Félix Chef Elizabeth Schultenover nails Parisian small plates 

Perfectly Executed

click to enlarge Félix's Salad Lafayette is made with paper thin radishes, zucchini, carrots, beets, and plums

Jonathan Boncek

Félix's Salad Lafayette is made with paper thin radishes, zucchini, carrots, beets, and plums

Location Details Félix Cocktails et Cuisine
550 King St.
Downtown
Charleston, SC
(843) 203-6297
French

Front and center on their swanky website — well, right below the martini-quaffing frog GIF — Félix Cocktails et Cuisine declares its intent to serve "creative cocktails and small plates, all with the flare [sic] of today's Paris." Hardly a candle in the wind, Félix has nailed its stylish intent with respect to a hip, European vibe. The food is polished. The decor is suitably chill, while effortlessly chic, and accompanied by jazzy music playing softly overhead.

Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, I smile but she doesn't see

I heard that song three times in two hours, but I'm not complaining.

Félix's cocktail menu is equally sumptuous and notably extensive, starting with French classics like the Kir Royale ($9) and the Sidecar ($11). Lower your gaze and take in the full throttle creativity involved in crafting such offerings as the Temps de Fête ($11). Touted by the waitress as her current favorite, it's made with tequila, ancho verde, chile liqueur, and bitters (among others), resulting in a smoky, spicy, and acerbic libation. Meanwhile, Uncle Jack's Armchair ($10) is appropriately cozy with apple jack, blended scotch, and calvados culminating as something reminiscent of a cold hot toddy.

Interior at Félix - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Interior at Félix

Félix's food is predominantly small portions with an emphasis on familiar French classics like croque monsieur ($13) and steak frites ($19). The chicken liver mousse ($8) is everything you would want from those three little words. The pâté itself is plated as a quenelle and served with a crusty baguette and a few tiny dots of tart cherry jam, all of which is covered with a scattering of basil and parsley microgreens. Smooth and rich, with a notable orange zest-forward approach, this is an ideal introduction to Chef Elizabeth Schultenover's culinary skill.

Similarly, the fromage fort ($8) is simple, yet elegant. Reminiscent of raclette, a slice of rich, creamy cheese is placed in a baking dish and broiled until the edges are browned and the center melty. Served with a thin comb of local honey and some toasted slices of baguette, it's straightforward and satisfying, like a sophisticated grilled cheese.

The Salade Lafayette ($10) is a thing of beauty. Although the portion is a bit precious, the commitment to keeping it fancy helps. Made with paper thin slices of radish, zucchini, and carrots, as well as cubes of beets and plums, the inherent lightness of the dish is countered by the nickel-sized dots of spicy chevre and crisp fried carrot sticks. Combined with fresh orange slices and a potent tomato fig compote, it's complex, yet refreshing.

Raclette burger - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Raclette burger

In contrast, the decadent tarte flambé is essentially a pizza. Loaded with copious sliced mushrooms, plus potatoes, rosemary, and black truffle, the umami spell is broken by hints of sweetness from the roasted onions and delicate chevre cheese. Finished with a handful of fresh arugula, it's one of the more filling menu offerings I tried.

Likewise, the raclette burger ($15) was heralded by our friendly, knowledgeable waitress as "the only thing on the menu that's actually a meal." And what a meal at that. Two thin patties are served medium rare and oozing with cheese and caramelized onions. The accompanying frites were so perfectly crisp, my dining companion was confident they were fried in duck oil. But nope. It was canola, a fact which only serves to make the final execution even more impressive.

The gnocchi a la grand-mere is made with pate a choux and topped with brown butter and confit chicken - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • The gnocchi a la grand-mere is made with pate a choux and topped with brown butter and confit chicken

The gnocchi a la grand-mere ($14) is arguably also meal-sized and provides an interesting juxtaposition of comfort and refinement. Parisienne gnocchi are made with pate a choux, the same dough used to make cream puffs and profiteroles. The glutenous results are a bit soft and squishy, more dumpling than pasta. They're then topped with browned butter, confit chicken and cubes of al dente squash, along with Brussels sprouts and a generous layer of fresh herbs. All told, it's like a gussied up pot pie with strong vegetal elements.

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Last but not least, the charred Spanish octopus ($15) does justice to the beast. The tender, perfectly cooked meat is served with sunchoke three ways: thinly sliced, cubed and fried and blended into a rich aioli. In other words, heaven, and not just for the octopus. Also accompanied by olive powder, orange zest, and tiny bits of smoked almond, it's a very thoughtful dish. In fact, from decor to ambiance to sustenance, Félix itself is resolutely thoughtful and perfectly executed. Whether you're looking to sample the broad array of custom cocktails, share some small plates, or simply enjoy a conversation in an environment in which you can actually hear yourself talk, it's a welcome addition to the Upper King scene.

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