by Andrew Spencer
on a little corner near
the end of Straight Wharf, itâ€™s the kind of place
that just feels like Nantucket. Photography by Zofia & Co.
t’s the sort of place where you halfway expect to see an old sea captain – complete with a peg leg and an eye patch – to come hobbling along after a lengthy whaling voyage. Sitting at the bar and watching the boats idle their way in and out of the harbor, you just know that this is how it’s meant to be done on Nantucket. Jane Stoddard understands that legacy. “It’s a visually stunning location,” Jane said of the space, “and I’m very cognizant of the space’s history.” That little bit of restaurateur wisdom is music to the ears of Nantucket diners who enjoy the waterfront dining experience that is so quintessentially Nantucket, as Jane is one of three partners who will open Cru in the location of the old Ropewalk restaurant. “We envision it as being a casually elegant waterside restaurant,” Jane told me. And that description, to my jaded ears, was the equivalent of saying that it’s “more of the same sort of restaurant we’ve come to know on Nantucket.” I asked her what it was about Cru that would differentiate it from the mass of already established Nantucket restaurants, and she was quick to highlight those points. “We’re not trying to add something that’s already a part of the restaurant scene,” she explained. She and her partners looked around the local dining options and felt that what was really missing was a place with a true focus on New England seafood. “We’re doing a fresh take on New England seafood classics,” she said. “We’re redefining New England cuisine.”
Given the new name of the place, you might be inclined to think that wine will be the focal point of the restaurant. While the restaurant will certainly have an excellent wine list, the name is more of a reference to another meaning of the word that so many of us associate with wine. “Cru is the French word for ‘raw’,” Jane explained, “and we’re planning to have an extensive raw bar.” By “extensive,” she means a dozen different varieties of oysters, in addition to other varieties of fruits de mer (all served cru, bien sûr). Reverting for a moment back to the world of the oenophiles, “cru” is also often used to refer to an elite classification of French wines that have been granted the status of “First Growth” (Premier Cru). The principals of Cru are all embarking together on their first foray into restaurant ownership, so the idea of a “first growth” was yet another appropriate incorporation of the French word. Though it’s their first ownership experience, you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of restaurateurs more likely to succeed. Jane partnered with Erin Zircher and Carlos Hidalgo to form the management team of Cru, and all three have exceptional restaurant pedigrees. Most recently, all three have served under the tutelage of Nantucket restaurant legends Seth and Angela Raynor. “We all learned so much working for Seth and Angela, and they have been very supportive of what we’re doing,” Jane said. Erin Zircher, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, will serve as Executive Chef at Cru. Most recently, she was the Chef de Cuisine at the Boarding House for seven years, where she developed many Mediterranean-inspired menus and much beloved dishes that delighted diners. Carlos Hidalgo will handle the financial end of things for Cru, a job he takes on after having served as the manager for both the Boarding House and the Pearl. He is also the mastermind behind both of those restaurants’ esteemed wine lists, and he will be in charge of developing the catalog of wines at Cru. Jane Stoddard rounds out the Cru team, bringing with her many years of restaurant experience,
including several years as general manager for the Pearl, the Boarding House and Corazon del Mar. With that much talent running the show, it’s hard to see anything but rabid success on the horizon for Cru, but all that experience also means that the team has plenty of patience. “We’re focused right now on making sure we get it right,” Jane said of the labor-intensive process of getting the restaurant open. “We want to be open by mid-May, but we also want it to be right,” and that means taking that “essence of Nantucket” that is so intrinsic to the space itself and combining it with the Cru personality. As Jane said, “We’re putting our own spin on the place. We’re making it our own.” With planned lunch and dinner menus daily – plus a weekend brunch menu – coupled with the expansive raw bar, Cru promises something for every conceivable dining preference. Prices are, according to Jane, in line with many of Nantucket’s casually elegant dining locales. The buzz is already going for this new epicurean destination, as Zagat Boston listed the much-anticipated inaugural meal at Cru as one of 2012’s “11 Hottest Openings.” Finally, just in case you’re wondering, there’s one more component to the name that bears mentioning, given that this place is, again, just so Nantucket-ish. “We liked that the name sounded like the crew of a ship, given that we’re waterfront,” Jane said with a laugh. So with that, I suggest you get your own crew together and head down to Cru for what promises to be an exciting new addition to the Nantucket restaurant scene.
It promises to be pretty in-cru-dible.