Shaya was one of my favorite meals of 2015 so I obviously could not miss the opportunity to have some of Alon Shaya’s food closer to home. It was fantastic although with a limited menu I couldn’t help but feeling that I just wanted to get back to NOLA.
Salatim served with pita bread – Louisiana crab tabouleh, bulgur, mint, tomato; Labneh, hold land trinity; Blackened eggplant salad, tahini, pine nuts
Fried oyster hummus, pecan brown butter
Cochon de lait shakshouka – slow roasted pork, stewed tomatoes, green chili zhoug
Louisiana shrimp – okra, paprikash, jasmine rice
Continuing the month long birthday celebration
Yet another great Contra collaboration dinner, this time with Andre Chiang of Restaurant Andre in Singapore. He is fantastic as is his food and I hope to someday make it to Singapore!
Baby mushroom croque en bouche
Oyster, lapsong gelee, peas
Rose champagne, heirloom tomatoes, poisson de roche
King crab, celery sabyon, capers
Elysian fields lamb, scallop lasagna, cresson-wasabe
Quail, fava, cherries
It is incredibly sad to be writing this on the day that Two Boroughs Larder is closing. I suppose it is fitting that this was my last meal of a great birthday weekend. I am happy to have visited once and can’t wait to see where Josh Keeler ends up.
TBL charcuterie – pickles, mustard, country bread
Seasonal lettuce – benne seed tahini, meyer lemon, bread crumb
Confit new potato – slow roasted carrot, bordelaise, shallot
Carbonara – bucatini, Neuske’s, english pea, calabrian chile, mint
Leon’s Oyster Shop
We arrived at Leon’s focused on a few dishes from our menu preview. But as I finally am getting to this blog update looking back on the menu I realize that I would love to have absolutely everything right now. I was trying to overdose on peel ‘n eat shrimp this trip and at least in my mind it cancelled out the calories of delicious fish fry. And no, one can never ever have too many hush puppies.
Peel ‘n eat shrimp, old bay, comeback sauce
Hush puppies, honey butter
Char-grilled oysters, lemon, parsley, butter, parmesan
Leon’s fish fry, mixed fry with condiments, hush puppies and pea salad
Kale salad, butternut squash, pepitas, currants, charred lemon, ricotta salata
If you are a beer drinker and end up in Charleston Edmund’s Oast is definitely a must do. Super interesting beers and I still can’t get over how good the PB&J was. It sounded kind of terrible, and I was incredibly skeptical, but it was fantastic. The PB&J flavor was there but so subtle as was the yeasty flavor of bread. Of everything I had on this trip, that beer was one of the most memorable.
“Gin Joint” style jerky
Beef tartare, tonnato sauce, celery, charred toast
Cauliflower, fresh sheep’s milk cheese, calabrian chile
Following dinner we raced to Peninsula Grill to have a slice of their famous coconut cake before they stopped serving food. I am always skeptical of heavily lauded baked goods and generally am never that impressed. But this cake was insanely good. If I had not exhibited any self control I could have easily finished it (and it was enormous). I am likely ruined for coconut cake forever.
Xiao Bao Biscuit
After several hours of very warm biking around Charleston we made our way to Xiao Bao Biscuit for lunch. The Okonomiyaki lives up to the hype and is completely fantastic. But the pork candy takes it to another level entirely. This stuff is absolutely addicting. I have no idea how it is made, but why is nobody else doing this? Brilliant. Our other dishes were delicious but admittedly overshadowed through no fault of their own.
Okonomiyaki – Japanese cabbage pancake with pork candy
Pad Kra Pow – minced beef, beans, thai chili and basil over rice with farm egg
Bo Bo Ji – Sichuan style chicken, cilantro, scallion & peanut salad over rice with a roasted sesame flavored sauce
Bar at the Spectator
We stayed at the Spectator hotel which I cannot say enough good things about. The rooms were absolutely lovely and the service top notch. Addressing guests by name always makes one feel special and was done in such a warm manner that you immediately felt that you were friends with the entire staff. Room service breakfast was included in the room rate which I thought was a great touch especially as the rates did not seem inflated to compensate and the choices were perfect. Butler service was also provided to all rooms and upon arrival our first butler David took my dress to be steamed and returned not only with my dress, but with a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate my birthday. I would have been quite happy to move in and cannot imagine staying anywhere else in Charleston.
The bar is beautifully decorated and I had read glowing reviews prior to the trip. The cocktails were indeed quite good And as Bravo’s Southern Charm is one of my many guilty pleasures, I was excited to see that Gentry bourbon actually exists and was on the menu.
I’m still kicking myself for not choosing this for my actual birthday dinner. The Ordinary is housed in an old bank building and it makes me so happy when these structures are re-used. It was my mission to overdose on shrimp this weekend and so it makes an appearance here. An all seafood dinner which at the end of day 2 of Charleston summer temperatures was exactly what I wanted to eat. And a first for me with wahoo crudo which was a lovely dish. Unfortunately I have forgotten the ingredients in our desert but that seems bound to happen to me at least a few times per trip.
