Side Dishes: Le Belvédère serves up tapas in Newport
Chances are Newport has rarely seen the likes of pecan-crusted striped bass with an orange-tarragon butter, not to mention hamachi. But this spring, chef Jason Marcoux has been feeding Northeast Kingdom locals a creative roster of tapas, seafood plates and sushi.
Le Belvédère  opened in the state office building along Newport’s waterfront in mid-February. The new owner — Dena Gray of the East Side Restaurant & Pub — purchased the defunct Boathouse Grill this winter and tapped her stepdaughter, Véronique Rancourt, as manager. The pair hired Newport native Marcoux as chef, and then the fun began: The trio remade the space with antiques, new hardwood floors, and a lounge with leather chairs and views of Lake Memphremagog.
Marcoux’s talent extends beyond using a hammer and paintbrush. At age 16, he was the youngest-ever applicant accepted into the New England Culinary Institute. After graduation, he interned in the kitchen of the Breakers in West Palm Beach, Fla., and spent more than a decade chefing at resorts in Maine, Idaho, Alaska and Jay Peak, Vt.
Initially, the group relied on old-fashioned channels to get the news out about their venture. “Word of mouth is really important up here,” says Rancourt. Now that the food is gaining a reputation, they’re getting busier each week. “A small town is always late to get the newest trends,” Rancourt says. “People are traveling an hour and a half to eat here.”
Dinner entrées include seafood and meat plates, such as diver scallops served with maple crème fraiche; a ginger-crusted, pan-seared ahi tuna with a wakame salad and wasabi cream; and a veal chop with rosemary mushroom demi-glace.
Beef carpaccio, smoked-char bruschetta and duck-confit-and-goat-cheese spanakopita animate the tapas menu. Chef Marcoux’s recent specials have included seared sea scallops with a maple bacon bourbon sauce, and avocado, pink grapefruit and honey mascarpone salad.
Thursday nights at Le Belvédère fill a yawning local culinary gap by showcasing sushi. Once a week, the chef rolls nigiri and at least 10 different maki rolls. “It’s definitely labor intensive, but they’re more popular than we thought,” says Rancourt.
Come summer, Le Belvédère will set up several outdoor tables and offer lunch a few times a week. For now, it’s serving only dinner, Wednesday through Sunday.