Charleston Hotel and Restaurants

 

We spend our nights in The Vendue, a beautifully remodeled art hotel located in the center of historic Old Town and near many of the cities primary sights and best restaurants. The roof deck has one of the most popular rooftop bars in the city and the common areas are filled with art (generally around a defined theme–currently titled "Fluent", which includes works by more than 30 artists, all associated with fluidity of motion. The art is formally shown in daily walking tours.

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Charleston Restaurants

Although we have long been in thrall of the city’s beauty and history, we have been equally enchanted by some of the city’s restaurants. Although we did not manage to fit a cooking class into this visit (as we did the last), we got to as many fine restaurants as we were able. These included the following.

Dinners

  • Coast. We shared three dishes. We began with a fab and scallop ceviche (not sufficiently marinated nor enough liquid), followed by creole fried oysters with herb garlic butter (the best dish of the evening). We finished off with cashew-crusted grouper with roasted fingerling potatoes and green beans in a cilantro pesto cream that overwhelmed the delicate fish.
  • Slightly North of Broad (SNOB). Dinner with four firings, with Joyce and I each having two dishes. Joyce’s steamed little necks in white wine sauce were quite salty. While she preferred her shrimp and grits to those at Husk, I found that the tomato sauce overpowered the delicate taste. I began with a semi-boneless Carolina quail stuffed with lemon-Rosemary sausage and a blueberry gastrique, which I loved. I also ventured for the unusual sounding BBQ tuna (with an interesting ham butter, honey-mustard glaze and sauce), topped with fried oysters and green onion. I was suitably rewarded for trying a combination of which our dining companions were justifiably skeptical. We finished off with a very nice peach cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream. All, including Joyce and I, enjoyed our meals.
  • McCrady’s. Our final meal and what is generally viewed as Charleston’s best restaurant, we shared three dishes. Cold crab salad with sorrel yuzo pole beans and sour green plums; beef tartare with sous vide egg yolk and white anchovies tarragon sauce topped with onion rings; and seared grouper with smoked Armenian cucumbers, kale, a sauce made from buttermilk whey, topped with a robin acid bathed buttermilk curds. (We had these with very light, Gamay-based red, a 2013 Chateau Thiuin Cote de Bruilly.) Although each of the dishes were fascinatingly complex and very well executed and presented, we felt that the chef’s extensive use of sour and acid in these dishes to be distracting. Potentially great dishes became very interesting, but less than memorable.

Lunches

  • Husk. Lunch began with wood-fired bacon hushpuppies with nettles pickled garlic and pepper mayonnaise and pan-roasted cornbread with bacon (while Joyce, the hushpuppies fan of the family) generally enjoyed these, neither of us appreciated the cornbread, which was dry and had little taste, other than the smokiness of the burnt bottom). We, however, both enjoyed the entrees–shrimp and Edisto grits with roasted peppers and onions, ham sausage and tomato emulsion; and bone-lickin’ peach BBQ pork ribs with "hoppinjohn" rice, field peas and kale. Our first lunch served as as nice reintroduction to low-country cooking.
  • Hominy Grill. A popular institution that we had to try, with middling results. The good news is that the she-crab soup (especially after a few drops of Tabasco Sauce), along with our sides of mac n cheese and mashed sweet potato were very good. The fried chicken (which we had in a combination dish with St. Louis ribs with blackstrap molasses BBQ sauce) was also good. The ribs, while pretty good, would have been enhanced with more sauce. The shrimp and cheese grits (with mushrooms, scallions and bacon), however, was a huge disappointment, almost totally lacking in taste. The meal, however, ended on a high note with pecan pie that substituted chopped pecans for much of the syrup, resulting in a dessert that is sweeter than those we are used to. As importantly, the service was friendly and professional.

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