La Plancha del Mar Serves Up Expanded Menu; Hand-crafted Cocktails

Honeymooners Maria and Matt Pinchera enjoyed a few hand-crafted cocktails at La Plancha del Mar before sitting down to an elegent meal.

Want to try the hands-down best margarita on the island?

Run, don’t walk, to La Plancha del Mar, order a spiced mango margarita and get comfortable. The restaurant’s new cocktail menu is sure to entice one into sipping a few different creations before calling it a night, and the food offerings will make sure those drinks are not enjoyed on an empty stomach.

After moving to new digs at Mongoose Junction this season, La Plancha del Mar added a few exciting new entrees to its bill of fare and recently unveiled a new cocktail menu to rival the best libation venues the world over.

La Plancha owners Mike Prout, Jason Howard and Chris Fritts oversaw the restaurant’s transition from a small space on the second floor of The Marketplace to the iconic former Paradiso location in Mongoose Junction last year.

With the restaurant at Mongoose now enjoying a steady stream of loyal customers, and a coveted number two slot of St. John restaurants on Trip Advisor, the La Plancha team seems to have settled into its prominent role in the Cruz Bay fine dining scene.

Last month Fritts, along with Dustin Heisler, returned to the second floor of The Marketplace with Black Sand Bistro, a causal dining spot open from noon to 8 p.m. weekdays for lunch and dinner, and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Think soups, salads, sandwiches, grilled pizzas, burgers and small plates like shrimp and grits, ranging from $12 to $18.

With Fritts helming Black Sand Bistro, Howard and Prout have turned their attention to fine tuning the offerings from the kitchen and the bar back at La Plancha. Chef Andrew Clifford joined Executive Chef Prout in the kitchen this season and the duo has expanded La Plancha’s already enticing menu.

Joining the dishes which put La Plancha on the St. John map — like its roasted chicken with herb potatoes and portobello, Cabernet and bacon reduction and perfectly seared wahoo with fire roasted pepper and tomato puree and butternut squash polenta — is a paella plate brimming with tiger prawns, mussels and chorizo sausage.

Another highlight is the tuna steak frites, served up with garlic herb fries, an herb citrus aioli and roasted red pepper coulis. The crispy skin duck breast appetizer, served with local organic greens, toasted pine nuts, black mission figs, herb Cherve and an aged balsamic reduction, should also not be missed.

But even diners not looking for a meal should settle into a seat at the bar and check out the hand crafted cocktail menu. Joining Howard behind the carved wooden bar at La Plancha are fellow mad scientists Kevin Baker and Allen Lancaster.

The trio, which Lancaster called “a three-headed monster” has produced results like the spiced mango margarita, made with Sauza white tequila, lime, mango and the house-made habanero-cinnamon bitters. And that is just one of the if-it-wasn’t-so-good, it-would-be-crazy, bitters the trio have crafted at La Plancha.

With inspirations of thyme, vanilla, orange-corriander, hibiscus, chocolate and habanero-cinnamon, the mixing mad men at La Plancha have created seriously tasty bitters. Those house-made bitters are the building blocks for a range of ridiculously good cocktails.

“We’re mad scientists,” said Lancaster. “We bounce ideas off each other and come up with crazy concoctions.”

Some of the offerings are modern takes on classics, like the Love City Sazarac, which includes the traditional absinthe, lemon, orange, sugar and egg whites but swaps the usual rye for scotch and adds a dash of thyme bitters. La Plancha’s twist on the originator of all cocktails makes the drink approachable without losing its classic flavor profile.

Bourbon fans will not want to miss the Fig Old Fashioned made with house-infused fig Bulleit bourbon, orange, cherry, sugar and the house-infused hibiscus bitters. That’s right, in addition to bitters — which Howard is in the process of licensing for sale — the guys are also whipping up their own house-infused liquors, sweet vermouth and falernum.

La Plancha’s take on a mint julep adds a dash of chocolate to the mix. The chocolate mint julep is crafted with house-infused mint Bulleit bourbon, sugar, mint and La Plancha’s own chocolate bitters.

The popcorn vodka is used for the Crunch and Munch dessert martini. Just as delectable as it sounds, the drink is made with the popcorn-infused vodka and English toffee syrup with a rim of crushed almonds. Other popular options on the menu include a vanilla-ginger mojito, a lychee pear martini and a gin lemonade.

While it wasn’t on the menu during a recent trip to the restaurant, Lancaster’s Kentucky breakfast is surely a cocktail not to be missed. Made with bacon-infused bourbon and maple syrup shaken up with egg whites, it’s breakfast in a tidy and tasty serving.

Stop by La Plancha and find a favorite drink or menu offering. The restaurant is open daily, except for Wednesdays, from 5 to 10 p.m. Happy hour, when the cocktails, which normally range from $6 to $15, are $3 off and beer and wine are $1 cheaper, is from 5 to 6 p.m. Be sure to check out some of the $5 happy hour appetizers like toasted pine nut hummus and panko-crusted brie.

For reservations call 777-7333.