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Restaurant Reviews

Virginia’s On King

November 29, 2016

At the end of the summer, Virginia’s on King introduced a revamped breakfast menu (served Monday – Friday from 7 – 11 am) that I was lucky enough to sample and review for your pleasure. First of all, I will say that it’s been a good 4 years since I last dined at Virginia’s on King. My last experience was subpar (hence the fact that it took me so long for a repeat visit).

They trick you into thinking you're dining on the waterfront.

They trick you into thinking you’re dining on the waterfront.

During that time, they got a new head chef, Shane Whiddon, who’s really turned the kitchen around and assured me that my present experience would completely change my perception of the cozy King Street restaurant (spoiler alert: he was right).

Don't tell him I said that, though.

Don’t tell him I said that, though.

I was pretty hungry, so I ordered the Fried Chicken & Eggs with white onion gravy ($13) served with your choice of homefries or grits (I chose homefries, because…potatoes); toast or biscuit (biscuit, duh); and 2 eggs of my choice. The fried chicken was amazing–perfectly crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. The gravy was a perfect consistency (not too thin, not too thick), and was bursting with flavor without overwhelming the flavor of the chicken itself.

Nap

What it should have also come with was a nap for after I was


The biscuit was so buttery and flaky, I almost didn’t even need to add any more butter to it (but I did anyway, because YOLO). I also really enjoyed the seasonal jam, for a tangy and sweet complement to the biscuit’s savory base.

"Biscuit's savory base" - New band name. Called it!

“Biscuit’s savory base” – New band name. Called it!

My dining partner ordered “The Scone” ($8), and although I don’t typically enjoy sweets for breakfast, I thought this dish was pretty great. It lacked that cloying sweetness that many breakfast pastries have and I loved the complementary flavors offered up by the fresh peaches (fruit changes seasonally).

I used to think scones were lame, but now they're my fave.

I used to think scones were lame, but now they’re my fave.

All in all, I am happy to recommend you try breakfast at Virginia’s on King. I think you’ll be surprised at how delicious everything is!

Virginia’s on King
412 King St,
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 735-5800

Virginia's on King Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Chicken Salad Chick

November 23, 2016

I’ve always been a huge fan of chicken salad. It was pretty much my go-to lunch when I was in high school and I enjoy when restaurants take a little creative leeway with its classic recipe to create something fun and delicious. One of my new favorite spots that does just that is Chicken Salad Chick in Mount Pleasant. I went recently with a friend to give their different offerings a try, and boy were we in for a treat!

Or a whole lot of treats, as it were.

Or a whole lot of treats, as it were.

I really wanted to get an accurate feel of the different flavor combos and unique offerings that CSC provides, so we went a little crazy. I’ll break down each dish one-by-one. First up: the Classic Carol, because I wanted to see how their signature original compares with other chicken salads I’ve had. The verdict? It was pretty tasty! A very good consistency, with an impressive amount of flavor, considering its simplicity.

I don't know who you are, Carol, but you done good.

I don’t know who you are, Carol, but you done good.

I personally like a little mixture of flavors and textures in my chicken salad, so we decided to try the Cranberry Kelli (A mixture of dried, sweetened cranberries
& slivered almonds) next. We opted for the “Original Chick” combo, which included a side (we opted for the seasonal salad, made with strawberries and feta cheese. So simple and refreshing!) and a cookie of the day (which was white chocolate macadamia nut on the day we were visiting). I loved the tartness of the cranberry as it complemented the creaminess of the chicken salad, and the almonds added a nice texture change.

cranberry-kelli

Seriously loving these names!


My dining partner took advantage of the Chicken Trio, which comes with (you guessed it) 3 scoops of chicken salads / sides. She opted for the Fancy Nancy (Fuji apples, pecans & seedless grapes), the Sassy Scotty (A zesty blend of ranch, bacon & shredded cheddar cheese), and a scoop of the pimento cheese. Of the two chicken salads, I was most impressed with the Sassy Scotty. I just really loved the combination of flavors and slight smokiness of the bacon. The Fancy Nancy was also fun, and had a nice refreshing note to it, due to the apples and grapes mixed in. The pimento cheese was also pretty tasty, especially with the buttery crackers.

nancy-pimento-cheese-scotty

Why try 1 when you can try 3!

For something a little different, we decided to try a sandwich combo with Olivia’s Old South (A southern tradition combining sweet pickles & egg). I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it, as I’m definitely not an egg salad fan, but this was surprisingly enjoyable! The pickles gave it a subtle sweetness and tanginess, and the egg made it extra creamy.

olivias-old-south

Never thought I’d say that!

Finally, we tried the Jazzy Julie (A spicy mixture of cayenne pepper, bacon & shredded cheddar cheese) on croissant. I thought the Jazzy Julie tasted a lot like the buffalo chicken dip my mom makes for tailgate. It had a nice little kick to it, and I loved the combination of flavors on the flaky croissant. We tried the broccoli salad (seen in the back), which I thought was just ok. Nothing to write home about.

placeholder text

But I rarely write home about broccoli.

Finally, I wanted to try a cup of their soup of the day, which was loaded baked potato. It was super creamy and cheesy, just the way I like it. I would come back for this on its own, it was that good.

loaded-potato-soup

Do they sell this by the gallon?

All in all, I was super impressed with the food at Chicken Salad Chick. The service was also on point, and the next time I crave chicken salad, you can bet your britches I’ll stop by their Mount Pleasant location. Also, if you’re a chicken salad lover like me, be sure to sign up for their Craving Credits mobile app to earn fun rewards, like free chicken salad!

chicken-salad-chick-exterior

Chicken Salad Chick
280 West Coleman Blvd., Suites F&G,
Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
(843) 352-2130

 

Restaurant Reviews

The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits

November 17, 2016

I love that Charleston has had a resurgence in hotel restaurants lately. When I travel, I generally try to avoid hotel restaurants, as I find the food to usually be subpar and overpriced. The hotel restaurants downtown Charleston, however, are a totally different beast, and as a local, I’m more than happy to check in for dinner for the night.

