Last week, I was invited to dine at Eli’s Table, so I brought along my trusty sidekick, Cookin’ With Booze (well, technically Spurrier is my sidekick, but she had family in town and couldn’t join me, so Elise gladly volunteered).
I was, admittedly, underwhelmed at the thought of eating at Eli’s because I had a 2-star experience there at a RW meal a couple of years ago. I used to think of Eli’s as purely tourist fodder, but after the meal that I had last week, I have to say: I am a convert. As a food blogger, when I go to restaurants, they tend to up their game, but Eli’s knocked it totally out of the park.
We were greeted with champagne by the maître d’, Raymond, who had personality and charm oozing out of every pore (seriously, this guy rocks). He was super knowledgeable about every dish on the menu, which wines paired best with which dish, and details about every wine (in the whole world, I’m assuming). He’s also apparently one of the pastry chefs, and you can just tell that he loves the hell out of his job. (Plus he sounds almost exactly like Walton Goggins’s character in Vice Principals on HBO, so I was loving it).
We did a special tasting of many of the restaurant’s most popular dining options. To get us ready and excited, Raymond started us off with a little amuse bouche of smoked salmon on a house-made cracker with goat cheese and scallion. I’m not normally a fan of smoked salmon, but the creaminess of the goat cheese calmed the smokiness of the salmon, so it was quite enjoyable.
To give us a taste of the best of Eli’s Table, Raymond brought us a plate of mini-versions of their most popular appetizers: the Prosciutto and Fig Crostini (local fresh figs, prosciutto, truffled goat cheese, pomegranate syrup; a normal-sized version of this app runs at $12). I’ve never had anything with prosciutto and goat cheese that I didn’t like, and this was no different. I really liked the salty/sweet/creamy combo. We also tried a mini version of the Grilled Asparagus Salad (frisée, blistered tomato peperonata, hearts of palm, mustard vinaigrette, crispy prosciutto; normally $12) in the form of a single piece of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. The asparagus was cook so it was perfectly tender without being slimy (like what you get out of a can *yeck*).
We also got to try a bit of the Shrimp and Grits (Smoked gouda grits, grilled shrimp, tasso gravy; normally $26). Our mini version was served beautifully in a martini glass, which I found charming and adorable. The grits were super rich and creamy and I loved the extra depth from the smoked gouda and tasso gravy. The shimp was perfectly cooked and had a little bit of spice to it… if you’re a fan of shrimp and grits, you’ll love Eli’s version!
We also got to try their Southern Fried Crab Cake (Blistered tomato peperonata, remoulade sauce, frisée; normally $13 and only available on the lunch menu). Notice they don’t use any bread or crackers at all in their crab cake, which is refreshingly different. I loved that the outside was a little crispy and the remoulade had lots of flavor.
My favorite course of the night was their Catch of the Day (Charleston “red rice risotto,” pickled green tomato-corn relish, crawfish butter; $29), which happened to be red snapper when we visited. The fish was cooked and seasoned beautifully, and was a perfect complement to the crawfish butter and red rice risotto. There was a nice bit of smokiness to the dish, which they add by using an applewood smoking gun on the sausage in the risotto, which really made the dish stand out. Even if you don’t like fish, I feel like you’d love this dish.
The final entree was one of their signature dishes (and one I see pop up on Instagram all the time): Duck and Waffles (Seared duck breast, sweet potato waffles, fried brussels sprouts, malted bacon glaze; $32). Because I’m a difficult person, this was probably my least favorite of everything we ate. There wasn’t anything inherently bad about it, I just found the gaminess of the duck to overpower the entire dish (and this is coming from someone who loves duck). The waffles on their own were really good, and the brussels sprouts were amazing, perfectly crispy and awesome with the malted bacon glaze.
We had a nice transition from savory into sweet with the duck & waffles, but my sweet tooth demanded more sugar. Raymond delivered with Crème Brûlée that was scorched at the table, which made me feel decadent and special (even though it’s something they do for everyone, but still). It was a stellar Crème Brûlée, and I highly recommend it!
My favorite dessert (and probably my 2nd favorite thing I ate the entire meal) was a special chocolate dessert that Raymond made special for that day. Like me, Raymond is something of a chocoholic, and he really outdid himself with this dessert, chock full of Kahlua-soaked pound cake, house made vanilla bean ice cream, praline crumbles, fresh local blackberries, and, what I can only assume was all the chocolate syrup in a 5-mile radius. It was glorious.
Everything, from the service to the food, was absolutely divine, and I would like to apologize to Eli’s Table for anything negative I’ve ever said about them in the past. I was wrong, and I’m sorry. I’ll be back for to try their mac and cheese in the near future, you can count on that!