Two Charleston restaurants to add to your must-do list
05/01/2014 3:03 PM
05/01/2014 4:38 PM
When you’ve got 48 taps of the kind of stuff that Edmund’s Oast does, you want to be sure people see them.
So Scott Shor and Rich Carley, owners of the most recent noteworthy spot in Charleston, made sure you won’t miss them: The names of the day’s brews are the place’s main art. They take up an entire wall. There’s so many poetic beauties: the house Nameless City and Peanut Butter & Jelly from brewer Cameron Read; Evil Twin’s Freudian Slip; Birrificio del Ducato Verdi Imperial Stout Anniversario from Italy.
And you’ll get straight talk about these from servers. Ours described Faust (dubbed “aggressively sour” by the menu) a mite more clearly: “It’s a punch in the face.” Who wouldn’t order that?
When the cocktail list features a “Game of Thrones” concoction that actually manages to honor “A Song of Ice and Fire” that GoT aficionados will know enough to expect, you’re in capable, clever hands. (The Red Wedding pairs Elijah Craig bourbon with Averna Amaro and ice cubes made with sweet tea; you get the fire first, then the ice.) In fact, this is the first cocktail list in forever that offers drinkers like myself, who eschew the achingly sweet, more than one or two options.
And when I’ve gotten to the fifth paragraph without mentioning food this interesting, there’s plenty to fascinate diners and drinkers of many stripes.
Chef Andy Henderson, formerly at FIG, lives up to the quirk. Charcuterie’s a strength, with both cured and fresh boards in two sizes (don’t miss the pate), and most plates are the sharing sort (don’t miss the braised lamb meatballs with apricot and mint). A bowl of fresh, thick ricotta accompanies lovely semolina bread and charred florets of cauliflower and broccoli and fat sugar snap peas, cut with a bit of Meyer lemon.
There’s chicken porridge (with Carolina Gold rice, natch), and offal-ed tagliatelle: The ribbon pasta comes with chicken gizzard, duck heart, chopped liver, herbs and creme fraiche. There’s seared tuna, a strip steak, roasted chicken breast with smoked thigh and a bacon and egg cheeseburger. The little kettle of fries? Perfection.
A salad of fine lettuces studded with strawberries, dabs of house-smoked ricotta, chunky croutons (made with schmaltz!) and a bit of duck prosciutto sports caramelized honey vinegar and pecans and was the sole light relief in our heavy, though delicious, going. I’d love a sprinkling of other levity. But when you name your place for an English-born “Rebel Brewer” (once here and brewing, he backed the American Revolution), and your motto is “All wool and a yard wide” (it means genuine) and the cursor on your website conjures Sweeney Todd, maybe that’s enough levity to begin with. I mean, the place just opened ...
Edmund’s Oast; plates about $9-$32; 1081 Morrison Drive, Charleston; 843-727-1145; edmundsoast.com.
At the end of April, Conde Nast Traveler named Charleston No. 4 in “The Best American Cities for Foodies,” based on a survey of its readers. So it’s no surprise that well-dressed gray-hairs were half the crowd on a visit to Xiao Bao Biscuit, when you might have expected only hipsters plugged into spicy venues in simple digs .
Rumors had an outpost going to Asheville, but we were told by a server those plans are off. Too bad. That would make field trips from Charlotte shorter.
Because we’ve got nothing like this very short, Asian-inspired lineup (winningly described on its website as “select dishes from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam prepared locally & inspired by kick-ass grandmothers everywhere”): big flavor and plenty of attitude packed into an old gas station on Rutledge Avenue by spouses Joshua Walker and Duolan Li, and Joey Ryan.
They seek the intersection between area foodstuffs and Asian design and find them unerringly; the results are vibrant, from cabbage pancakes called okonomiyaki to a whole black bass, scored, steamed and arranged atop greens and a wash of spicy sauce, to tsukemen (say ske-men). That’s a bowl of wheat noodles with hunks of pork, mushroom and runny-yolk egg, served with yuzu-spiked soup/dipping sauce. Fork up some noodles-etc., dip them in the liquid and consume. Repeat. Repeat.
Dumplings prove tender and lush; drinks are well paired. The Hanoi 75, a spin on the classic French 75, employs gin, lime, cucumber, Green Chartreuse and Velvet Falernum. Light, herbal, powerful. A short list of beer and wine keeps good company with this food.
Xiao Bao Biscuit (pronounced “s’yow bow biskit”): sharing plates $6-$9, entrees about $12-$17 (whole fish was $30); 224 Rutledge Avenue at Spring Street; no phone (!); xiaobaobiscuit.com.
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