Some days you learn more about a subject in an hour than you had in a year. The day of my interview with Blue on Water’s owner Jason Brake and operations manager Sullivan Power was that kind of day.
Jason and wife Leslie’s early involvement with Bianca’s and Magnum and Steins, OGs of downtown fine dining, gives him rare insight into the local restaurant game. Now with 12 years of success at Blue, he admits he is sometimes called the “Grandaddy” of the foodie scene.
His passion for the ocean, seafood, and all the bounty the Newfoundland outdoors has to offer is matched by his desire to see the businesses in his neighbourhood thrive. A rising tide lifts all boats, and a healthy neighbourhood becomes a destination. Newfoundland is too small to be competitive or petty, and Jason gets that.
From the first time parmesan cheese, that was not in a plastic jar from Kraft, was available in a local restaurant, to the first local sushi ( thank you Magnum and Steins!), Jason’s stories give me an intimate feel for the history of our fine dining scene, peppered with recognizable names like Lori McCarthy and Todd Perrin.
Jason hasn’t stopped breaking ground, with he and Sullivan’s food truck, “Hitchen the Kitchen” pumping out goodness over the summer. Kyle McKenna, aka, Chef Moustachio of MasterChef Canada fame, is in charge of the menu. Inspired by his travels, his bio from the cooking show said his dream was to bring food trucks to St. John’s. Who doesn’t want tacos prepared by a moustached man living his dream?
Head chef Adam Grevatte holds it down in the restaurant’s kitchen, and is lucky enough to have a network of passionate and boundary-pushing local farmers such as Dave Mundy and Sarah Crocker to supply his “ingredient-driven menu.” Starting off with the freshest foods he can find, he strives to create their most delicious expression.
Foraged mushrooms, just-caught seafood, and fresh greens are among the list of what Adam loves to work with. Coming from a stint at the Fogo Island Inn a few years back, Blue is a good fit for him with its similarly local food philosophy and emphasis on traditional preserving techniques like pickling.
Fun fact: at the height of the mustard pickles crisis last year, Blue was the only restaurant downtown where I could find the zesty gold at all, though even they were running short.
The boutique hotel upstairs is popular amongst travelers, and as businesses have evolved around Blue, the addition of The Underbelly and Merchant Tavern has put them smack dab in the middle of the best block for a scotch crawl anywhere on the island.
Besides the multiple scotch offerings and great wine list, the beer selection includes some decent crafts and imports. The summer cocktails make innovative use of wild plants like lovage and farm fresh greens like arugula. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear Jason Brake tell tales of this town while you imbibe.