I love The Watch because its rooftop is one of the best in Charleston. On a clear night you get breathtaking sunset views and you also get to look into the residential sector of the city and see all the steeples dotting the horizon (hence the moniker The Holy City).

the-watch-sunset

Surprisingly not because we’re full of pot holes (although that’s also true).

It was raining when we visited, so we had to dine inside rather than out on one of their beautiful patios, but the space was still bright and airy, with lots of khakis, whites, and blues throughout. We started with cocktails. I opted for the Hugo’s Punch (Striped Pig Rum, blueberry, lemonade, $12), which was fantastic. It was fruity without being overwhelming, and sweet without being cloyingly so. I would 100% order this again.

hugos-punch

Even if it turns my teeth purple.


Caty got the The Copper Still (High Wire Vodka, brandied cherry syrup, ginger beer, $12) which was fantastic. It was basically a twist on a classic Moscow Mule, but the brandied cherry syrup gave it a nice warm feeling.

Warms you up from the inside.

Warms you up from the inside.

Our first course was the grilled oysters (with fermented garlic butter, lemon, grana padano, and house hot sauce, $ market price), which were fantastic. If you’re not a huge fan of garlic, you won’t care for these, as they don’t hold back (seriously, my breath alone after eating them could kill a vampire). I, however, love garlic and thought they were so tasty. Even Caty who hates oysters thought they were good enough to eat 2.

Meanwhile, I ate the other 10

Meanwhile, I ate the other 10

Up next, we tried the falafel (tzatziki, cucumber, radish, feta, pickled onion, $11), which I was a huge fan of. I loved that the feta was a bit on the milder side, which helped harmonize with the other flavors of the dish. It was super fresh tasting, thanks to the cucumber and radish, and the little tanginess of the pickled onion paired really well with the creaminess of the tzatziki.

This is way more greenery than I usually order with my falafel, but it really works!

This is way more greenery than I usually order with my falafel, but it really works!

We paused on the food here to get another couple of drinks. I opted for the Greyhound Cadet (Citaddelle Gin, Grapefruit. St. Germaine, $12) which was a bit sweeter than my previous drink. I liked that it was still nice and summery, and I could see myself sipping this out on the rooftop while watching the sun set over the city.

I prefer all my drinks have straws in them.

I prefer all my drinks have straws in them.

Caty got The Spoleto (Virgil Kaine Ginger Bourbon, Fernet Rinse, Lemon Shrub, $12) which was probably our least favorite of the night. It was so much stronger tasting than the beautiful and light cocktails we’d gotten earlier, and it just didn’t mesh with our main courses.

Caty likes all her cocktails in old timey champagne glasses.

And also I just don’t really like Fernet.

Speaking of main courses, I have to confess something to you: I’ve never ordered shrimp and grits in Charleston. I’ve eaten a number of them before, but on principle, I refuse to order this quintessential dish because it just feels so played out to me. If you’ve had it once, you’ve had it 1,000 times, I’ve thought to myself on more than one occasion. Well let me tell you: the shrimp and grits at The Watch (local shrimp, Geechie Boy Mill grits, caramelized Vidalias, tomato and bacon gravy, $27) were the best I’ve ever had. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, the grits were cheesy and creamy, and the tomato bacon gravy was out of this world.

Life-changing shrimp and grits.

Life-changing shrimp and grits.

You’d think because Caty’s shrimp & grits were so delicious that I’d have been disappointed in my dinner, but you’d be wrong. I opted for the fish of the moment (grilled local fish, jumbo lump crab succotash, lemon beurre fondue, $29). I’m a sucker for succotash, so I thought it was a great accompaniment, to the perfectly cooked and seasoned tilefish. But what made this dish truly amazing was the lemon beurre fondue, which was truly delectable. It had just a hint of citrus, with a depth of flavor that made me want to slurp it up by the spoonful.

I've never been so excited about fish before.

I’ve never been so excited about fish before.

For dessert, we capped off with the Sticky Toffee Pudding (pecan crumble, ice cream, toffee sauce, $8). It was just about as sweet as it looked, but I’m glad we had the vanilla ice cream to tone it down a bit. I still thought it was delicious, and we managed to devour pretty much the entire thing, despite being extremely full from our large meal.

"Sticky toffee pudding" makes me think of Christmas for some reason

“Sticky toffee pudding” makes me think of Christmas for some reason

All in all, I would recommend trying The Watch out for dinner. Get the shrimp and grits, and try to come on a clear day right around sunset. You won’t regret it!

Just watch what happens!

Just watch what happens! Did you see what I did there??

The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits
75 Wentworth St,
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 518-5115

The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Coda del Pesce

October 26, 2016

There aren’t a lot of things that will convince me to drive 40 minutes out to Isle of Palms in the offseason, but I’m about to add Coda del Pesce to the list of things that make the cut. The adorable and artfully designed restaurant is cozy without feeling cramped and OMG those views of the ocean. It doesn’t get any better than this.

**Heaven**

**Heaven**

I’ve recently started to get a lot more into seafood, and seafood lovers will definitely be pleased with anything they order at Coda. Coda del Pesce (which translates to “tail of the fish” in Italian) is helmed by Chef Ken Vedrinski (also of Trattoria Lucca downtown), and you can rest assured that everything coming out of this kitchen will be fresh, flavorful, and perfectly done.

So pretty and blue and pretty!

So pretty and blue and pretty!

Being an adventurous and indecisive eater, I decided to go with chef’s 4-course tasting menu, which features dishes both on and off the menu and offers a truly unique dining experience. I love ordering this way, as it forces me out of my comfort zone and helps me expand my culinary horizons. The first course was a crudo quartet, featuring 4 different cuts of fish prepared completely differently. Crudo is one of Chef Vedrinski’s specialties, so it was unsurprising that it was completely delicious.

4 fish are better than 3 fish.

4 fish are better than 3 fish.


Next up, a shrimp spaghetti with whole wheat pasta, fresh artichokes, and lemon in an anchovy sauce. I was concerned that the anchovy sauce would make it super fishy and salty tasting, but instead it was like a really deeply flavored garlic-butter-lemon sauce. It was a dream.

