Tiki Hut Island Eatery Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos IslandsReviewed January / February 2016

A photograph at the Tiki Hut Island Eatery, Turtle Cove, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands. Dine on the deck overlooking Turtle Cove Marina at The Tiki Hut Island Eatery

By Mandy Rostance-Wolf

It doesn’t get much more original than the Tiki Hut. The summer of 2015 marked the celebration of Tiki Hut’s homecoming to its original digs in the Turtle Cove Marina. After a brief 12 year hiatus, located just a stone’s throw away ‘on the pond’ on Little Diddle Cay, everyone picked up their chairs and carried them ‘home.’

Returning to the octagon-shaped bar is like déjà vu. Surrounded by old Tiki Hut memorabilia, framed photographs, and if you’re really lucky, one of the original old-timers.

The setting is beyond idyllic. The marina panorama can be enjoyed from two levels on the expansive, open decks. This is the ultimate in al fresco – nautical style. The sun was about to set as I sipped my ice-cold mojito, the beads of condensation trickling down the sides of the glass. The tuna towers of fishing yachts were silhouetted against the night sky. Masts of sailboats appeared to reach for the stars, as the halyards grazed the masts, as if chiming a melody, while the sounds of palm fronds sashayed in the evening breeze.

With his distinctive grin and a twinkle in his eye, owner Doug Camozzi talked about Tiki Hut like a proud Dad. “23 years,” he exclaimed. Then he paused as if to visualise those past twenty-three years in his own fast forward slideshow and added, “And getting ready for the next 23!”

I asked Doug what it felt like to be back in the original Tiki Hut location. “It’s amazing, it’s incredible,” he confessed. “My children are involved, we’ve gone a full generation.”

A photograph at the Tiki Hut Island Eatery, Turtle Cove, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.The Bacon Wrapped Barbecue Shrimp Appetiser is an island favourite at the Tiki Hut

Tonight was an evening filled with nostalgia – not only for Tiki Hut, but for the reason that Tiki Hut ever existed. Doug’s Dad. It’s in his DNA. “You get it in your blood at a very, very young age, and it’s hard to get it out. We were four years old when we were in my Dad’s restaurant – by eight years old we were working there. It was just a way of life back then,” Doug explained. He credits this way of life to his Dad, grateful for the opportunity to have grown up in the industry. He even named one of his three restaurants after his Dad, he affectionately calls Big Al … but that’s a whole other story.

Tiki Hut made Chicken & Rib Night famous. So popular, Turtle Cove appeared to take on a ‘list’ from the multitudes of Chicken & Rib lovers that converged at this popular eatery. If it was Wednesday night – it was Tiki Hut.

Both the lunch and dinner menu sport a crowd-pleasing selection and many dishes are great for sharing. It’s not a question of what’s on the menu – but what’s not on the menu.

A photograph at the Tiki Hut Island Eatery, Turtle Cove, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Shrimp and Andouille Sausage “Ravioli of the Day” Special

We shared all of our appetisers, beginning with Coconut Crusted Lobster. Scrumptiously sweet and tender morsels of lobster were coated in a deliciously crunchy coconut batter and served with a fabulous Bambarra Rum Coconut Sauce.

A bastion on the Tiki Hut menu is BBQ Shrimp. This is decadence incarnate and nobody makes ‘em like this. Plump and luscious shrimp are tightly and snugly wrapped with bacon, deep-fried and served with a sweet and smoky BBQ sauce. The flavour of the bacon permeates the shrimp and keeps them absolutely moist.

Melissa’s Award Winning Guacamole was a marvellous balance of creamy/ chunky avocado with an unexpected and pleasurable after burn. The tri-colour chips tasted as good as they looked.

Tiki calls their fritters ‘Conched Out’ … an ‘Ole Island recipe’ six large and spicy fritters are served with a deliciously creamy chipotle remoulade.

