THE MENUS ARE HERE, THE MENUS ARE HERE!
Forgive my Paul Revere-like excitement, but I can’t help myself when it comes to the city’s Sixth-Annual Charleston Restaurant Week, coming up Jan. 28 to Feb. 2.
With apologies to Christmas, this may be the actual “most wonderful time of the year” for fellow foodies like me. Six days featuring a record 26 restaurants, all offering special three-course meals at a great price. What’s not to love?
And to keep things fresh, the popular event is adding a few exciting new twists this year.
Eight new restaurants are participating — including two local country clubs, who are opening their doors to give the general public a chance to sample their usually members-only food and ambiance — and two different price points are now offered.
Whereas previous years all featured a simple three-courses $30 price, which was a stretch for restaurants with less-expensive menus anyway, this year’s set meals are either $25 or $35 depending on the restaurant.
As always, I’ve pored over the menus in advance to find the most intriguing dishes I hope to sample that week. Here are the ones that really catch my eye:
I must say the country club menus are especially appealing — partially because they’re usually off-limits, but mostly because they look so good. Berry Hills Country Club’s chipotle salmon with gouda fondue or four-cheese risotto sounds amazing, and I’m always a sucker for Reese’s peanut butter mousse cake. Edgewood Country Club counters with a multi-mushroom bisque in a velvety potage with cognac; their signature tenderloin stroganoff with mushroom burgundy demi-glace over egg noodles; and ginger-shellacked salmon with basmati rice.
Newcomer Big Joe’s Bar and Grill is coming on strong with entree options of an Asian five-spice pork tenderloin with grilled asparagus and creamy risotto, or bone-in chicken breast cacciatore with honey soy-braised Brussels sprouts and Parmesan polenta.
After a stellar showing last year, Bistro at the Barge returns with the same amazing lobster risotto dish, along with a new duck confit with parsnip puree, orange and ginger-glazed carrots, sauce Bigarade and pomegranate gastrique. (Their goat cheese cheesecake and caramel pot de crème desserts sound to-die-for as well.)
Bluegrass Kitchen seems solid from top to bottom, with a moo shu-style veggie, buckwheat pancake and sorghum BBQ appetizer; entrees of an organic homemade tamale stuffed with roasted poblano and regional cheese or an herbed mushroom-stuffed pork loin topped with a CBD-infused coffee red-eye gravy; and a coffee tres leches poke cake or ginger cake with candied kumquats for dessert.
Bridge Road Bistro’s seared salmon with sticky rice, daikon radish and carrots with miso broth and shiitake mushrooms looks right up my alley.
The phenomenal grilled romaine salad is a done deal at Noah’s Restaurant & Lounge, likely followed by the pan-roasted swordfish with braised lentils, kale and stewed tomatoes.
A surprise front-runner last year, Sam’s Uptown Café is back with another intriguing charcuterie board with all the things; an intriguing salad with fried eggplant, English cucumber, toasted pistachios, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and oven-roasted tomato vinaigrette; beef tenderloin medallions with shiitake mushrooms, roasted garlic chimichurri, smoke potato puree and honey-glazed rainbow carrots; and a seafood stew of scallops, shrimp, clams and Alaskan black cod in a rich oven-roasted tomato broth with fresh herbs, white wine and acini de pepe.
The Market’s roasted pork belly taco appetizer with fennel, arugula and tamari soy glaze sounds great, as do both entrées: buttermilk fried chicken with smoked jalapeno waffles, braised greens and honey-bourbon gastrique; and seared salmon with cauliflower puree, broccolini, pancetta and beurre rouge.
And new kid on the block The Elements at The Quarrier Diner piques my interest with pimento cheese-stuffed hushpuppies; fried green tomatoes over creamy grits with a balsamic glaze; fried rabbit in a ragout of tomatoes, peppers, onions and curry; and rainbow trout with a butter, bacon, parsley and lemon sauce.
Don’t know how in the world I’m going to squeeze all of this into just six days?
But enough about me, what about you? Check out the full menus at www.cwvrestaurantweek.com, then let me know where you’re making your reservations.
That is, if you can get one. Some restaurants were already completely booked before menus were released, which is smart thinking on the early-birds who planned ahead but frustrating for many based on the calls I’m fielding left and right now. I’m just the messenger, folks – even I’ve been turned down several places.
A Food Guy tip for organizers next year: Make sure the menus are finalized and announced the same day as the event dates. That makes it a fairer free-for-all.