I usually avoid things with anchovies in them, but this was too tasty to pass up.

I usually avoid things with anchovies  in them, but this was too tasty to pass up.

For the main entrée, Chef prepared a triggerfish scallopini with potato and onion. I loved how the fish was wonderfully crispy on the outside and perfectly moist and flaky on the inside. Basically exactly how you want a piece of fried fish to taste. The accompainaments were also delightful, and the potatoes practically melted in your mouth. The lemon sauce was perfect with the fish and I kind of wish they’d bottle it and let me put it on more things. It’s that good.

That sauce, tho.

That sauce, tho.

For dessert, I had just enough room in my stomach for Chef’s butterscotch budino with dark chocolate shavings. It was decadent but I was very thankful it was on the lighter side after such a heavy meal. I highly recommend this dessert!

I mean, as light as can be with a dessert.

I mean, as light as can be with a dessert.

TL;DR: If you love Italian food and seafood, it really doesn’t get any better than Coda del Pesce. Plus, you really can’t beat the gorgeous views of the Atlantic ocean right from the dining room. It’s totally worth the drive to IOP.

Coda Del Pesce
1130 Ocean Blvd
Isle of Palms, SC 29451
(843) 242-8570
Coda del Pesce Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Wasabi Mt. Pleasant

June 6, 2016

If your only interaction with Wasabi was the former CofC hotspot on Market Street, then you haven’t really tried Wasabi. When someone first suggested dining at Wasabi in Mount Pleasant, I was a little hesitant, remembering back to my college days where the only real appeal was cheap drinks and half off rolls. The sushi at Wasabi downtown was nothing to write home about, but the experience I had at Wasabi Mount Pleasant–which is owned and operated by a different guy than the one downtown–quite literally changed the way I think about sushi. If I’m feeling melodramatic, I might even say it changed my life. 

lol

It’s quite a trek out to Mount Pleasant, but trust me, it’s completely worth it. I sat at the sushi counter (if you’ve never eaten sushi at a sushi counter, you need to change the way you’re living your life), and was feeling extra hungry and adventurous and decided to go with the Omakase selection, aka the Chef’s Choice (price varies from $20 – $35). Chef Johnny Chan, who was trained on the art of sushi in Japan, was working the sushi counter, so I knew I was in for a real treat. Watching him slice the cucumber with the precision of a surgeon was enchanting to watch, especially knowing that if I tried to replicate his technique at home, I’d end up needing stitches.


Slicing Cucumber

After I ordered my drink (sake, because duh), I was handed a warm, wet towel with which to wipe my hands. Traditional Japanese sushi eating technique is to use your hands, rather than chopsticks, so this helps clean your mitts before you start manhandling all the delicious fish coming your way.

nn

nn

My first course was more of an amuse bouche, using the thinly sliced cucumber as a wrapper, with fresh snow crab legs and daikon sprouts with a rice vinegar sauce. If you are used to fake crab in your sushi, the flavor of real crab will blow your mind. It’s so much richer and more flavorful, and the texture is much more appealing. I also loved how beautiful this dish was. Chef Chan commented “Japanese and French cooking are very similar in that they both focus on presentation first.” One glance at this plate and you’ll know exactly what he means.

Cucumber Crab Roll

Next, Chef started preparing a plate of mixed Sashimi, which I usually tend to shy away from because I am lame. There’s really no excuse other than that I am one of those lame-o’s who’ve only ever really been exposed to Americanized sushi. Chef explained that when you go to Japan and order sushi, what you’ll be served is sashimi (sliced fish) or nigiri (sliced fish over molded rice), and that the rolls we know and love here are really not as popular. I watch, mesmerized, as Chef pulled out a little fire gun to char one of the fish he served me. Each fish got its own presentation and flavor accoutrements and were like little works of art.

m,

m,

First, hamachi (Yellowtail) with a slice of serrano pepper.

Hamachi

Hamachi

Then marinated salmon with fresh salmon roe.

IMG_1912

Then Saba (Japanese mackerel) with a slice of lemon and pickled ginger

IMG_1913

Followed by Bluefin tuna (imported from Japan) with soy sauce and pickled wasabi.

IMG_1914

Finally, there was kanpachi (young yellowtail) with citrus sauce, flying fish eggs, green tea sea salt, and truffle oil. I think this is truly what it feels like to be royalty. Although they were all amazing and rich and full of depth, my favorite was the kanpachi, AKA young yellowtail, as it was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. It was creamy and buttery and practically melted in my mouth. The hint of truffle oil was just enough to complement the natural flavor of the fish, without going overboard. I was in heaven.

IMG_1915

To complement the sushi, Chef also ground up some fresh wasabi root (which looks like it came from outer space). I’m not a fan of wasabi that typically comes with sushi. Chef informed me that this wasabi is usually made from a powder, with lots of flavorings, and that true wasabi doesn’t taste like that at all. And he was right! Yes, it does have a bit of that clear-your-sinuses feeling we all associate with the green condiment, but this wasabi was oaky and nutty, and it doesn’t linger. Now I’m a fan.

Wasabi

Since I’d never had uni (sea urchin) before, Chef suggested I give it a try. It was imported from Santa Barbara (Chef Chan says that the best Uni comes from Santa Barbara) and he was so excited that I was willing to try it. I went in very afraid, but his enthusiasm was intoxicating (or maybe it was the sake)… either way, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a very unique flavor; it’s sweet and creamy and salty all at the same time. I have to say…it’s definitely an acquired taste, though. The texture is not my favorite. It’s not quite a liquid, not quite a solid. It was very perplexing. I suggest you give it a try to understand it for yourself.

Uni

Chef had me try it again mixed with tuna and truffle soy sauce and a gold flake on a nori chip, “like a taco!” he said enthusiastically, and I was a much bigger fan of this presentation. The crunchiness of the nori chip softened the strange texture of the uni.

