I want to start off this post by saying that Zero Restaurant + Bar is probably my favorite restaurant in Charleston. I’ve been 3 times now and each visit was even better than the last (and I didn’t even think that was possible). I’m not sure what Chef Vinson Petrillo is doing back in that kitchen, but it is magical. Recently, they changed up the way they present the menu, with the focus being on more of a pre-fixe, Chef’s tasting menu, which is honestly what I would have ordered anyway. It’s a bit pricy at $125 a person, but for 6 courses and beverage pairings, I think you’re getting a pretty good deal.
Even if you don’t want to stay for dinner or order off the a la carte menu (but you really should), you should definitely stop by the bar and try one of their fantastic cocktails. My favorites are The Red Scare (Agavales Tequila, PAMA, Jack Rudy Grenadine, Habanero Simple Cilantro, Lemon, Lime, $13), which has a great little kick to it, and the Alter Ego (Hendrink’s Gin, Lavender, Lime, Habanero Citrus Foam (Egg White), Burlesque Bitters, $13), which also has a kick to it, but is also so fresh and bright. But you can’t go wrong with pretty much anything on the menu.
When I visited recently, I was joined by my friend (and one of my favorite local foodie bloggers) Marianne of Basil and Bubbly. It’s nice going to eat with a fellow food blogger, as you don’t get the same annoyed stares and sighs as people wait for you to take 15 pictures of 1 dish.
Our first course was the Snacks plate, which consisted of Chef Petrillo’s world famous (or at least they should be) deviled eggs with caviar, a foie gras macaron, a lobster roll bite, and a potted “plant.” Each item was about 2 bites (unless you have a big mouth like me). My favorite was definitely the deviled eggs (which I’ve had before and are always a crowd-pleaser), but the potted plant (puffed red quinoa, housemade butter & heirloom radish) was one of the coolest and most unique things I’ve ever eaten. This course was served with a glass of champagne, which gave the whole thing a very whimsical, Alice in Wonderland-type vibe.
Course #2 was the Beet Tartare (with encapsulated carrot “yolk,” sorrel, yogurt, warm multigrain), which also caught us by surprise. First of all, who’d have ever thought you could make an egg yolk out of a carrot?! Granted it didn’t taste much like an egg yolk, but it sure looked like one. I’m not usually a fan of beets, but Chef Petrillo smoked them on the Zero grill before serving them to us, which gave the whole dish a touch of smokiness, which completely changed the flavor of the beets that I had been expecting. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you might not have even noticed that this dish was meatless. It was that good.
Course #3–probably my favorite of the entire meal–consisted of liquid parmesan tortellini (chanterelle mushroom ragout, late peas, spruce tips). They poured a nice broth over the tortellini at the table, which made the dish an entire experience in and of itself. I love any combination of cheese and noodle, but these soft parmesan pillows were out of this world.
Course #4, in contrast, was probably my least favorite dish: roasted snapper with potatoes cooked in seaweed and mussels cooked in whey. It was a perfectly pleasant dish, but nothing about it knocked my socks off (although that could’ve just been because I hadn’t had a chance to put them back on after the tortellini…who’s to say).
The final of our entree courses was something I’m surprised to say that I’ve never had the pleasure of eating before: Beef Wellington (I know, I know…and I call myself a foodie) with foie gras, caramelized onion, wild mushrooms, and aerated potato. Every bite I took of this dish made me stop and say “wow;” the beef practically melted in your mouth, and the potatoes were so light and airy, they didn’t even seem real. When my plate was finally empty, I went into a bit of a depression that still lingers on to this day.
For our dessert course, we were treated to tres leches in Chef Petrillo’s classic style. Young coconut, spongy cake, and honeycomb provided 3 completely different tastes and textures, with an understated sweetness that was very satisfying to the palate. I would 110% order this again.
From the impeccable service to the ambiance of the gorgeous outdoor patio to the expectation-shattering culinary prowess of Chef Vinson Petrillo, Zero Restaurant + Bar will forever hold a special place in my heart. If you ever get a chance to dine here, you should jump on that opportunity posthaste!
Zero Restaurant + Bar
0 George Street
Charleston, SC 29401