. They gave us every clue to change the order to something else but we didn’t.
Another thing about “French” Provence that made me think of The Emperor’s New Clothes is that it’s kinda sorta Italian(ish). Fresh pastas section dominate the menu and the wall is covered by various places in Italy. During our more memorable moments when we were not directing traffic to the bathroom we stared at the wall playing “where have we been”.
But I have a tendency to quickly forgive and forget if the food is good. Gnocchi with lobster had distinct lobster flavor but sort of one-note and under-seasoned. Similar issue plagued the dish labeled “octopus”. It came with very little octopus, sliced and lukewarm with white beans, chorizo and shrimp. It kinda reminded me of the salads I make at home with canned beans. But the dish looked gorgeous!
The lamb and lobster were the saving grace in a way but you would need to put me and my cans of beans in the kitchen to screw these up. The lobster was average for TCI which is not really a bad thing. It came with a nice artichoke mousse with whole peppercorns which was a nice touch and stole the show. Lamb was perfectly cooked and came with a piece of lamb shoulder sitting in a cup of bulgar. These are also fairly sizable dishes for “French cooking”.