Charleston critics make it rain dollar bills in downtown dining rooms this week, and they’re letting readers know if they should set aside a chunk of their paycheck for a meal.
City Paper reviewer Vanessa Wolf visits upscale Southern restaurant Pawpaw, where she finds the "Why Haven't I Met Bill Murray?” cocktail priced at $25. She doesn’t sample it, but lets readers know, “... it's billed as a smoked old fashioned, and comes to the table literally smoking. It smells like camping, with woodsy, nostalgic flavors and a finish reminiscent of a gourmet s'more.”
For those looking to spend money on food instead, buttermilk biscuits are “a hug on a plate,” the crab cakes release “a lava flow of gooey crabby goodness,” fried chicken is “sultry and comforting,” the market catch is “luscious, fall-apart-tender,” and shrimp and grits prove to be bright and fresh. Wolf does have a few problems with a few of the wood-grilled items. She writes, “... the light, pillowy gnocchi came out so hard and black on one side, I thought it had to be an accident.” The ribeye also has an “aggressive char flavor.”
There was nothing objectionable about the dry-aged porterhouse, although that seems like a rather low bar for anything costing $120 to clear, and since servers don’t ask how you’d like the steak cooked, diners who prefer a cooking temperature other than medium rare might have a different opinion.
Many of Raskin’s problems at 492 arise from inadequate communication. “It’s not just servers who aren’t communicating with guests. Back-of-house isn’t talking to front,” she writes. Kedgeree goes without sauce when a server doesn’t explain a condiment delivery, a staff member is unaware of changes in a chicken dish, and bourride isn’t really a bourride. While the critic concludes, “Entrees generally aren’t a strong suit at 492,” she does find some good in the small plates:
Still, there is plenty that delivers on the promise of the kedgeree, starting with the chubby cluster of yeasty pain au lait, served with more butter to press into the pliant buns. Minimalist agnolotti, bathed in subtly sour foam and topped with the thinnest of fried onion rings, are carefully constructed. The same goes for a breathtakingly pretty black bass crudo, which locates the latent daintiness in horseradish.
• Familiar Joins Contemporary in a Happy Union at Pawpaw [CP]
• Pawpaw Delivers Southern Refinement on East Bay Tonight [ECHS]
• All 492 Coverage [ECHS]
• Fixing the Disconnects Would Give a Big Boost to 492 [P&C]