Uni Tuna Taco

One of the things that really impressed me about Wasabi was the sushi rice. I’ve been to some places where the sushi rice is so dry that it sucks all the liquid out of your mouth, and you have to completely soak your sushi in soy sauce in order to palate it. Wasabi is not like that. Chef informed me that sushi rice is meant to be eaten at the same temperature as the interior of your mouth, so they keep it warm until it’s ready to be served. They also put a lot of work into flavoring the rice itself, since it is the base of pretty much every piece of sushi they serve, which I really appreciate. Chef demonstrated the importance of sushi rice by serving me a few pieces of nigiri, which I was really excited about because that meant I got to eat with my hands. First, madai, aka Japanese snapper.

IMG_1916

Next, chef got out the blowtorch again to sear a scallop (hotategai) for scallop nigiri. Scallops aren’t always my favorite, but these Japanese scallops were amazing. Plus, I like it when they’re a little more on the raw side, and the char from the blowtorch gave it a nice smokiness.

Scallop

Perhaps one of my favorite things Chef made for me, was the salmon belly. It was sinfully rich and flavorful. I wanted to cry when I was eating it, it was so good. It doesn’t have that typical salmon flavor, it was something else entirely. I’m getting wistful just thinking about it.

Salmon Belly Nigiri

Salmon Belly Nigiri. My new favorite thing!

 

The kanpachi, aka young yellowtail, was equally delicious over rice, and still rich and flavorful, just not as flavorful as the salmon belly.

Kanpachi

Since he knew my obsession with tuna, he also threw in a piece of bluefin tuna nigiri. Blue fin tuna is a classic. You can’t go wrong.

bluefin nigiri

To continue my tuna education, Chef excitedly prepared two versions of the same piece of fish, Toro, the belly of the bluefin tuna. The first was prepared normally, with just a little soy sauce, which just melted in your mouth. It was fantastic.

Toro

The second, however, was served with black charcoal soy sauce and chef seared the fish with the blowtorch. There was a little more bitterness from the charcoal, but it paired extremely well with the smoky flavor left from the fire gun. Even though it was cooked a bit more, it was still very tender and delicious.

Toro 2

To give me a taste of what Wasabi has to offer outside of the sushi realm, Chef prepared his Seabass Saikyoyaki, a roasted Chilean Seabass, marinated in a sweet miso sauce, accompanied by grilled veggies ($28). The fish was cooked perfectly, and the miso sauce was very unique.

Seabass Saikyoyaki

My final course was a brand new American-style sushi roll that Chef wanted me to try, since he knows I love sushi rolls (so for those of you not brave enough to try nigiri, this might be more your style). It was a tempura lobster roll with snow crab, pineapple, and asparagus inside. The whole roll was then tempura fried and served over a bowl of red curry sauce. I’m pretty sure they tapped into my brain to create this roll because it was basically all of my favorite things. It was bursting with flavor, and the hint of pineapple made it taste just like summertime. It didn’t have a name as of my visit, but I really hope they named it The Queen roll in honor of me and my giant ego. Time will tell.

Tempura Lobster Roll

If you haven’t been to Wasabi Mount Pleasant or Wasabi Daniel Island (both of which are owned and operated by Chef Chan and his awesome staff), you’re really missing out. Get out there and eat some sushi!

IMG_1896

*Note: This is not the typical amount of food you receive when ordering omakase. I received a lot more variety for review purposes*

Wasabi Mt. Pleasant
1121 Oakland Market Rd
Mount Pleasant, SC 29466
843-284-8337

Wasabi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Elevé at the Grand Bohemian Hotel

May 25, 2016

 

Sampling a new spring bev

That eagle’s coming for my drink!

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to try the new spring menu at the Grand Bohemian’s restaurant Élevé. The evening started with some of their new cocktails in the art gallery that featured both local and international art. The Bohemian Bramble cocktail, made with Old Tom Gin, House Made Limoncello, and Creme de Cassis was tart and refreshing and would be perfect for sipping on a hot summer night.

Don't mind if I do.

Don’t mind if I do.

After viewing the beautiful art, we headed into the wine blending room to have the sommelier explain what they do. Even before hearing that the wine blending room in a hotel is the first in the world, I was hooked and definitely want to attend a wine blending evening. After you create your own perfect blend, they’ll cork it and put your label on it.


Wine blending room

We went upstairs to look at one of the hotel rooms that overlooks the art garden before heading to dinner upstairs on a private terrace with a view overlooking the rooftops of downtown. The rooms were surprisingly art-deco and very different from your standard hotel rooms. We’re talking velvet headboards, cool lamps, and lots of art.

I want that pillow in my house.

I want that pillow in my house.

Before the food started to appear, Chef Rayley came to introduce himself and explain the dishes and what he did to create the magic behind each dish.

Spring menu

Glass of wine with dinner. A preview of the full menu for the night.

We started with an amuse bouche (fancy word for “little hors d’oeuvre”) of strawberry soup. It was made with SC buttermilk, sunflower, cucumber, cilantro, and sorrel and paired with a brut prosecco. I’ve never had a strawberry soup before, but this was a great way to start the dinner. The creamy buttermilk helped to cut the acidity of the strawberry and cucumber and the bubbles from the prosecco helped tie the whole dish together.

Strawberry soup

I feel like a 10 year old, but “amuse bouche” makes me giggle a little.

Our 1st course was an heirloom tomato salad with yellow beet vinaigrette, spring onions, and frico, and paired with a Sancerre white wine. If you know me, you know I don’t like tomatoes. But these were not your average tomatoes. They were crisp and juicy and had a very different flavor than your average tom. The aged Parmesan added texture and crunchiness to the dish.

This dish made me wish I liked tomatoes.

This dish made me wish I liked tomatoes.

Our 2nd course was a roasted Carolina Sheepshead with leeks, wild SC shrimp, and shellfish bourride paired with a Pouilly-Fuissé white wine. The Sheepshead was so light and flaky and didn’t have a super fishy flavor, it resembled more of shellfish.

Roasted Carolina Sheepshead

FYI sheepshead is a fish and not actually the head of a sheep.

