Food Guy: Huntington gem Savannah’s well worth the drive

Super savory seared sea scallops, photo courtesy of Savannah's
Savannah's opened in 1996 in a 1903 Victorian House at 1208 6th Ave, Huntington.
Steven Keith, Daily Mail Food Guy

If you’re looking for a great place to dine out but can’t get into some of your Restaurant Week favorites in Charleston this week — hey, it happened to me — then you should definitely consider a drive to Huntington for one of the state’s true restaurant gems.

Tucked inside a charming single-family home built in 1903, Savannah’s opened to rave reviews back in 1996 and has only gotten better over time. The always-spectacular menu is complemented by an award-winning wine list, an attached Bistro wine bar and an on-site catering facility that has extended the restaurant’s reach.

After I enjoyed an incredible meal there with family years ago, it immediately made my list of the state’s top 10 restaurants at that time. We finally made it back again this past week and were thrilled to find that hasn’t changed.

The restaurant, tucked inside a corner house at 1208 Sixth Ave., has expanded, but is still offering the same top-notch service, cozy ambiance and stellar food that put it on the culinary map years ago. Our experience was pretty much perfect from savory start to sweet finish.

We began with glasses of wine — what a list! — a basket of warm bread from Huntington’s River and Rail Bakery — with whipped garlic rosemary butter! — and a couple of appetizers.

It was hard to pass up Savannah’s signature crab cakes (with onions, peppers and chili cream sauce) but their popular Southern-style Gougeres (think light, bready cheese puffs) paired with ricotta spinach balls were a fine stand-in. And my Coquilles Saint-Jacques (pan-seared jumbo sea scallops with white wine cream sauce) were perfectly cooked and supremely divine.

Entree options included veal osso bucco braised in red wine; a pork loin stuffed with roasted apple and sage with maple reduction; sweet potato au gratin, snow peas and julienne carrots; Certified Angus Beef filet mignon with bearnaise and herbed potatoes; duck confit braised in red wine and herbs; and chicken cordon bleu stuffed with prosciutto and Point Reyes blue cheese, then topped with mushroom sherry cream.

Other taste-tempters were salmon roulade with citrus beurre blanc, rice pilaf and sauteed spinach; shellfish capellini with littleneck clams, mussels and jumbo shrimp in white wine butter sauce; and sauteed gnocchi with spinach, roasted butternut squash and toasted pumpkin seeds in lemon beurre noisette.

It was torture not trying them all, but our waitress may have been right when she proclaimed my sea bass a la Milanaise “the best dish on the menu.” It was crusted in Parmesan, cooked to moist and flaky perfection, glazed with a white wine tomato sauce, then paired with saffron butternut risotto and garlic-roasted broccolini.

We also tried the night’s special, a roasted rack of lamb that was among the best I’ve had anywhere.

Not wanting to stop the flavor train, we tried a trio of desserts (yep — two people, three desserts) and loved the Belgian dark chocolate parfait with Chambord whipped cream and raspberry coulis and carrot cake with maple walnut icing. But the featured “pastry chef’s whimsy” that night put them both to shame. That rich chocolate and creamy peanut butter mousse situation was out of this world.

The perfect cap to a perfect meal.

Savannah’s has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence (for top-quality wine and food) each year since 1999, and in 2006 was honored with the Award of Distinction from Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a Five-Diamond Award of Excellence from the North American Restaurant Association.

All for good reason.

The restaurant is open for dinner at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Bistro, a connected wine bar serving a smaller menu, opens at 5 p.m. For more information or to make reservations, call 304-529-0919 or visit www.savannahsmenu.com.

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Some of the region’s best chefs delighted crowds (and judges) at this past weekend’s 10th annual Cast Iron Cook-Off at the Charleston Marriott, and this year’s grand champion was a restaurant that has piqued my interest several times at statewide food events over the past few years.

So it looks like a trip up to Weston is in order, with Thyme Bistro winning this year’s top honor. Then I might as well keep heading north to Morgantown, which represented with several awards as well.

And the winners are:

Grand Champion — Thyme Bistro Team and Chef Geoff Krauss, Weston

People’s Choice Award — Mia Margherita and Chef Pamela Stevens, Morgantown

Best Use of Cast Iron — WVU Erickson Alumni Center and Chef Scott Spiker, Morgantown

Best Use of Local Appalachian Protein — Atomic Grill Team and Chef Emily Zimmerman-Smith, Morgantown

Best Use of Appalachian Value-Added Products — Steelite International Team and Chef John Wright from Bridge Road Bistro, Charleston

Best Menu 21st Century Interpretation of Traditional Appalachian Cuisine — Thyme Bistro Team and Chef Geoff Krauss, Weston

Best Single Course 21st Century Interpretation of Traditional Appalachian Cuisine — Mia Margherita and Chef Pamela Stevens, Morgantown

Best Table Presentation — Charleston Marriott and Chef John Eckstadt, Charleston

Best Teamwork — MVB Bank Charleston and Chef Scott Maroney from Mardi Gras Casino & Resort, Cross Lanes

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Daily Mail. He can be reached at 304-348-1721 or by email at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as “DailyMail FoodGuy,” on Twitter as “DMFoodGuy” or read his blog at http://blogs.charlestondailymail.com/foodguy.

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