The restaurant that I most looked forward to trying was R Kitchen. I’d read several articles and reviews about them, most of them raving, so had made reservations months in advance.
They prepare a five course meal in front of you, and explain what they’re doing as they do it. Everyone eats the same thing but the chef is able, within that meal, to make accommodations for specific food requirements. One reviewer said how thrilled his girlfriend was with the way they catered to her vegan needs. I’m a pescatarian, which I told them when I made the reservation. No problem.
When our original flights to Charleston were canceled and we had to rebook, we missed a history walking tour of Charleston with the Historic Charleston Foundation and our R Kitchen seating. Lucky for us, Historic Charleston converted the payment for our tour tickets into a donation and we were able to rebook for a later date at R Kitchen. They have two seatings a night — 6 and 8 — and we were at the 6.
Mistake #1 we made was arriving early. When they say that the seating is at 6:00, they mean that they don’t open the doors until 6. So we waited outside and while we did, it started to rain. Lightly, but still enough for us to spend the evening feeling a little damp.
The restaurant is in a tiny, tiny house. The front room/kitchen holds 16 people, with two tables for two and a bar in front of the cooking area for everyone else. Kathie and I were at one of the two tops.
The chef started by asking if anyone had any food allergies or anything that they would not eat. Since I had told them, when I made the reservation, that I was pescaterian, I didn’t think I needed to mention it again. Mistake #2. It seems that, while they have a general meal outline in mind — as you can see from the blackboard in the photo above, our outline was “egg, soup, rice, squid, lemon” — they make up the actual dish on the spot, based on what the guests tell them about their preferences and restrictions. Telling them in advance was useless.
“Egg” was what I remember as a very soft egg in Worcestershire sauce in a steel prep bowl. I’m sure there was a much fancier description attached to it. I think … maybe … the pink strips were radish. My description and the photo doesn’t sound/look particularly appetizing, but I actually liked it.
“Soup” was a mixture of tomato soup and lobster bisque — the lobster bisque because they’d had some left over from the night before. It was my favorite course.
“Rice” was the course that I couldn’t eat, because the Cajun inspired rice dish had pork sausage in it.
“Squid” was squid. With lima beans. Kathie refused to touch it, so we both ended up not eating one course. I must say, I wouldn’t normally eat squid or lima beans but I was willing to give it a go on that night. It wasn’t bad — I think it was made in a cream sauce, which absolves a multitude of sins — but still not anything I’d willingly order.
“Lemon” was a lovely finish of lemon chess pie with a macadamia nut crust and brown ale syrup. That gave the tomato/lobster soup a run for its money.
There’s also a covered patio, for guest over-flow and there was a party of 6 seated there during our dinner. One of the chefs went with the finished food to the back room to explain it. So while they don’t get to see the preparation, they did get the spiel.
I can see how this experience would warm a foodie’s heart. The items were well prepared and innovative, and if we’d have liked squid, lima beans and pork, we’d probably have been happy campers. As it was, the food was a let-down for us. And the bit of theater that was the food prep and chef’s conversation was interesting, but not enough to make a success of the evening. Overall, I’d give it a 3 (for the egg, soup, and pie) out of 5.
While not a restaurant, I also wanted to tell you about a coffee shop we happened upon. We were cold after the church tours and found Bitty & Beau’s Coffee just a few steps from St. Philip’s, on Church Street. “Have you been here before?” asked the young man at the cash register. No. “Do you know anything about us?” No, other than we were looking for something warm and this place looked promising. He handed us a card that told us the Bitty & Beau story.
Bitty & Beau are siblings who have Downs Syndrome, and their parents founded the business to give job opportunities to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The original store is in Wilmington NC and there’s also one in Savannah. The coffee, hot chocolate and service were excellent and we’d highly recommend it if you’re in any of those towns.
And that ends my Charleston posts. I’m off to the Outer Banks of North Carolina tomorrow. There’ll be more southern coast stories when I get back.