The 3rd course was a 130-degree eye of beef rib, served with Bates Farm asparagus, Palmetto sweet potato, and poached baby root vegetables, served with a Cuvee Raphael red wine. The beef was tender, juicy and seared perfectly with a slight crispiness along the outside. Paired with the perfectly cooked vegetables and the red wine, it was a great dish.

Eye of beef rib

Beef Ribs > Pork Ribs

Our dessert course was a Jersey Milk & raw honey panna cotta with SC strawberries and Anson Mills oats. It was served with a moscato d’asti and I ate the entire thing. Almost licked the glass. The panna cotta was creamy and melted in your mouth. The oats and strawberries added a nice sweetness and crunchiness to the dish and the bubbles paired great with it.

It's in a glass, so I can just sip it, right?

It’s in a glass, so I can just sip it, right?

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the entire evening. Each dish had something unique about it and was light and refreshing, which is perfect for this spring. The wine pairing for each dish went perfectly and helped highlight the flavors of the food. I love Élevé’s effort to use fresh, local foods in their dishes. It really makes a difference in not only the taste of the dish, but it also helps the community grow.

ggg

Plus, there’s lots of fun artwork to see inside!

I would recommend going to The Grand Bohemian to take a look around if you haven’t yet. The décor is very colorful and fun for a hotel, which surprised me. I would also recommend eating at the restaurant or if you aren’t interested in a full meal, they’re having a weekly series of cocktails on the balcony on Fridays. I can’t wait to go back and participate in the events!

Or just to sit on this beautiful balcony.

Or just to sit on this beautiful balcony.

Elevé
55 Wentworth St
Charleston, SC
(843) 722-5711
Élevé Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Events Restaurant Reviews

Sushikon Brewshi Tour

May 13, 2016
IMG_3554

The only time “I ate sushi on a bus” is an ok statement.

Earlier this month, we attended Sushikon’s Brewshi Tour. Sushikon was started by the same people who brought us Octobachi downtown, which is sadly no longer. When I first heard about this tour, I thought it sounded like a really fun, new, and unique idea. It’s sort of like a food-truck-meets-brewery-tour-meets-sushi.

If you close your eyes you can pretend like you're in Japan!

If you close your eyes you can pretend like you’re in Japan!

This was only their 3rd tour ever and they have many more planned for the next few months. We went to three local breweries and were served a sushi meal in between each stop. We met at the bus depot downtown around 6 pm and left to go to our first brewery, Freehouse Brewery.

That's what we're talkin' bout.

That’s what we’re talkin’ bout.

 


If you haven’t ever been, I would recommend making the trek just for the view alone; it’s absolutely gorgeous!

Plus, dog friendly! Win-win!

Plus, dog friendly! Win-win!

We tried two half pints while we talked to frequent brewery goers and looked at the equipment. Freehouse had a gorgeous view of the Ashley River, but was a tad small, so it gets crowded very quickly. The beers were very refreshing and crisp.

Half pints are like mini-muffins: they don't actually count as real life.

Half pints are like mini-muffins: they don’t actually count as real life.

After about 30 minutes at Freehouse, we headed back to the bus to enjoy our first round of sushi: sushi nachos with fresh, local tuna, imitation crab, avocado, carrots, cucumber and caviar on top of blue corn tortilla chips. The nachos were tasty and light after our first round of beers.

You heard that right. Sushi. Nachos.

You heard that right. Sushi. Nachos.

While eating sushi nachos, we headed toward our second brewery, Tradesman on James Island. Driving down Folly Road, you would never suspect the building behind a gas station to hold many, delicious beers.

Oh, hey, secret Brewery. Nice to meet you!

Oh, hey, secret Brewery. Nice to meet you!

This two-story building has different taps on the different levels, and each beer is named after something trade related, and each tap has a tool as a handle.

The closest I'll ever get to being in a tool shed.

The closest I’ll ever get to being in a tool shed.

Some of the beers we tried were infused with different flavors that we’d never seen anywhere else. Including a coffee beer that was not a stout or porter, but more of a light beer. One of the beers that is frequently on their menu is called Coco Nuts & Bolts made with toasted coconut, which I will definitely be going back to try as they had run out.

IMG_3579

Is it just me or are these half pints getting bigger?

As we made our way back to the bus, we had a platter of sushi waiting for us. The sushi tasted fresh and was very filling, but wasn’t overly flavorful or unique.

At least it looks pretty!

At least it looks pretty!

They also turned on these cool lights inside the bus once it started to get dark outside.

Disco sushi bus! New band name!

Disco sushi bus! New band name!

We made our way to the last brewery, Low Tide on Johns Island. This brewery was definitely the largest and had the most equipment.

Low Tide; High Appreciation.

Low Tide; High Appreciation.

It’s a new building that is decorated with a very beachy feel. We were impressed with the beers we had as they were all unique flavors, especially the Pete’s Coconut Chai, which is a darker beer with notes of coconut and chai. For a dark beer, it was surprisingly light.

Still no word on who this "Pete" fella is, though.

Still no word on who this “Pete” fella is, though.

When we got back on the bus to head downtown, a dessert sushi was waiting for us. We were not very impressed with the dessert. Fruit sushi isn’t something I would normally order on the menu, but I also wouldn’t want something that’s supposed to be sweet wrapped in seaweed. I think if they had a green tea ice cream, mochi or even mango rice pudding, it would have been a better alternative to what they served.

Hey, you can't win them all.

Hey, you can’t win them all.

Overall, we had an awesome time on the Brewshi Tour, but I think they have a few areas they could improve. I think the overall price is too expensive, being about $100 per person after taxes. The food was good and I loved that the tuna was fresh and local, but I’m not sure the food was worth the price of the tour. Visiting the breweries was great and being able to try their different beers on tap was a fun way to be introduced to each brewery. It wasn’t as much as a tour as I expected, the breweries were a little too small for that. The tour guide on Sushikon has a lengthy resume, working with many breweries, and is incredibly knowledgeable. He was available for questions during the brewery visits, but we didn’t actually get any official tours of the breweries, which I think would’ve been really fun. I think they also will need to have a rotating brewery list because as a return customer, you wouldn’t want to go back to the same brewery each time.

