Residents and tourists looking for a new dining option on St. John are in for a treat with the recent opening of Ocean Grill in the courtyard of Mongoose Junction.
With lunch options ranging from fish tacos to gourmet mini-burgers, a dinner menu designed to please the palette and traditional Sunday brunch fare with a twist — there’s something for everyone at Ocean Grill.
Executive chef Christian Moorish, a Le Cordon Bleu of San Francisco graduate, moved to St. John from San Diego where he headed up the kitchen at Tower 23’s Jordan Restaurant.
“I looked at this new restaurant as an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Moorish. “Here was a chance to do what I love to do and live in paradise. How could I say no?”
Moorish came to St. John after being asked by owners — and brothers — Jim and John Gillfillan.
“I knew Jim (Gillfillan) and he called me one day and asked if I had any time off,” said Moorish. “It so happened that I was on the second day of a week’s vacation. Jim called me right back and said he had a plane ticket for me.”
The future Ocean Grill executive chef arrived in Love City at night and didn’t see the sights until the following day, when John Gillfillan picked him up and conveniently drove along the North Shore Road on the way to Mongoose Junction.
“We passed by all these incredible beaches,” Moorish said. “I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I was hooked — I went back to San Diego, packed my up things and here I am.”
While Jim Gillfillan is off-island for a few months, his brother John Gillfillan is running the show, and both brothers have their mother to thank for their latest enterprise.
“Our mom works at The Fabric Mill and this restaurant had been under construction for a while,” said John Gillfillan. “Once the space was getting completed, she gave us a heads up and we called Glen Speer. It just kind of happened.”
“We knew the area and we knew we couldn’t pass up this opportunity,” John Gillfillan continued.
Although Ocean Grill is the Gillfillans’ first go at restaurant ownership, John Gillfillan has more than 10 years experience working the front of the house in various restaurants and Jim Gillfillan owned the Garden by the Sea Bed and Breakfast for a number of years. If the first few weeks are any indication, the Gillfillan brothers seem to be natural restaurant owners.
“Things are going really well,” said John Gillfillan. “It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.”
Fresh, Local Ingredients
While Ocean Grill’s menu is difficult to categorize, all the dishes incorporate fresh local ingredients, explained Moorish.
“I lost a lot of sleep over my menu,” said the executive chef. “I would say there are local, tropical and Asian influences with French techniques. Knowing the climate, I wanted everything to be fresh and refreshing.”
“I want everyone to walk away being satisfied, but not greasy or heavy,” Moorish continued. “I really wanted to tap into the local ingredients.”
After doing “lots of homework” Moorish settled on his menu, and has been getting rave reviews.
“I’m very, very happy that people have been really liking our menu,” said the executive chef. “We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback.”
Many Dinner Appetizers
Ocean Grill’s dinner menu offers a variety of appetizers ranging in price from $9 to $15, including jumbo shrimp and rice paper spring rolls served with cilantro, mint, sprouts and rice noodles in a oyster, soy-ginger sauce; and papaya Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, basil, lemon oil and balsamic reduction.
Light and hearty salads such as green papaya with candied cashews and a Thai steak with mixed greens and a spicy Asian dressing are offered during dinner hours. Fresh soups like lobster bisque and cold melon soup are also available.
Highlight Dinner Entrees
Dinner entrees, priced between $24 and $46 cover a variety of selections including rum glazed pork tenderloin served with couscous, wilted garlic kale and mango chutney; island bouillabaisse with fresh fish, shrimp and mussels in a savory broth; and spice grilled lobster tail and eight-ounce beef tenderloin with drawn sage butter accompanied by saffron basmati rice and sauteed spinach.
The restaurant’s lunch menu includes a wide range of appetizers, salads, soups and sandwiches, priced between $11 and $17, such as fish tacos with cabbage, cilantro and salsa fresca; miniature gourmet burgers with caramelized onions, pineapple slices, monterey jack cheese, truffles, brie and spinach; and lobster pizzetta with ricotta cheese, shallots and a light sage sauce served on a thin, crispy six-inch crust.
New and Traditional Dishes for Brunch
Ocean Grill’s Sunday brunch menu incorporates both traditional dishes and fresh takes on old favorites like their crab and conch cake benedict with whole grain mustard hollandaise sauce; and house-made granola with yogurt and fresh fruit.
Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; dinner is available between 5:30 and 10:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; and the restaurant is open for brunch on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Reservations are always recommended and can be made by calling 693-3304.
For a taste of Ocean Grill’s style at home, try their mango risotto recipe.