Posts Tagged ‘Scallops’

The Sea Shack – Hilton Head, SC

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 by virginia

DSC_3266

The Sea Shack is great little place on the island that I finally got to try two years ago. It’s a no frills joint where the specialty is – you guessed it – seafood. You order at the counter in front and then they call your name when your food is ready. Although we usually make sandwiches for lunch and eat by the pool every day, now we try to make a special trip to the Sea Shack once a year. It takes a bit of planning since they’re only open for lunch until 3 pm (they do serve dinner from 5-9 pm), and Josh and his dad don’t usually get back from golfing until about 2 pm.

The menu is surprisingly extensive but basic. You can pretty much get whatever seafood they have either fried, grilled, or blackened. The Shark Attack combo lets you try the most amount of items, though you can also get combo platters with 2 or 3 items of your choice. The Shark Attack comes with fried fish,¬† shrimp, scallops, oysters, and crab cake. It also includes hush puppies and your choice of two sides. We opted for mac n’ cheese and the veggie of the day, which was stewed okra and tomatoes. The seafood is fried on the spot when you order so you can be sure it’ll come out piping hot and crispy. Everything tastes fresh, and the oysters are big enough that you can taste their brininess through the breading. The crab cake is also excellent, not too heavy on the filler.

Shark Attack combo

Shark Attack combo

The okra on that day was delicious, not at all slimy, but crisp and bright. I wish I could eat okra more often! The mac n’ cheese can be a little mushy but there’s lots of cheese mixed in. And the hush puppies are great, light and fluffy on the inside.

Hush puppies, mac n' cheese, stewed okra and tomatoes

Hush puppies, mac n’ cheese, stewed okra and tomatoes

Since we already had a big plate of fried food, we decided to try out the jerk grouper. I asked them at the counter which they would recommend – jerk or blackened – and they said they make their jerk seasoning in house. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of the seasonings they used. There was something in it that had a floral quality that I didn’t like, though Josh didn’t seem to mind it. The grouper was also a bit overcooked, rendering it a little tough and chewy. I’ll skip this dish the next time, and go for something blackened. For our sides, we chose french fries (standard, but crispy) and sweet potato cornbread, which tasted a bit like pumpkin pie and was very dense but moist.

Jerk grouper, french fries, sweet potato cornbread, hush puppies

Jerk grouper, french fries, sweet potato cornbread, hush puppies

Overall, I think if you want to eat fried seafood, the Sea Shack is the place to go. Everything is prepared fresh, so that it’s not sitting out under heat lamps getting soggy. The restaurant has seats on the inside but it’s a pretty small place so it does fill up quickly. We tend to go later than normal lunch hour when it’s not as crowded, but it’s still tough to find tables together for our big group. There is also seating outside. Most sandwiches/platters will run you about $10-$15, but you get a pretty big portion of food and the quality merits the price tag. It’s definitely worth checking out.

The Sea Shack
6B Executive Park Rd.
Hilton Head, SC

ELA’s Blu Water Grille – Hilton Head, SC

Friday, August 1st, 2014 by virginia

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Since our annual Hilton Head trip is fast approaching, I better catch up on last year’s restaurant excursions! ELA’s Blu Water Grille was a new restaurant for us last year (in 2013). It’s right on the water at Shelter Cove and has amazing views of the harbor. We were such a large group that they gave us a private room on the third level that had big windows on three sides, and we arrived just in time to watch the gorgeous sunset.

Sunset in Shelter Cove

Sunset in Shelter Cove

The meal started off with baskets of hush puppies and garlic bread. The hush puppies were a tad dense, but whenever we got freshly fried batches, they were pretty delicious, especially slathered with butter. The garlic bread was lackluster in comparison, with not enough garlic flavor and a poor crust, so we mostly focused our attention on the hush puppies.