IMG_3592

Still have no idea what any of this stuff does.

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Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

The Darling Oyster Bar

April 1, 2016

The Darling is King Street’s newest seafood offering, taking over the former Union Provisions space. The one time I visited Union Provisions, I was very disappointed; so when I walked into The Darling, I was a little wary and curious to see if they could succeed where UP so clearly failed. I’ve been twice now and I have to say, The Darling is a huge improvement, and a great option for affordable seafood on King Street.

Love those lights above the bar!

Love those lights above the bar!

The first time I visited was with TQuizzle  for their media dinner. We went all out and tried a little bit of everything on the menu. First, the drinks: Syd had the Basil Daisy (Wodka Vodka, Aperol, Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Sugar, Fresh Basil, $9) which was light and refreshing.

How could it not be with a name like "Basil Daisy?!"

How could it not be with a name like “Basil Daisy?!”

I went the more Caribbean route with the Bermuda Swizzle (Goslings Gold Rum, Falernum, Ginger, Fresh Squeezed Pineapples and Oranges, $9). It tasted just like a drink I’d want to sip on while lounging on the beach in the Bahamas.

Like summertime in a glass!

Like summertime in a glass!


Next, the food. We wanted to get a good idea of all the different things on the menu, so we kind of went all over the place. From the raw bar, we started with the Tuna Poke (White Grapes, Shoyu, Sesame Seed, $13). Having been to Hawaii a bunch, TQuizzle was not super impressed with this version of a poke bowl; she wasn’t a huge fan of the grapes. I, however, thought the grapes were a really cool contrast to the big ole chunks of tuna. Granted, this was my first poke experience.

Not to be confused with a Pokeball, which is not food.

Not to be confused with a Pokeball, which is not food.

Also from the raw bar, we tried the King Crab Parfait (Avocado, Grapefruit, Sourdough Crumble,
Herb Pistou, $15), which I was a little underwhelmed by. The dish relied heavily on avocado and grapefruit, and it was served as more of a dip than what I was expecting. The flavor was lacking a little bit of depth for the price point.

Do not order this if you don't like Grapefruit.

Do not order this if you don’t like Grapefruit.

From the regular menu, we decided to be adventurous and try the Snapper Toast (Potato, Pickled Red Onion, Country Ham, Sourdough, $7), which ended up being one of our favorite things we tried. The bread was buttery and had a nice crunch to it. The pickled red onion gave a bit of acidity and complemented the creaminess of the potato and snapper. Definitely not something I would normally order, but I’m really glad I tried it!

Plus, it's so colorful and pretty!

Plus, it’s so colorful and pretty! Also, this picture came from my second visit because I ordered it twice.

TQuizzle isn’t much of an oyster person, but I am, so I ordered the Baked Oysters with Pimento & Sourdough Soppers ($9 for 3 oysters). If pimento isn’t your thing, the baked oysters also come with maitre’d butter & breadcrumbs for a more traditional offering. I really enjoyed the pimento oysters; they were decadent and very flavorful.

Served on a bed of salt and in the shape of a Palmetto Tree, which I thought was adorable (although I'm not sure if they did that on purpose or not).

Served on a bed of salt and in the shape of a Palmetto Tree, which I thought was adorable (although I’m not sure if they did that on purpose or not).

Speaking of decadent and flavorful, we couldn’t resist trying The Darling’s take on a poutine: the Clam Chowder over house cut fries (Local Clams, Vegetables, Sourdough, $9 for just the chowder, $10 over fries). Wow. These were exceptional. They bring a little gravy bowl of clam chowder to the table and pour it over your fries right in front of you (watch the video here), which I really appreciate because it prevents the fries from getting soggy before they’re even served to you.

There are few foods that aren't improved by putting them over french fries.

There are few foods that aren’t improved by putting them over french fries.

To finish, we decided to try a couple of the options on the dessert menu. TQuizzle opted for the Bombolini (Doughnut, Lemon Curd, Fruit Preserves, $8), which she really enjoyed. They were light and fluffy little donut balls and I really liked the fruit preserves that came with them.

And "bombolini" is such a fun word to say.

And “bombolini” is such a fun word to say.

Since I can never say no to anything chocolate, I opted for the Chocolate Cake Bowl (Buttermilk Anglaise, Toasted Peanuts, Chocolate Sauce, $8). If you like chocolate and cake, you’ll like this. My only complaint was that the cake was a little dry.

I love chocolate, but I don't love cake. I'm an enigma.

I love chocolate, but I don’t love cake. I’m an enigma.

On my second visit, I met my friend Basil & Bubbly for happy hour. We sat at the bar and annoyed the bartenders with our constant photography. I started with the  Shoulder Monkey (Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Grilled Pineapple and Sage Syrup, Orgeat, Lemon, $9), which was so tasty. I loved the how the tartness of the pineapple cancelled out any of the alcoholic taste from the scotch. I could drink this all night long.

And the devil monkey on my shoulder tried to convince me to.

And the devil monkey on my shoulder tried to convince me to.

We split an order of the Creole Shrimp (Anson Mills Rice Cakes, Mustard, Bacon, $11), which was fantastic. I’m not sure what they put in those rice cakes, but I want that secret recipe. I’ve never had shrimp that tasted so good. Definitely give this dish a try!

For the rice cakes alone.

For the rice cakes alone.

For our second round of drinks, B&B got the Sherry-Colada (Lustau Cream Sherry, Coconut Cream, Fresh Pineapple, Angostura Bitters, $9), which I was a little afraid to try since a drink with Sherry as the base sounded a little strange to me. As it turns out, I was a silly goose because that drink was really delicious. It was light and also tasted like something you’d want to drink while on a beach somewhere.

"If you like Sherry Coladas..."

