Springtime continues to bring bushels of fresh flavors to local restaurants, which means it's a fabulous time to head out and see what's on the specials board. Lots of restaurants are debuting fresh, new menus too, so we called around to see what the chefs are excited about.
Marc Collins has unveiled his new spring menu over at Circa 1886 at the Wentworth Mansion, and one dish he highly recommends is the pork ton toro and peekytoe crab cake. "It's our take on surf and turf," he says. The pork is a sour-braised pork cheek served over purple sticky rice from Anson Mills with ground peanuts, pineapple, and iceberg lettuce slaw. The peekytoe crab cake is pan seared and placed on top. That dish is $28. Collins also loves the blackened pompano ($26), which is served with caramelized onion purée, quinoa, spinach, and a watermelon and feta salad.
At Slightly North of Broad, Chef Frank Lee is reveling in the bounty with a menu of mostly local dishes. The special treats this week, though, are the squash blossoms stuffed with shrimp mousse. It epitomizes Lee's classic French approach to local fare. How often do you see shrimp mousse on a menu these days? Lee pipes the mousse into the blossoms and then steams them. They come served with a flavorful, local succotash. That's an appetizer for $12.
The very talented and very French Nico Romo at Fish Restaurant has a perfect springtime dish of pan-seared scallops served with creamy sushi rice, asparagus, morels, and crispy taro root with a tamarind reduction. Sounds springy and a touch exotic. That dish is $21. If steak is what springtime means to you, then try the classic Beef Wellington, which gets plated with a portabello mushroom stuffed with asparagus duxelle and cognac peppecorn sauce.
Bambu in Mt. Pleasant has revamped its menu, and Chef Joaquin Bustos is making a salad with 12 different hydroponic lettuces that are grown for them by Sweetbay Produce Nursery in Huger. The salad ($6) is tossed with a fresh ginger dressing. Another good choice is the grilled miso-marinated salmon with baby bok choy. That entrée is $17. They also have a big patio for outdoor dining, which would be perfect on a night like tonight.
Over on James Island, new chef Richard Barlion is in the process of revamping the old Starfish Grille. The changes sound promising, and Barlion thinks you should stop by and try his pickled shrimp appetizer, a dish he used to serve as an hors d'oeuvre when he was executive sous chef at Circa 1886. Six to seven shrimp (pickled with lemon slices, white vinegar, shaved onions, mustard seeds, lemon juice, and olive oil) come in a mason jar with pickled okra, tomatoes, and onions. It's served with pimento cheese and bread chips for $9. For an entrée, Barlion has flounder (caught near Murrell's Inlet) that's roasted and served with Hoppin' John, fresh greens (today it's turnips), and redeye gravy for $16.