Basket of hush puppies

Basket of hush puppies

The menu looked incredible, with seafood obviously being the star, and we had a hard time choosing what to eat. Josh and I ended up ordering a crab cake for our appetizer, and we also got a few orders of fried green tomatoes to share with the table. The crab cake was a pretty decent size for an appetizer portion, and there was definitely a lot of crab in the cake with not much filler. It had a nice crispy crust on the outside, and the crab was fresh tasting and flaky inside. I was intrigued by the accompanying key lime aioli, but it didn’t really have much key lime flavor to it. I also wish there was a bit more of it, as I think some sauce always help to prevent a crab cake from being too dry. Nevertheless, it was a good crab cake and well prepared.

Crab cake

Crab cake with key lime aioli

The fried green tomatoes were also nicely prepared, with a light, crispy coating. They were served with a zingy creole sauce that added flavor and seasoning but didn’t overwhelm the slight tartness of the tomatoes.

Fried green tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes

The entrees, however, were nowhere near the same level of execution as the appetizers. Josh and I shared the scallops and the grouper. The scallops had a beautiful sear on top and were cooked correctly, but they were over-seasoned. I have a pretty high salt threshold and this was maxing out my limit. The accompanying crab risotto with truffle butter, which is what inspired me to order the dish to begin with, suffered from the opposite problem – under-seasoning – and tasted neither of crab nor of truffle. It was just muddy in both flavor and texture, although I would get whiffs of truffle oil here and there, but not the fragrant earthiness that I was seeking. The risotto itself was oddly lumpy and wet, like bad oatmeal or rice pudding, not toothsome or creamy.

Scallops

Pan seared diver scallops with crab risotto

Even so, the scallop dish fared better than the grouper, which, despite its lovely presentation, was cold, dried out, and totally bland. The lobster butter noted on the menu, which certainly would have helped, was virtually non-existent. All of the fish we had on the table suffered from the same poor execution.

Pan roasted grouper

Pan roasted grouper

My mom, who loves lobster and bacon, had to order the lobster carbonara. The menu I think was a bit misleading, as it described the dish as “1 1/2 lb steamed lobster over creamy fettuccine”, and she definitely did not receive a whole 1 1/2 pound lobster. The head was there, which is her favorite part, but it was for show only – the innards were completely removed. The claws were there, already out of the shell, but the rest of the legs and body were missing, including the coveted knuckle meat. At least the tail was there, cleaned up and ready to eat. I guess at a nice restaurant such as ELA’s, people aren’t really expecting to break out a lobster bib and crack their way through an entire lobster, but the amount of meat seemed a bit paltry to me when you’re advertising the weight of the lobster on the menu. And I get that a lot of people don’t like lobster roe or tomalley, but keeping some of that in the dish would have helped it tremendously, taste-wise, as the carbonara itself was devoid of any flavor. I don’t know how they managed to snuff out the bacon in the dish, but they did. The sauce on the noodles was pasty, unseasoned, and just plain terrible.

Lobster carbonara

Lobster carbonara

Up until this point, the meal had been wonderful. We were enjoying the view, the lovely room, the great service, and the tasty appetizers. Once we got the entrees, however, our dinner definitely went downhill from there. All the plates were beautifully presented and pleasing to the eye, but definitely not to the palate. We were pretty stunned by the poor execution and the lack of flavor in the dishes. We had been rooting for ELA’s to be our new go-to restaurant, and things looked promising at first. The restaurant has a lot going for it, and ambiance-wise, it’s great for a celebratory night out or a special occasion. But the entrees – I still can’t get over how bad they were. They were definitely hard to swallow, especially given the prices. The restaurant is on the expensive side, with appetizers ranging from $7-$15 and entrees primarily between $30-$35. Sadly, I’m not sure it’s a place we’ll revisit, although I’m tempted to give it another shot just because there was so much potential. The execution issues could have been because we were such a large group. We had friends dining there at the same exact time and they raved about their food – but they were a table of 4, not 14. Still, a restaurant of this caliber should be able to handle the volume, so it’s a hard call. We’re definitely running out of restaurants to try in Hilton Head!

