Blossom should be one of the most exemplary spots in town. It has all the elements: a posh address on lower East Bay, a classic bar with capable help, and a fanciful open kitchen replete with a wood-burning pizza oven. It lives up to the ideal of a Lowcountry bistro with excellent table service, a very reasonably priced and well-selected wine list, and a focus on fresh, local food, especially seafood.
Blossom is a generalist; it tries to be everything to everybody — from a late-night watering hole for food and beverage workers to a touristy lunch spot full of colorful strollers and pasty legs sticking out of khaki shorts — and in doing so, it sometimes misses the mark. Is it an upscale pizza parlor, a Southern café, or a Lowcountry seafood palace? At times, it's all three, but it stakes its reputation on fish and shellfish.
Despite this frenetic focus (or lack thereof), Blossom can still put out some decent food. They serve a quality bowl of steamed mussels ($8), drenched in a flavorful white wine tomato broth that's generally well prepared, coming out perfectly cooked even during a busy rush.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for much of the rest of the seafood. Your best bet is the pan-seared flounder ($24), with its delicious butter bean accompaniment, but all too often, seafood entrées come out dry, overcooked, and, when fried, sporting a thick, chewy batter.
The fried buttermilk shrimp should be ambassadors of Charleston, considering the number of visitors who find Blossom starred in their travel guides, but the shrimp come in a thick crust that's as dry as cottonballs and a travesty at 22 bucks. The accompanying rosemary fries far surpass them in quality.
Sometimes even the pan-fried offerings leave much to be desired. I recently sampled a red grouper special, beautifully crusted and topped with fresh crabmeat but saddled with a dry, tough interior — totally unacceptable for a $30 dish.
This is perplexing, because the buttermilk fried oyster appetizer ($10) hits the mark, as do the pan-seared scallops ($13), which would be even better without the heaviness of the bacon/onion polenta mixture underneath. And the local Berkshire pork chop is tasty, but then you get the "heirloom beet salad" ($7), which is actually a large pile of underdressed arugula, rather sharp and bitter this time of year, surrounded by a couple of dollops of whipped goat cheese and exactly three half-moons of roasted beet, perhaps a quarter-inch thick, barley enough to stain your shirt were you to drop one off your fork. And then there's the ricotta gnocchi ($22), whose delicious little creek shrimp and rich Parmesan cream are maligned by lumps of gnocchi so dense that they rival bad versions crafted from potatoes.
For such a successful place, having hung around all these years, one has to question the commitment of the kitchen. Perhaps the menu is too broad and lacks focus — it certainly packs a lot into two pages — but I suspect that the lack of quality is related to poor execution. The place is well run, the front of the house exemplary, and outside of a chronically misbehaved air conditioner, the space still refined and comfortable.
But for the price, there are simply better seafood options about town. If Blossom wants to be a bar and pizza parlor, then it should do so. But if it wants to make its name on fish, it needs to deliver quality. To pay 30 dollars for a dry piece of fish or be served shrimp that wouldn't make it past quality control at Long John Silver's taxes the patience of any diner. In these lean times it should catch the attention of the management. Let's hope they put some focus in the kitchen and fix that air conditioner before August.