Wednesday, June 5, 2013

SALT at station 22

I would like to write about pleasure. I would like to admit to you that I go out to eat searching for pleasure. A memorable meal is about an experience. It’s about the weather, and the atmosphere, and the company. And then really, it’s all about the pleasure.  

It’s an early-summer evening and I’m sitting on a 2nd story porch, watching the hustle and bustle below.  I’m not thinking a thing of it because I drove right up to the complimentary valet and handed over my keys. There is an hour and 15-minute wait for a table, but I want to sit on the porch and watch the sunset anyway. I want to think about cocktails.

So, I grab a stool and peruse the offerings. My dining companion, aka Food Guru, arrives. I set my sights on a Salty-Bear which is like a grapefruit spritzer and turns out to be a nice compliment my meal. Food Guru chooses a Serrano-margarita that could use a little kick. Nevertheless, drinks are cold, air is warm, we are hungry. 

Food Guru and I want everything on the menu. We have narrowed it down to any selection of three appetizers, one of which must be from the Raw offerings. Luckily our server is knowledgeable and willing to collaborate. We over-order.

Our meal is spent discussing the concept of restraint. We talk about the nagging sense of obligation to sample anything on the menu that we either a) haven’t had, b) couldn’t make at home, or c) sounds so delicious that in my case I’ve begun to wear rain boots to dinner to catch the drool. This is bad for the waistband, bad for the wallet, and very bad for a sense of self-control.


Our three appetizers are thoughtfully placed in front of us in order of lightest to heaviest, which I thoroughly appreciate and attribute to considerate service. I am pleased. While devouring the local rudderfish crudo with lemon, shaved radish and fresh jalapeno, an Ambrose beet and carrot salad with a chermoula vinaigrette, and the decadent skillet fried chicken thigh over black truffle grits (one of those rain boot necessitating items), we continue to discuss moderation. I’m practicing counting my chews. I want to get to 20 before I swallow but its unnecessary with fish so delicate and tender.

Just two entrees arrive. With my mouth full I mumble something like “the balance of fennel in this potato-fennel puree is just outstanding. It is so subtle, yet so obvious.” Food Guru eats the eye-catching salsa verde off my plate and perks up at its vibrant acidity. I make him take a bite of the black grouper. He scoops everything together and crunches through the skin and agrees that it’s a damn good bite of fish, only a little more well done than our preference. When it comes to perfectly cooked skin I sometimes get a little Buffalo Bill, and we both agree that crisp skin doesn’t excuse overcooked flesh, but it hasn’t hurt too badly in this case. Food Guru and I don’t fall quite so hard for the succotash under his triggerfish. The red peppers just slightly over take the delicate flavors of the other components. I watch him eat while I sit on my hands. I consider dropping my fork on the ground so I won’t be tempted to finish the plates.

While the servers attempt to remove any half empty plates for a third time, I tell Food Guru that he better finish the beet salad before they have a conniption. I appreciate wanting to keep the “table” (it was really a bar) clutter free, but I personally feel accomplished with all of those dishes decorating the horizon. A splash of green arugula, a dot of pink rudderfish, a pop of lemon peel, if everything was brown and mushy I might have been upset but this is a Survey of Dinner History.

Salt, like the seasoning it is named for, should be an essential restaurant in your Charleston repertoire. I’d suggest reservations here. It’s going to be busy. Menus will be changing daily and brunch is now available.

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