ELA’s Blu Water Grille
1 Shelter Cove Ln.
Hilton Head Island, SC

Skull Creek Boathouse – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 by virginia

skullcreek

Skull Creek Boathouse was a new Hilton Head restaurant for me and Josh, although we’ve eaten at other restaurants run by the same group (One Hot Mama’s, Giuseppi’s Pizza & Pasta). We had to wait a while to be seated due to the large size of our party, and we still ended up splitting up into two tables, though they were side by side.

The menu is pretty huge, but given that the restaurant is right on the water, we decided to stick with mainly seafood. For our table, we shared an order of the Boathouse Sampler, which came with coconut shrimp, deviled crab balls, calamari, and hush puppies. There was a good amount of food in the sampler, which made it easy for us to taste most things. My favorites were the crab balls, which weren’t spicy but had a decent amount of crab flavor to it, and the hush puppies, which we liberally dipped into the accompanying honey butter. Everything on the platter is fried though, which is kind of hard to mess up. To their credit, everything was hot, crispy, and not overly greasy.

Sampler

Boathouse Sampler – coconut shrimp, deviled crab balls, calamari, and hush puppies

Josh also wanted an order of fried pickle chips, which were served with a spicy ranch dressing for dipping. These were pretty good – briny, crunchy, and the breading on the outside didn’t overwhelm the pickle chip on the inside.

Fried pickle chips

Fried pickle chips

For whatever reason, I really wanted soup that night even though it was 90+ degrees outside. I’ll blame pregnancy cravings. Nevertheless, the SCB seafood chowder was worth tasting, so I was glad that I ordered it. It was like New England clam chowder, but with crab, shrimp, fish, scallops, and potatoes. The seafood was chopped up into small pieces so it was a bit hard to discern what was what, but it still had a pleasant seafood flavor. The soup wasn’t as thick or heavy as regular clam chowder, but it was still creamy and rich, with a buttery finish.

SCB Chowder

SCB seafood chowder

The chowder and tastes from the sampler platter were more than enough food for me, so I was pretty full by the time our main courses arrived. I ordered the Royal Seafood Sampler, which let me try three different dishes – coco seared sea scallops, a “salt and vinegar” crab cake, and stuffed jumbo shrimp. It was a lot of food, and I barely made a dent in the plate, but I liked being able to taste so many different things. The scallops had a tropical flavor to them, as they were topped with coconut butter and pineapple salsa. They had a nice brown sear on each side but I think they sat for a little while and wound up being a little chewy on the outside rather than crispy. The crab cake didn’t have too much salt and vinegar flavor, but there was a good amount of crab and little filler. The stuffed shrimp were my least favorite, as the deviled crab stuffing was too heavy and the shrimp were overcooked. I wound up packing up most of my plate in a doggie bag and eating it for lunch the next day.

Royal seafood platter

Royal seafood sampler – coco seared sea scallops, a “salt and vinegar” crab cake, and stuffed jumbo shrimp

Josh ordered the Seafood Extravaganza, which is basically a seafood boil with shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, snow crab legs, sausage, potatoes, and corn. There was a decent amount of seafood, but it must’ve been sitting in the pot for a while because it was all slightly overcooked and a bit soggy. The shellfish was chewy, and there wasn’t enough spices in the broth to liven up the dish. It’s too bad, because the seafood itself seemed relatively fresh, it just wasn’t well prepared.