“If you like Sherry Coladas…”

My second cocktail was the Smoke on the Harbor (Goslings Gold Rum, Lime, Sugar, Compass Box Peat Monster Scotch Rinse, $9), which was a self-proclaimed unique twist on a classic daiquiri. I loved it. It was totally unique and unlike any other daiquiri I’ve had before. Not sweet, but not savory. I highly recommend giving it a try. The cocktails at The Darling are legit. I haven’t had a single one I didn’t like.

Looks can be deceiving, because this puppy is strong.

Looks can be deceiving, because this puppy is strong.

To go with our second round of drinks, we decided to split the Lobster Cocktail (Mango, Endive, Lemon Herb Vinaigrette, $14), which was a huge success. The lobster was very tender and not chewy at all. The lemon herb vinaigrette was fresh and with the mango, offered just the perfect amount of citrus to complement the shellfish.

ice not salt

This time, it was served on a bed of ice (not salt. even though they look the same).

The bartender was really talking up the Warm Date Oat Cake (Coconut Ice Cream, Caramel, $7), as “the dessert people come here to try. It’s what everyone orders,” so we decided to give it a try. Considering that most oat-based desserts tend to not be as sweet, I was really taken aback by how cloyingly sweet this was. I liked the caramel, but it packs a punch. It had the consistency of a really fat sugar cookie, with a firm outer shell and a nice chewy inside, which I really liked (see my aforementioned cake comment). The coconut ice cream was really subtle, and was not nearly as sweet as the caramel, which I was glad for. Overall, a very pleasant dessert if you’re in the mood for something very sweet!

Coconut ice cream is bae.

Coconut ice cream is bae.

Both of my experiences at The Darling were very positive and I can see this becoming a very popular hangout space for everyone from young professionals to older tourists. Give it a try!

Smile, TQuizzle!

Smile, TQuizzle!

The Darling
513 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 641-0821

The Darling Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Iron Dog Diner

March 25, 2016

I admit that I am a creature of habit. When it comes to restaurants, I tend to stick to Johns Island, James Island, and Downtown. When venturing outside of my usual radius, I tend to stick to old favorites. Poe’s on Sullivan’s Island; La Norteña in North Charleston; Jack’s Cosmic Dogs in Mount Pleasant… but I got out of my comfort zone recently and tried a new place out in Park Circle, the Iron Dog Diner, with my dad.

Back off ladies, he's taken.

Back off ladies, he’s taken.

The Iron Dog Diner is named for the area in which it’s located (apparently, it’s the Iron Dog District, but I definitely didn’t know that!). The space is super cute; it’s very retro chic. I think if I ever had the patience to start a cafe, this is who I’d want to design it.

Next time I'm bringing a book and camping out for a while.

Next time I’m bringing a book and camping out for a while.

After we placed our order with our very friendly waitress, but I got restless so I stood up and wandered around to have a looksie. What caught my eye was the dessert case. “What’s this?” I inquired. “A coffee-glazed cronut ($3). We make them fresh every morning,” the waitress responded. Then she laughed at the way my face lit up. “We’ll start with one of those.” It was light and moist (sorry) and flaky and not overly sweet, which I appreciated. We finished it in under a minute. It paired perfectly with the hot cup of coffee I was nursing.

Like a pastry made by angels.

Like a pastry made by angels.


Former Daniel Island Club and Anson Chef Lee Padgett came out and said hello to us and let us know that the daily special was a Smashed Potato Pancake Topped with White BBQ Pulled Pork, Served with an Apple Pecan Salad ($10). That sounded like my jam, so I ordered that. I really loved the potato pancake, as it was unlike any potato pancake I’ve ever had before. The white BBQ sauce was nice and mild; perfect for brunchtime. I also really loved the apple salad, which was fresh and added just a touch of sweetness to the dish (from the candied pecans). I was particularly impressed with how unique the dish was; I can’t think of any other place in Charleston serving anything like this.

It came together really well.

It came together really well.

My dad ordered the frittata–mostly because I think he likes saying the word ‘frittata’–which consisted of Oven Baked Eggs Topped with a Pork Belly Hash ($9.50). The pork belly in the hash was cured in the oven with curry, so it has a really nice depth to it, without being overwhelming. I like how perfectly cooked the pork belly was (I hate when it’s too chewy), but this was like fat, happy bacon bombs, which was a perfect compliment to the potatoes. The eggs were light and fluffy and the whole dish was really simple, but beautifully done.

Frittata. Frittata. Frittata.

Frittata. Frittata. Frittata.

Because we were feeling adventurous, we also ordered the Biscuits and Gravy to split (2 biscuits with milk sausage gravy, $6). The biscuits were amazingly light and fluffy, which was a nice balance to the heavy sausage gravy. This is definitely a stick-to-your-bones kind of breakfast. There was a nice hint of pepper in the gravy without being overwhelming, and I quite enjoyed the consistency of the gravy: not too thin, but also not too thick. Just right.

I'm the Goldilocks of sausage gravy.

I’m the Goldilocks of sausage gravy.

Because we hadn’t eaten enough, our waitress was able to sweet talk us into ordering dessert (see what I did there??), which was a chocolate chip cookie baked in a little cast iron skillet, topped with 2 generous scoops of vanilla ice cream ($5.99). Chef Padget said the key is “just like cooking cornbread. Get the skillet nice and hot before you put the batter in, so it gets a little crisp on the outside, but stays warm and gooey on the inside.” And boy did it ever. This might be one of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had.

You gotta get it with the ice cream. Magnifico!

You gotta get it with the ice cream. Magnifico!

All in all, we were delightfully pleased with our meal, the service, and the atmosphere of Iron Dog Diner. This gives me an incentive to get out to North Charleston more! If you’re ever in Park Circle area, I suggest stopping by to give IDD a try; they’re open for brunch Tuesday – Sunday and dinner Thursday – Saturday.

It's so cute!

It’s so cute!

Also, here’s a bonus shot of Chef Padgett who was kind enough (and sufficiently weirded out by) my request to get his photo. If you see him, give him a high five or something, because he’s awesome.

Thanks, Chef!

Thanks, Chef!