Ordinary Hawaiian Rolls, Sea Salt Butter
Peel & Eat Shrimp
Jumbo Lump Blue Crab, Grapefruit, Avocado
Wahoo Crudo, Corn, Summer Truffle
Black Bass Ceviche, Avocado, Cucumber
Steamed Snowy Grouper, Porcini Ragout
A perfect nightcap at the Belmont. Despite the bouncer outside we only had to wait a few minutes to get inside with seats at the bar.
Artisan Meat Share
I am not sure that there could have been a more perfect birthday lunch. I could eat pickles, peas and any sort of charcuterie every day and it would never get old and these versions were fantastic. Midway through dinner I was kicking myself for not just coming back here!
Pea and peanut salad, green goddess dressing
Bread and butter pickles
Darling Oyster Bar
I should have known better than to pick a relatively new spot for my birthday dinner. I think Darling Oyster Bar has potential and I can’t say that we disliked anything. However the tuna poke was completely devoid of any flavor and the grapes a strange component. But one of my biggest pet peeves transpired when the majority of these dishes were brought at one time and wouldn’t fit on our small 2-top table. I did not care at all in what order these items arrived. However there is no excuse for a server not being able to course them out. I shouldn’t have to juggle plates and inhale last bites just to make room on the table.
Hush Puppies – Geechie Boy corn meal, sorghum butter
Tuna Poke – white grapes, shoyu, sesame seed
Shrimp & Grits – cheddar grits, crispy brussels, country ham, fennel
Snapper Ceviche – fennel, Cara Cara orange, lime, coriander
The Gin Joint
Certainly this was a must-do stop in the middle of Negroni week!
White negroni and birthday desserts!
It is difficult to find places in London, as in most European cities, open on a Sunday. So in a way I ended up at Pidgin by default but I am so glad that I did. Somewhat tucked out of the way in a residential neighborhood yet a very quick trip on the commuter rail line. Great service and an unexpectedly fantastic and refined menu. And how have I never had brown butter butter until now???
G&T – ELLC Batch No. 1 gin, Pidgin tonic, grapefruit, black pepper
Broad bean – goat curd, chilli crisp, grapefruit, lardo
Mussels – fries, brewer’s yeast, hops, fennel, sea vegetables
Chicken – miso, asparagus, burnt bread sauce, radish
Sweet cicely – strawberries, pine nut, sorrel
I tried to come here my last trip in London but later in the evening it becomes very crowded. Early evening is the best time to come for a completely different neighborhood bar vibe but with drinks better than at any neighborhood bar.
I finally planned far enough ahead to make a reservation at Nightjar. A very cool space and drink menu. The reservation came with a time limit but when I was seated I was told that I could stay significantly longer before the next reservation. Unfortunately I planned dinner based on the originally quoted time. And while I certainly had time for at least two drinks my server disappeared.
I liked Chiltern Firehouse much more than I was expecting mainly because places better known for celebrity clientele than a celebrity chef are typically mediocre. I wasn’t seated at the chef’s counter as requested but a corner of the regular bar which was actually fine. Service started out incredibly attentive but toward the tail end of dinner I sat without a drink for at least 30 minutes and despite my best efforts could not even make eye contact with a server to order another. The snacks were extremely tasty and it was a nice touch that they were brought out on the house for myself and for a couple beside me who were waiting at the bar for a while past their reservation time. I loved the smoky tartare, a twist that I’m surprised I haven’t seen before. Unfortunately I don’t remember what the desserts were but they were light and perfect for spring. Being made to exit out a back door into an alley was incredibly strange and inconvenient especially as I was in a hotel and my Uber was in front. Although perhaps I was supposed to feel like a celebrity!
Red Riding Crop – gin, Poire Williams, Pimms, cider, pink pepper & rosemary reduction
Mackerel tartare, squid ink cracker
Carrot blunts – smoked yoghurt, coriander
Steak tartare – pine nuts, chipotle & firehouse hot sauce
Maple glazed salmon – lovage, barbecued kohlrabi
I’m not sure that I like Pasquale Jones better than its big brother Charlie Bird but it definitely holds its own. But the addition of very good pizzas, with a crust that is my preferred style, certainly helps. The sugar snap pea salad was absolutely fantastic as was the dessert although I have unfortunately forgotten the description. I accept partial responsibility for how much I disliked the white asparagus dish as I generally do not love it and this was one of my least favorite preparations which is a shame because it could have been infinitely better roasted in the wood burning oven. But slippery trout roe on top of slippery asparagus was extremely challenging to eat, even though this dish was beautiful and an instagram favorite while on the menu.
sugar snap pea, watercress, pecorino & cultured cream
little neck clam pizza, parsley, garlic, lemon & cream
steelhead crudo, breakfast radish & sorrel
white asparagus, nasturtium & trout roe