Seafood extravaganza -

Seafood extravaganza – shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, snow crab legs, sausage, potatoes, and corn

Overall I had a mixed impression of the Skull Creek Boathouse. The food was decent, but nothing earth shattering. I don’t think that’s what they’re aiming for though. It has a bit of a chain restaurant vibe to it, but I liked the casualness of the place. The restaurant was pretty bustling, with lots of families and other big groups dining. The vast menu makes it easy to dine out with lots of people with different tastes – there’s something for everyone. Even though the main focus seems to be seafood, they do have steaks and other meats available. Prices go from low to high, depending on what you order. Appetizers are generally just¬† below the $10 mark (minus the sampler platter), and entrees can range from about $15-$35. They also have some good beers on tap and pretty reasonably priced wines and cocktails. Is it a must-go dining destination? No, I don’t think so. But it’s good for groups and the food is passable. It’s a place I can see coming back to for a few drinks and sharing some snacks.

Skull Creek Boathouse
397 Squire Pope Road
Hilton Head, SC

The Saddle River Inn

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 by virginia

Although I missed the blog’s third anniversary, Josh and I did celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary in May (yes, May) with a special meal at The Saddle River Inn. It was a celebration on multiple fronts, as we had also just closed on our new house the week beforehand. While I was in the middle of the second trimester and still feeling indifferent about food at the time, I was happy to go to The Saddle River Inn because it was the first “nice” restaurant that Josh and I ate in together, back in 1998 for his 17th birthday.

That was also the last time that we were there, and walking up to the restaurant, it looked exactly as how I remembered. The inside looked the same as well, although the room seemed a bit smaller and less imposing to me, 14 years later. Even though it was relatively late on a weekday, the dining room was surprisingly busy, though not packed. At the time, the restaurant offered a weekday prix fixe special on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays – 3 courses for $42, which isn’t too shabby considering entrees normally top $30.

The restaurant is a BYO, which is another bonus. Since we were celebrating, I wanted more than just a soda or water. We brought along a bottle of carmenere for Josh, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice for me. I wasn’t sure how the restaurant would handle the grape juice, since BYO doesn’t usually include non-alcoholic beverages, but our waiter initially mistook it for champagne and poured us both a fluteful to toast. Once he realized what it was, he just laughed and kept topping off my flute during dinner while Josh stuck with the wine. He didn’t make an issue about the grape juice or make me feel embarrassed about having it, which I appreciated.

Bread was served first, a thick piece of rustic sourdough bread with a heavy, crispy crust. The crust was a tad bit on the well done side, but I still enjoyed it slathered with a thick layer of butter.

Crusty sourdough bread

As usual, Josh and I went halfsies on our meal, although we had to be careful about picking items that I could eat. We started off with seared scallops and crab salad for our appetizer course. The seared scallops were served with golden raisins, almonds, and maple-lemon butter. While the scallops were cooked perfectly, I found the dish to be entirely too sweet. To me, the sauce was a bit sticky and cloying, and I didn’t love the combination with the raisins. Josh, on the other hand, loved the dish, and found it to be well balanced and flavorful. It just goes to show that we don’t always have the same tastes!

Seared scallops with golden raisins, almonds, and maple-lemon butter

On the other hand, I was a bigger fan of the crab salad than Josh was. The salad, which was a special that evening, featured lump crab meat served with cucumber, baby greens, grapefruit, and mango puree. The crab was plump and fresh tasting, and paired perfectly with the tangy fruits and crunchy vegetables. It was a light and bright dish, simple, but flavorful enough to wake up my taste buds.

Crab salad with cucumber, baby greens, grapefruit, and mango puree

For our main course, we shared the pork tenderloin and Pekin duck breast. The pork was served with a blueberry-apple compote, portwine sauce, and spaetzle. The dish sounded like it might be on the sweet side with the fruit compote, but the portwine sauce actually made the pork taste very savory, with a meaty, steak-like flavor. The pork was nice and tender, and I liked the chewiness of the spaetzle.

Pork tenderloin with blueberry-apple compote, portwine sauce, and spaetzle

On the other hand, the duck was served with a black peppercorn sauce, which I thought would be really savory, but it was mixed with raisins, which added a sweet element. Even though we asked for it to be cooked medium, the duck was pretty rare, which I would normally like, but given my pregnancy restrictions, I only nibbled on the more cooked end pieces and let Josh eat most of the dish.

