After 20-month hiatus, Vers reopens in OrleansText by Lisa Leigh Connors | Photography by Michael and Suz Karchmer
Above: Tropical Dessert with mango sorbet, banana cake, smoked pineapple and coconut
The highly anticipated opening of Vers earlier this summer has elevated the dining scene in Orleans.
“This kind of restaurant doesn’t really exist here and that is always a first consideration when we are looking at new spaces,” says general manager and co-owner Karen Haffmans. “We always ask ourselves, ‘What is missing from the dining scene and how can we add to it?’”
The fine-dining restaurant reopened nearly two years after leaving their location inside the Chatham Orpheum Theater. “We definitely miss Chatham, but a lot of our regular customers have come up here,” says Karen, who manages the office, while her husband, Jonathan Haffmans, serves as executive chef. “It’s been very exciting to see everyone’s reactions and appreciation for our reopening.”
The sleek, modern restaurant, which features gray tones and pops of orange, is much larger than their previous location and accommodates more diners: 57 seats vs. 19 seats. Architects Siemasko + Verbridge in Chatham worked with the Haffmans to open up and redesign the space—formerly the Orleans Public House. They knocked down a half wall and added a lounge-cocktail area with benches lined with pillows. They also turned the L-shaped bar into one long bar and carried over touches from their Chatham location, such as the glazed Porcelain gray-and-white tile for the entryway. “We wanted to recreate Vers our own way,” says Karen, referring to the fact they no longer share space with a movie theater. “We wanted to put our own visual stamp on it.”
Diners will still find signature dishes like the vegetable garden salad, tuna tartare, the rib-eye steak, the chef’s homemade ricotta gnocchi, and of course, the popular dessert Truth or Dare—a surprising tableside special for two. On the day I visited, I tried the scallop carpaccio with hibiscus tea and passion fruit sorbet; the lobster ceviche with compressed watermelon and passion fruit; the Atlantic monkfish; and tropical dessert with coconut, mango and banana cake. Everything was beautifully presented as a work of art and unlike anything I have ever tasted before. Every bite was so refreshing, unique and all the flavors complemented one another. Although it’s fine dining, Vers has a comfortable vibe and is not overly formal.
With the newly expanded location, Vers also offers a wider range of wines—both in style and pricing. Karen consulted with Annie Longley from the Nor’east Beer Garden in Provincetown to create custom cocktails, such as Too High (vodka, lemon juice, lavender-pepper syrup and soda water) and The Bachelor (amaro meletti, dark rum and bitters).
Since Vers means “fresh” in Dutch, it’s no surprise that chef Haffmans regularly visits the weekly farmers market in Orleans to pick up local greens, fingerling potatoes, radishes, sunchokes and even a whole pig for the charcuterie. The menu’s inspiration is seasonal and Vers uses as much local product as possible.
“The scallops are from Provincetown, fresh from the boat, and we use fresh lobster from Chatham,” says Jonathan, who was born and raised in the Netherlands. “We are also featuring local skate on the menu as well as monkfish.” During his time off from Vers, Jonathan worked as a consultant for British Beer Company and served as the culinary director for Chatham Wine Bar. He was also instrumental in helping to open Mom & Pops Burgers in Chatham.
Vers is not necessarily an everyday restaurant, but a lovely special occasion restaurant. One regular customer from Boston summed up the restaurant’s opening to Karen this way: “The last bottle of wine we had was the Avancia Godello [in Chatham] and the first bottle of wine we had [in Orleans] was the Avancia Godello. You haven’t skipped a beat.”
“That was the sentiment from our customers opening night—that we hadn’t skipped a beat,” says Karen. “We’re back.”
15 Cove Road, Orleans