McCrady’s, Charleston SC 2

March 19, 2009

On March 15, 2009, Linda and I went back to McCrady’s. Five of us had enjoyed the seven-course Tasting Menu the night before. This time the two of us ordered à la carte.

We ordered glasses of 2006 Guigal Viognier/Rousanne and 2006 Groth Napa Valley Chardonnay. They were followed by a bottle of 2006 Clos Pepe Vineyard (Santa Rita Hills) Siduri Pinot Noir. This was really delicious. We had extensive discussion with our Texan waiter, Matt, and finally composed a meal from the menu with his help. He had really enjoyed serving Wylie Dufresne of WD-50, who had cooked and dined at McCrady’s the previous week during the Charleston Food Festival.

Linda started with 
Smoked North Carolina Rainbow Trout
Salad of Potato, Parsley and Egg, Mustard Vinaigrette

The trout had a delicious, moist, fresh-smoked flavor and didn’t need the strong mustard sauce.

My first course was 
A Plate of House Made Charcuterie

The charcuterie was sensational. Most of the pork was grown on McCrady’s farm on a nearby island. There were mortadella, salamis, ham, a scoop of “boar’s head terrine,” freshly pickled small winter vegetables, a dab of chutney, a red-cooked quail egg and some bread slices. The flavor of the high quality, well-fed pork was evident and delicious.

My second course was  
“General Tso’s” Sweetbreads
Broccoli Puree and Pork Fried Rice

Unfortunately, this followed too closely the standard formula for General Tso’s Chicken. The sweetbreads were nicely breaded and crisply deep-fried, but the sweet and sour sauce was not an improvement on a typical American Chinese restaurant. It was too unsubtle for the sweetbreads. The “pork fried rice” balls were light and good.

Linda went on to 
Fudge Family Farm Pork
Polenta “Spin Rosa”, Dates, Beets

This was very good. The pork was moist and flavorful. The bacon on top was superb. The polenta, dates and beets were good companions.

My third course was 
Spice Roasted Rack of Lamb
Salsify, Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins

The tender, flavorful lamb had the right amount of spicing, cooking and garnishes.

We did not order desserts. The mignardises were hazelnut marshmallows.

Four of the five courses were very good and we enjoyed the meal a lot. The combinations were true to the region and the season. They were well planned and executed, but not extraordinary. The ambience on Sunday evening was quite different from what it had been on Saturday. There was a much smaller clientele. Happily, there was no music. There was a $35 prix fixe menu which is not offered on Friday or Saturday. (We were told it was taken by 40% of the crowd that night.) The dining room was almost empty when we left at 10:00. 

There is a dilemma here. Chef Brock seems to have the talent and ambition to become a celebrity cutting-edge chef, but I think that McCrady’s and Charleston do not provide a sufficient economic base or appreciative clientele. He must agree as there is not even a “postmodern gastronomy” alternative on the menu given to diners, although it is referred to on McCrady’s website. I asked our waiter how one can order it; he said that one should contact the chef in advance. The dabs of foam we were served with three courses of the tasting menu the night before are a token display, but our tasting menu meal, which should be his showcase, was not as good as our à la carte meal. In the meantime, he doesn’t even have the top restaurant in Charleston. That is an honor held by the Peninsula Grill, the Charleston Grill or Robert’s in the popular guides and by FIG in my opinion. With his historic building, where one can have private parties in the same room where George Washington went to a dinner party, he may attract enough business to keep McCrady’s going and have occasional national celebrity exposure. I understand that he likes Charleston, where he went to school, has friends and his farm, but it seems a shame that he is working in a restaurant where his unusual talents are not displayed in the standard fare.

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