Pekin duck breast with sweet potato crepe, raisins, and black peppercorn sauce

For dessert, Josh picked the frozen cappuccino, which was pretty much what it sounded like – espresso at the bottom, coffee ice cream, whipped cream foam on top. Tasty, though not very exciting.

Frozen cappuccino dessert

I chose the passion fruit tart, which really hit the spot. The passion fruit filling was slightly tart, not too sweet. The crust was subtly almond flavored, and the coconut gelato on the side really gave the dessert a tropical feel.

Passion fruit tart with almond crust and coconut gelato

Overall, we found the food at The Saddle River Inn to be pretty solid, though nothing was spectacular. We weren’t wowed by any of the dishes, but nothing really turned us off either, although the scallop appetizer was borderline for me. I thought the prix fixe was a good deal, but if we had been paying a la carte prices, I might have felt more disappointed. I think everything fell just slightly short in execution, and while it was mostly tasty, there wasn’t anything really exciting about the food. It’s a nice restaurant though, with good service, and I might give it another shot for another special occasion, but it isn’t really somewhere that we would go regularly.

The Saddle River Inn
2 Barnstable Court
Saddle River, NJ

ABC Kitchen

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 by virginia

Back in October, we had a wonderful meal at ABC Kitchen in honor of Lisa’s birthday. I was having a hard time finding a place that would seat 7 of us during prime dinner hours on a Sunday, and ABC Kitchen was the only available restaurant that interested me on the Open Table search results. It’s a restaurant that has gotten a lot of buzz since it opened, and it was named the best new restaurant at the most recent James Beard awards. I usually shy away from buzzy places, preferring to wait until the hype has died down, but I had read plenty of good reviews from reliable sources so we decided to give it a shot.

We were seated at a round table in the front corner of the main room, giving us a great view of the room and its modern decor. It’s pretty minimalist and kind of industrial, but also elegant and classy. Our table was made from knotty wood and sort of rustic, reminiscent of a tree trunk. I loved the chandelier above us, which was silver with white ceramic flowers all over.

Gorgeous chandelier

The menu is fairly extensive, with several different categories to choose from. In addition to appetizers and entrees, there was market table category with various items to be shared, as well as pastas and pizzas. The menu prides itself on focusing on organic and local foods, so dishes change with the season. I had a tough time deciding on what to order but we ended up having a nice variety on the table so we got to taste a lot of different dishes.

The meal started out with some slices of slightly sour rustic bread, olive oil, and french radishes. The bread was fine, if a bit standard, but I loved the radishes. They were fresh, crunchy, and not too sharp. We ate them whole with just a bit of salt sprinkled on top.

Bread, olive oil, salt, and french radishes

We got a few market table items to share for the table. First up was a bowl of olives that were zesty and briney. They were marinated in olive oil and citrus peel, which gave them a nice brightness.

Marinated olives

Next was an order of roasted beets topped with housemade yogurt. The beets were sweet and creamy, and the yogurt added a subtle tanginess.

Roasted beets with housemade yogurt

Lastly, we all shared a pizza with jersey tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil. The pizza had a whole wheat crust, which I was a bit nervous about since I generally don’t like whole wheat breads, but the wheat flavor was very subtle. The crust had a crispy bottom and a nice chew on the edges. The buffalo mozzarella was creamy, and the tomato sauce was fresh and tangy. It was a very good pie.

Whole wheat pizza with jersey tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil

Moving on to the main portion of our meals, Josh and I split the raw diver scallops and the crab toast for our appetizer course. The scallops were thinly sliced and topped with market grapes and lemon verbena. The dish was beautifully presented in a scallop shell sitting on top of a bed of ice. The raw scallops had a lovely firm and meaty texture to them, and they were lightly dressed with olive oil and citrus. The combination with the grapes was a refreshing blend of tangy and sweet.