Caribbean Nachos are also popular. Here’s a Tiki twist, with Jerk chicken and 3 cheeses – Mozzarella, cheddar and Swiss. A full portion serves 4 and a half serves 2.

A photograph at the Tiki Hut Island Eatery, Turtle Cove, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.A House Special - Lobster Creole

Tiki’s Famous Certified Angus Beef Steaks have been on the menu for 22 years, so I think you can say they have their beef down to a fine art. Doug has been doing business with the same vendor for forty years, from his Dad’s restaurants in Colorado to today, and insists, “They know their meat.” He laughs as he evokes memories of the old days, when beef used to come in on Pan American twice a week.

My husband tucked into a sizeable 22 oz. ‘Cowboy Cut’ Rib Eye. When the substantial serving was placed in front of him he grinned, placed his knife and fork perpendicular to the table and said, “Giddy up!” He later jabbered his kudos to Doug and said, “It’s hard to get a good rib eye.” Doug nodded and said, “The Colorado Rib Eye is amazing – the marbling is probably the best of any cut. Hubby then questioned, “Is it marinated?” Doug replied, “It is. Right before it hits the grill we just run it through really quick. It’s my dad’s marinade that he had from 1957 from his three restaurants in San Francisco.”

But it gets even bigger, and we’re not even in Texas – Doug regaled us with a meaty tale of their 34 oz. Tomahawk ‘Long Bone’ Rib Eye, the only one in the Caribbean. In season, they sell about 20 a week. “It’s either a guy that’s super hungry – they call it the tennis racket … you’ve got that long handle. That’s been a popular steak. It’s a truly amazing piece of meat.” Doug explained.

A photograph at the Tiki Hut Island Eatery, Turtle Cove, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Tiki Hut’s 22 Ounce Cowboy Cut Rib Eye Steak

It would be the Lobster House Special for me – with a choice of Blackened, Curried or Creole. Henry, our server, suggested Creole. Savoury and aromatic with peppers, tomato, thyme and garlic, I chose sweet sides to temper the pleasurable creole heat – sweet potato fries and plantain.

Next to me, my favourite dining companion relished her Ravioli of the day – Shrimp and Andouille Sausage in a decadent, rich and creamy mushroom sauce with a large side of sweet potato fries – MY sweet potato fries.

Fresh Island Fish is always a popular catch – Snapper, Tuna or Mahi Mahi. For my predictable fellow diner, it’s always tuna, rare. This lovely loin was perfectly seared and served with a savoury Lemon Butter Sauce.

Desserts are mandatory and mind-blowing. Key Lime Pie, Molten Chocolate Cake, Caribbean Rum Cake, Bread Pudding and Dark Chocolate Belgium Waffle Brownie with vanilla ice cream.

Doug has three popular restaurants here and continues to be hands-on. “Do you still get in the kitchen?” I asked. “Absolutely,” he replied. “It all starts from the back of the house. If you don’t have that down pat, it’s not going to work in the front,” he admits.

A photograph at the Tiki Hut Island Eatery, Turtle Cove, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Dark Chocolate Belgium Waffle Brownie with Ice Cream

Jamaican Chef Pershad Kerr has been a fixture at Tiki Hut for ten years. “He adds a nice influence to the meals – West Indian, Jamaican, he’s very versed on Caribbean flavours. His curries and his jerk are really, really good,” Doug acknowledges.

Pershad appeared and began to beguile us with the secrets behind his favourite dish to prepare – Jerk. “I love the Jerk. It’s hot and spicy, that’s my recipe from Jamaica.” He creates a wet rub using spices like allspice and ginger and makes everything from scratch. He added that in Jamaica it would have even more flavour – as grilling over pine wood adds a different dimension.

Doug acknowledged that it’s local support that’s what’s really driven the Tiki Hut for so many years. “Turtle Cove is more of a quaint place where people gather and you feel like you’re going to your neighbourhood bar. This was always the hub – we always called it the heart and soul of Provo.”

Photography by www.LisaAdaraPhoto.com

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