Upscale/casual New American restaurant Congress opened at 1035 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. this past February. The Mexican/Italian eatery has fared pretty well on Yelp, but faced Charleston Scene critic Hanna Raskin this week. In short, Congress survived. Raskin deftly tackled the menu of two different cuisines to explain to her readers how to deal with Texas chili and bucatini on the same list of offerings.
Ever since European explorers came home from the New World bearing tomatoes, there have been explicit overlaps between Mexican and Italian cookery. And yet the prospect of following up arancini with a Cobb salad trimmed with queso fresco and jicama, or ordering a pepper-blessed bowl of chili before the bucatini arrives, still has the capacity to jar.
So you might wonder how you’re supposed to weave together a coherent meal.
Raskin recommends trying all the small plates. Order Congress' "delicate" relleno, the "exceptional" chili with "tender chunks of short rib," the homemade mozzarella, or the "prettiest little ceviche."
With 3.5 stars for food, Raskin thinks Congress signals a good move for Mount Pleasant.
The restaurant is distinguished by understatement, control and, quite often, wonderfulness. Congress isn’t a stiff imitation of a downtown Charleston restaurant, which remains the grail for many locals living off the peninsula, but like Cure on James Island, it represents the forward lurch of a dining scene that’s been stuck in neutral for the past year or two.