Raw diver scallops with market grapes and lemon verbena

The crab toast was technically under the market table section, and it was definitely big enough to share. It was a huge piece of toasted bread topped with tons of crab meat mixed with some dill and lemon aioli. The crab was fresh and sweet, and I liked the earthiness brought by the dill. It was a big serving for an appetizer but we didn’t have any trouble finishing it.

Crab toast with lemon aioli

For our entrees, Josh and I split the black sea bass and the roast suckling pig. The black sea bass was topped with chopped chilies and herbs and served over a bed of spinach and baby potatoes. The chilies added a nice kick to the otherwise simple dish. Lisa asked for her order to be less spicy, and the kitchen willingly obliged. The sea bass was cooked perfectly, with a nice sear on the skin and delicate flaky flesh. The broth in the bowl tasted a bit of ginger, and the whole dish was clean and well balanced.

Black sea bass with chilies and herbs, baby market potatoes, and spinach

The roast suckling pig was my favorite dish of the evening. It was outrageously decadent, with crispy crackling skin and a plum and smoked bacon marmalade on top. The meat was melt in your mouth tender, and I loved the sweet/smokey combination of flavors. I also enjoyed the braised turnips on the side, with the slightly bitter greens that helped cut through the richness of the dish. I almost didn’t want to trade plates with Josh, though I did enjoy the sea bass as well.

Roast suckling pig with plum and smoked bacon marmalade and braised turnips

I don’t normally take pictures of other people’s food or comment too much about dishes that Josh and I didn’t order, but the minute I saw Alice’s fried chicken, I knew it would be something special. The piece of chicken was absolutely massive, with both dark and white meat, and fried to a perfect crisp. The batter was delicate and not remotely greasy, while the chicken inside was juicy and succulent. It was served with collard greens (yum!) and a hot butter sauce.

Fried organic chicken with collard greens and hot butter sauce

Even though we gorged ourselves during the meal, we still managed to save room for dessert. I ordered the seasonal glazed doughnuts while Josh selected the sundae. The seasonal glaze was currant, though it didn’t really have a distinctive flavor. The other flavors included chocolate glazed and a raspberry jelly doughnut. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. The doughnuts were just meh, not freshly fried or very flavorful. I never got into the whole doughnut craze that hit NYC, so maybe I just don’t appreciate them as much. I thought these were just marginally better than Dunkin’s though.

Currant glazed, chocolate glazed, and jelly filled doughnuts

Josh’s sundae, however, was pretty fabulous. It featured salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts and popcorn, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It was like a carnival in your mouth. While the ice cream was more caramel than salted caramel (it reminded me of dulce de leche ice cream), the peanuts made up for the lack of salt and the popcorn added a nice crunch. It wasn’t overly sweet, and the ice cream was a refreshing finish to our decadent meal.

Sundae with salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts and popcorn, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce

Overall we were all pretty impressed with the meal we had at ABC Kitchen. The food was fresh and well executed, and for the most part, the flavors of all the dishes were spot on. We enjoyed every single one of our shared market plates and appetizers. In addition to the crab toast and raw diver scallops that Josh and I ordered, the other diners at our table enjoyed the lentil soup, pretzel dusted calamari, and tuna sashimi. All of our entrees were hits as well. Only my doughnuts and the buttermilk panna cotta with huckleberry dessert fell flat (the panna cotta was deemed too firm and sour). In terms of service, we had several people waiting on us and they were all efficient and attentive. In honor of Lisa’s birthday, they brought her a small chocolate cupcake with a candle in it. The only drawdown to the restaurant, I think, is the price. Appetizers average around $15, and entrees around $30. Not super expensive by any stretch, but definitely not cheap. While I would love to eat here often, it will be more of a special occasion kind of place for us. Nevertheless, I think ABC Kitchen deserves all the buzz and hype it receives, and I will gladly return for another meal.

ABC Kitchen
35 East 18th St. between Broadway and Park Ave. South
New York, NY