Iron Dog Diner
4245 Rivers Ave
North Charleston, SC 29405
(843) 203-4682

Iron Dog Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Mercantile and Mash

January 27, 2016

I have been so excited to try Mercantile & Mash ever since I first heard about the project way back when. I’m so glad they finally found something to do to revamp the old cigar factory, because it’s such a great space.

Doesn't it just look like a place you want to come hang out for a few hours? Or forever?

Doesn’t it just look like a place you want to come hang out for a few hours? Or forever?

The idea behind Mercantile & Mash is simple, but unique: Mercantile is a self-described “gourmet food emporium” featuring homemade and local products such as charcuterie, cheese, fresh baked goods, grab-and-go items, and other food essentials. They also recently introduced the Chef’s Counter, a gourmet lunch experience that I was lucky enough to try out last week. The menu changes regularly, but I’ll give you the rundown on each of the dishes I tried.

I'll have one of everything, please.

I’ll have one of everything, please.

First, the Rappahannock River Oysters (shallot, cucumber, and housemade kimchi mignonette, $13). The oysters were perfectly prepared and I’ve never had anything like the kimchi mignonette before. The sourness of the kimchi paired perfectly with the oysters and the sweetness of the shallot. I highly recommend these if you like oysters!

It's like lunch AND a work of art!

It’s like lunch AND a work of art!


Next, the Smoked Tuna Crudo (fennel, orange, pistachio, and pomegranate, $14). I love tuna, so I was really excited for this dish. I loved the combination of the fish with the pistachio and pomegranate, but the orange felt a little superfluous to me. My dining companion was also a little disappointed and wanted a little more flavor out of the dish. Regardless, if you like tuna, you’ll probably enjoy this dish.

Like a little bite of sunshine.

Like a little bite of summertime and sunshine.

Next, my favorite dish, was the Beef Carpaccio (crispy sweetbreads, mustard, apple, and a mustard seed aioli, $14). The beef carpaccio itself was full of flavor and perfectly spiced. The mustard and apple offered some sweetness and tanginess to the dish, and the buttermilk-fried crispy sweetbreads were perfection. Our waitress described them as “adult chicken nuggets” and they practically melted in your mouth. I’d come back for this dish alone.

Plus, this photo got me like a thousand likes on Instagram. #score

Plus, this photo got me like a thousand likes on Instagram. #score

Next up was the Local Acorn Squash Soup (goat cheese, sherry, brown butter, and sage, $9. The soup was creamy and velvety, but lacked some depth that I was looking for.

"ACORN SOUP FOR YOU" - Hipster Soup Nazi

“ACORN SOUP FOR YOU” – Hipster Soup Nazi

The Butternut Agnolotti (duck confit, dates, hazelnuts, and vanilla bacon, $12) was really interesting. The vanilla was very strong, but was a great complement to the creaminess of the butternut pasta and dates. I liked that the duck confit was not inside the agnolotti, but rather served alongside in the pasta.

Like little pasta pillows.

Like little pasta pillows.

The Seared Scallops (roasted cauliflower, parsnip, almond, and citrus, $16) were perfectly cooked and were huge on the plate. The sauce that they were served with was amazing, and I wished they would bottle it so I could put it on everything.

Is this ambrosia?!

Is this ambrosia?!

The final entree of the meal was the Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Chop (ham hock, brussels sprouts, cider, and ginger, $18). The pork was amazing… it was moist and flavorful and I loved the cider and ginger that went along with it. The brussels were also perfectly cooked; not too hard and not too mushy….juuuust right.

Like the Goldilocks of vegetables.

Like the Goldilocks of vegetables.

We also tried an iced coffee from the “coffee wizard,” a concoction that he created dubbed the“Steve Palmer” (named after the owner). Instead of lemonade and tea, they combined limeade and iced coffee, which was surprisingly delicious.

Go into this one with an open mind.

Go into this one with an open mind.

The space itself is breathtaking and perfect for lunch with friends, a casual coffee date, or working remotely. They also offer great take-and-go options like their “dinner for two” deal. Be sure to stop by and check out this amazing space if you haven’t already!

And so whimsical!

And so whimsical!

I was feeling lazy the other day so I decided to try out the aforementioned “dinner for two.” It has all the makings of a home-cooked meal, without the hassle of a bunch of dishes. Remember that scene from Mrs. Doubtfire when Robin Williams (as the title character) orders a bunch of take out and puts it on the plate to pretend like she cooked the whole thing herself? This is basically that.

Just call me "Sydney Doubtfire."

Just call me “Sydney Doubtfire.”

The week that I chose had the following options:

  • Bone-In Cheshire Pork Chop with a South Carolina BBQ glaze, herbed confit fingerling potatoes, bourbon buttered mushrooms, and baby greens salad for $30
    OR
  • Seared Blue Crab Cakes with pickled okra and mustard seed aioli, sweet potato purée, steamed broccoli and bell peppers and baby arugula salad for $32. It was a tough choice, but I ended up going with the pork.

Everything came packed neatly in little tin containers. To cook, you preheat your oven, remove the plastic covers, place the containers on a tray, and cook for the recommended time in your oven. Easy peasy.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Except the salad. Don’t cook that, ya crazy.

Once everything was nice and hot, I plated it like normal and pretended like I’d made the whole thing from scratch. Which no one believed because I am nowhere close to a gourmet chef (except in my own mind).

 

I'm so profesh.

I’m so profesh.

No good dinner is complete without a tasty dessert to go with it. Although it’s not part of the dinner-for-two deal, I stopped by the baked goods case and grabbed something nice and chocolatey in the form of a chocolate, bacon, peanut butter, and banana bar.

Chocolate heals all wounds.

Chocolate heals all wounds.

Basically, I’m in love with Mercantile and Mash. It’s a great place to come for a morning coffee, brunch with friends, a lunch meeting, or to grab something quick to put together for dinner. Try it, and I bet you’ll fall in love, too.

Now you're speakin' my language.

Now you’re speakin’ my language.

Mercantile and Mash
701 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 793-2636

Mercantile And Mash Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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