The flavors of Chinatown are coming to Main street in Vineyard Haven.
Island restaurateur J.B. Blau announced this week the opening of Copper Wok, a pan-Asian restaurant at the Mansion House hotel that will feature Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese items and fresh sushi.
Mr. Blau and business partner and chef Alex Nagi will take over operations of Zephrus, the longtime restaurant at the hotel. Copper Wok is slated to open in April. Mr. Nagi will be head chef.
“I’ve never been more excited about an endeavor,” Mr. Blau said Thursday morning. “For Chef Nagi and I, this is our passion. This is our dream.”
Mr. Blau runs Sharky’s Cantina restaurants in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs and the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company in Oak Bluffs. But Asian has always been on the list as a possible endeavor. A recent visit to Zephrus with Mr. Nagi and Josh Goldstein, son of hotel owners Sherman and Susan Goldstein, felt like a natural fit, Mr. Blau said.
“Chef Nagi and I have always talked about doing an Asian restaurant, but thought it was a few years away,” Mr. Blau said. “I sat in the room and it felt like an Asian restaurant to me. There was something about it and it made perfect sense for the town. There’s nothing like that and it would make us completely different.”
Mr. Blau said he was eager to be a part of the changing landscape of Vineyard Haven, which in 2010 approved the sale of beer and wine in restaurants.
“The energy in that town has started a fundamental shift...” he said. “It’s such a great transition it felt like it would be pretty neat honor to be part of and continue to create excitement in Vineyard Haven.”
Mansion House owner Susan Goldstein said she and her husband, Sherman Goldstein, are delighted.
“His food is delicious, his concept is great and he’s going to be open year round, which is a commitment to the community that has always been very important to us,” she said. “I think it will be so great for Vineyard Haven.”
Mrs. Goldstein said it was time for a change at Zephrus, which has operated in the hotel since 1999. Staff was given notice of a possible change in management two weeks ago, Mrs. Goldstein said.
“It seemed like the timing was exactly right,” she said.
Zephrus will close on Saturday night. Mr. Blau said the employees who worked at the restaurant will have a “full opportunity to apply” for a position at Copper Wok. “We’re 100 per cent about year round,” he said. “Our biggest source of pride is 70 year-round jobs.”
Copper Wok will serve lunch and dinner and offer take-out seven days a week with an emphasis on family-style, affordable fare, Mr. Blau said. Menu items will feature Asian “greatest hits, with Chef Nagi’s take on recognizable traditional dishes.
“One of the things we’re working aggressively on with the vendors is to bring a dim sum Sundays, which has been a dream of mine since I was 12,” he said. “If we have rolling carts of dim sum in Vineyard Haven this summer it would feel like I’ve realized one of my childhood dreams.”
Mr. Blau said he is also excited about lunch at Copper Wok and the addition of the traditional Vietnamese soup pho.
And for those who don’t think an Asian restaurant can’t be a success without liquor, think again, Mr. Blau said. Saki, beer and wine, fresh juices and mocktails will all take a creative twist.
The name Copper Wok represents two sources, Mr. Blau said. The first pays homage to the historic movie theatre in town, the Capawock (“we thought it was a fun connection”), but also to copper, “a premium metal and something that can tarnish a bit and get beat up and still look good.
“We’re not trying to be fancy. We just want to be premium and take something that normally comes in a less expensive metal, like a wok, and make it a little more special,” he said.