Rice Market verges on opening 

New concept for old E. Bay Boathouse

Charleston's newest restaurant, Rice Market, opened its doors for a fundraiser last weekend, letting patrons get a glimpse inside the former Boathouse on East Bay before its official opening on Tues. Dec. 21.

Chef Charles Arena, who was at the helm of the Boathouse on Ellis Creek when it burned down soon after opening in 2009, has crafted an eclectic menu, which is heavy on both rice and seafood with raw dishes like tuna crudo and sushi pizza alongside calamari fritto, shrimp toast, and shrimp and crab sausage.

The big plates on the menu run the gamut of rice dishes. There's California wild rice with venison osso bucco, sticky rice with bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, and yellow rice with chipotle-rubbed hangar steak. There's also Carolina gold rice in Cajun jambalaya, okra pirleau (a.k.a. purloo, prioleau), Hoppin' John, paella, risotto, black rice with roasted scallops, and basmati rice with miso-glazed salmon.

At the bottom of the menu is a build-your-own-bowl option. Choose from farro, white risotto, green tea bamboo rice, sticky rice, black risotto, or coconut basmati. Top it with cheese, duck confit, asparagus and mushroom, shrimp, scallops, or beef short rib. Arena says the international flavors are designed to match Charleston's Southern fare.

The space has been under renovation for the last few months, getting rid of the old nautical themes and replacing them with a more diverse, international vibe. Richard Stoney, the majority owner of the restaurant who has partnered with the new owners of the building, touts the unique features of the restaurant, noting the bar and its focus on rice wines from around the world. "A table level bar is set beneath an actual reproduction of a 'cypress rice field trunk', something that was used to control water levels in Charleston rice fields for centuries," he said in a press release. "The regular bar serving traditional cocktails, beer, and wine is set beneath artwork that depicts the progression of the rice culture from different regions of the world."

Sounds like an interesting addition to the culinary landscape. In related news, Stoney says they'll be setting their sights on rebuilding the James Island Boathouse early next year.



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