Maison shares a low, unassuming King Street building with a climbing gym, but step inside and you’ll find an immaculate invocation of a stylish French bistro. There’s a pewter-topped bar, hexagonal white and black floor tiles, and Parisian-style bistro chairs with white and black woven backs. The menu options — escargots, steak frites au poivre, coq au vin — seem to hew to traditional bistro standards at first, but chef Vandy Vanderwarker gives each a creative, flavorful spin. The sultry coq au vin is a deconstructed delight, with long-marinated chicken that’s braised, shredded, and blended with roasted ramps into an intensely flavored patty. A thick wedge of monkfish tail has a smooth, buttery bite beneath its golden brown sear, heightened by the unexpected richness of roasted chicken butter sauce. With deep, intense flavors and a playful sensibility, Maison’s daring interpretations of traditional French plates are a welcome addition to the Charleston scene. —Robert F. Moss (Dish, Winter 2020)

Restaurant Details

For several years, restaurateurs have been turning away from the ever-rising rents on East Bay and Upper King and repurposing old light-industrial buildings on what I guess you would call Upper Upper King. I’ve been wondering if the menus would inevitably drift downward in the process, away from the old, high Charleston cuisine and toward more sturdy and reliable fare like burgers, tacos, and fried chicken. I was especially curious about Maison, a French restaurant that recently opened in the old Pancito and Lefty space in a long, low building shared with a climbing gym. Things seem a bit stark from the sidewalk, for the exterior has a decidedly DIY vibe — outside walls painted deep blue, no signage beyond the restaurant’s minimalist logo (an “M” with a pointy top that also looks like a house) outlined in white neon tubes. But you step through the front door into a completely different setting — an immaculate invocation of a stylish Parisian bistro. With high ceilings and lots of natural light, the room feels airy and bright. There’s a striking pewter-topped bar, and the hexagonal white and black tiles on the floor are matched by the white and black woven backs of Parisian-style bistro chairs. Large photographs of Parisian scenes — a Citroen, fountain, the Louvre Pyramid — continue the motif. The menu selections — escargots, steak frites au poivre, coq au vin — seem at first to fall in line with traditional bistro offerings, but as the entrées arrive you realize not everything is strictly by the book. The dry-aged duck runs an eye-popping $70, but it’s a dish for two, and quite an elaborate one at that. Each breast is seared rosy pink then sliced lengthwise and arranged to form an elongated oval, the meat sides touching and the skin running around the outside. The leg meat has been transformed into a savory crepinette, a sort of duck sausage patty laced with spices and bits of apricot. Seared until charred around around the edges, the flat disc is sliced into half moons that are placed on either end of the white plate. A mound of splendid cabbage (also well charred) anchors the center, garnished by a faux egg crafted from a dried apricot nestled in a little white cup carved from an artichoke. It’s a delightful plate. That duck is the creation of Vandy Vanderwarker, who was formerly chef de cuisine at The Ordinary before stepping out with bartender Will Love to open Maison. He brings to his new kitchen the same focus on deep, intense flavors that characterizes The Ordinary, and also a playful eye. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2019)

Hours: Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)


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