By ANN MAH SEPT. 23, 2016
Kallaloo, a mass of greens and okra, pork and crab, slow-simmered into a deep, darkly flavorful stew, is a dish usually best found at granny’s house — if you’re lucky enough to have a West Indian granny. Or you could head to Balter, in St. Croix’s historic Christiansted, where the homespun dish takes on a gloss with foraged leaves of sea purslane and house-pickled peppers adding pops of color and crunch against a luxuriously soft background. The result is the sort of artful twisting of Caribbean comfort food that characterizes this elegant restaurant, which opened in April.
Belying its name, which comes from an archaic Danish word meaning to dance clumsily, Balter has a polished charm. Housed in 18th-century slave quarters, dark beams stripe the ceiling, local art adorns the walls, and wooden shutters shade the windows. When one of the founders Patrick Kralik discovered the building, it was a wreck. The two-and-a-half-year restoration incorporates colonial elements like a decorative Danish brick oven and a bar fashioned from the building’s original roof planks. “I wanted to evoke pieces of St. Croix,” Mr. Kralik said.
On my recent visit, the kallaloo (also spelled callaloo), laced with seared pork belly, came ladled over fungi (pronounced FOON-jee), a soft porridge of cornmeal and okra that has its roots in slave traditions. A pan-seared fillet of wahoo was nestled into a mound of mofongo, a savory Puerto Rican staple of mashed plantains, garlic and pork. Indeed, tropical fruits and vegetables like plantain, passion fruit, guava berry and chayote are sprinkled throughout the menu.
Desserts, too, are uniquely Caribbean: rum-laced bread pudding, for example, and red grout, a red guava tapioca pudding adapted from a Danish dish. A parade of house-made ice creams and sorbets featured local fruits — my favorites were the sapodilla, similar to pear, and egg fruit, creamy and sugary. They dispelled the heavy heat, leaving behind a burst of tropical sunshine.
Balter, 39A Queen Cross Street; 340-719-5896; balterstx.com. An average meal for two, without drinks or tip, is about $100.
A version of this article appears in print on September 25, 2016, on Page TR9 of the New York edition with the headline: Homespun Caribbean, With a Twist. Order Reprints