Fresh Catch Local Bites Providenciales, Turks and Caicos IslandsReviewed November / December 2015

A photograph of Fresh Catch Restaurant at The Saltmills, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Fresh Catch Local Bites located at The Saltmills in Grace Bay

By Mandy Rostance-Wolf

If you're hankering for a taste of our local fare, you've come to the right place! It's what owner Janardo Laporte calls, “A Taste of Paradise.” At Fresh Catch, you’re invited to ‘chill’ in more ways than one. They’re keeping it cool with AC, and the mood is always laidback and relaxed. Specialty cocktails like Grace Bay Breeze, Red Snapper, and Blue Hills Sunset tame the heat, even on Provo’s hottest days.

Thursday evenings, enjoy the ‘sounds of paradise’ as Janardo entertains with his smooth jazz stylings on the sax.

Go big or go home, and here, there’re plenty of local favourites and portions are generous. Can’t decide? Go with the Appetiser Sampler. Conch Fritters, Chicken Spring Rolls and Fish Fingers. The Conch Fritters are super-sized, ‘big fritters’ that are deliciously crispy, and served with a chipotle sauce that packed a pleasurable punch. Crispy Spring Rolls had their kick with a sweet chili sauce, and the Fish Fingers were deliciously addictive. We plunged each tender and crunchy-coated finger into a creamy tartare sauce.

A photograph of Creamy Conch Chowder at Fresh Catch Restaurant at The Saltmills, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands. Creamy Conch Chowder at Fresh Catch

The Conch Chowder was outstanding. Tender local conch sautéed in butter, with bacon and big chunks of potatoes and carrots. As our server positioned the bowl on the table, we all did a double take – the ‘soup’ didn’t appear to move at all. “That’s thick,” we all exclaimed. So unbelievably thick, we even tried to stand a spoon in it.

In some Caribbean parts, Jerk has developed a hot rep, but don’t be shy when it comes to Fresh Catch’s Island Style Jerk Chicken. While Jerk can pack some heat, here they’ll make it as spicy as you like it. My favourite dining companion was pleasantly surprised and quite happy to have ventured outside her usual comfort zone and confessed, “I would not usually order this.” She made her jerk genuinely local with traditional sides of peas & rice and mac & cheese.

A photograph of Fresh Catch Appetiser Sampler at Fresh Catch Restaurant at The Saltmills, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Fresh Catch Appetiser Sampler Platter

Across the table, my fellow diner was smack-dab in the middle of his comfort zone, devouring a plate of Honey Glazed BBQ Ribs. He was more than happy to oblige me with a candid, comprehensive and complimentary critique. “There was a lotta meat on those ribs” and “I gotta give the ribs high marks – very meaty – not a lot of fat. Excellent mac & cheese, moist, and I like the crunchy topping. The thick sauce sticks to the ribs.”

It’s no secret that our Bambarra rum is hugely popular behind every bar, but it’s also incredibly versatile in the kitchen. The Bambarra Gold is aged in American Oak casks and infused with distinctive and delicious rum flavours that enhanced the succulent shrimp. My choice of sides: sweet potato mash and fried plantain were an ideal complement to this dish. They also use Turks Head Amber, our local beer, in their Beer Battered Fish.

A photograph of Grilled Grouper Filet in Mango Butter Sauce at Fresh Catch Restaurant at The Saltmills, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Grilled Grouper Filet in Mango Butter Sauce at Fresh Catch

The Grouper could not have been fresher. In fact, Janardo boasted of the impressive catch that was filleted only hours before we arrived. With his arms outstretched to create extra drama he said. “I kid you not. They’re almost my size; they’re huge! I watched them filet a grouper longer than the table!” This flakey, delicate-tasting fish appeared on the menu as a Grilled Fillet in Mango Butter Sauce and quickly disappeared from the plate. More on that later.

Complete your ‘Taste of Paradise’ with TCI’s own ‘Island Famous’ Bambarra Rum Cake, and/or Banana Flambé with chocolate.

Janardo finished his set and came to chat. We’ve all had the pleasure of hearing him play the sax on dozens of occasions, but this was the first time we had heard him perform with his ‘windpipes.’ We complimented, “You have a great voice! Who knew?”

I asked him if he’s ever in the kitchen. He suddenly looked serious and said, “I’m not in the kitchen at all. If I were in the kitchen, you guys would be biting your fingers off! We have some great chefs in the kitchen. My Dad’s here every Wednesday for the buffet.”

A photograph of Bambarra Rum Shrimp at Fresh Catch Restaurant at The Saltmills, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Bambarra Rum Shrimp at Fresh Catch

Dad is Eddie LaPorte, affectionately known in these parts as ‘Fast Eddie.’ He began learning to cook at the ripe young age of 14 at the Third Turtle kitchen, circa 1971. He worked there for eleven years, then opened a restaurant, Fast Eddies (what else!), and served up his own dishes for the next eighteen years. And the Wednesday Buffet? It’s an ‘All-U-Can-Eat Seafood Buffet.’ Feasting during the lobster season is an excellent tactical strategy.

We all gushed over the Conch Chowder. Janardo knowingly smiled and explained, “The Conch Chowder is Dad’s recipe from the Third Turtle days. I get so many folks here that were kids when The Third Turtle was around. They come back and ask, where’s Eddie?”

So, if Janardo’s never in the kitchen, and it’s not Wednesday night, just who is in the kitchen? It’s Chef Ordel Grant. “He and I created the menu – it changes seasonally. Watch for “newer, cooler items,” Janardo said. I immediately thought to myself, uh oh …do not say newer, cooler items to the ‘rib guy’ to my left – who didn’t miss a beat and said, “You’re going to keep the ribs on, right?” Janardo laughed and confessed, “I’d be in trouble if I took them off!”

You’ll find Janardo at Fresh Catch just about every day, usually at lunchtime. He beams as he talks about his brand new baby boy. “I’m at home being a good dad; I’m home most evenings.”

It was then that Jamaican Chef Ordel Grant made his appearance. Curious as to when he came on the scene, “How long have you been here?” we asked. “Two years, a month and a couple of hours,” he joked. He was eager to hear our commentaries and said, “What did you all have?”

A photograph of Banana Flambe Dessert at Fresh Catch Restaurant at The Saltmills, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Banana Flambe Dessert at Fresh Catch Local Bites located at The Saltmills in Grace Bay

And so the kudos began. First to the Jerk Chicken and then to the “nice and sticky” ribs. When talking Bambarra Shrimp, Chef Ordel revealed that while he likes to cook with rum, he’s a lightweight when it comes to drinking it. He passionately spoke of the dish and how he wanted to serve it flambéed at the table. He excitedly thrashed his hands in the air as if performing a mock flambé saying, “Sauté the shrimp and you throw rum on it!” But alas, the heat – and Chef Ordel’s Oscar-worthy flambé act would have to stay in the kitchen.

His Grouper with Mango Butter Sauce is a popular dish that began with Chef Ordel’s love of mangoes and was originally inspired by a Mango Smoothie. He uses Haitian mangoes that are super-sweet.

I was curious to ask, “Do you, and Eddie end up in the kitchen together? How does that work?” “It’s a tag team,” laughs Chef Ordel. “He showed me a lot. He’s the Godfather of cooking. He tries hard to stay out of the kitchen. When he comes here, he comes in the front for five to ten minutes, and then he’s back!”

We complimented Chef Ordel and our ‘Taste of Paradise’ experience. He replied that the key to getting it right was keeping it simple. In Jamaica we say, “We put our foot in it!” but not literally, he teased.

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