What’s Behind Door #2?

on Thursday, 21 June 2012. Posted in Magazine, Eat This! Summer 2012, LOCAL Bites, Restaurant Spotlight

Chef Ben Berryhill’s Next Door: Different Address, Same Expertise

By Patrick Graham

People read restaurant reviews so they can make an informed decision on whether or not they want to take a chance on an establishment that they have never laid eyes on or just driven past.  They also read because they want to solidify an opinion that they have obtained by word of mouth from their contemporaries.  Furthermore, they read because they just like hearing about good food.  2

Congratulations.  You’re in for all three here.

Chef Ben Berryhill started up Next Door after realizing that the iconic Red Drum was in good hands, and a new “neighborhood bistro” came into being.  Outdoor seating is important as of this writing, and there’s plenty of it in the front.  I remembered seeing the reconstruction of this spot last July, and I wanted to see how it turned out.  The main dining room off of the bar area was elegant yet comfortable.  Natural light presented itself in the waning moments of the day and my wife and I took one of the large booths just off the kitchen.

Few things start off a dining experience better than a glass of sparkling wine, and the Louis de Grenelle Saumur Rose was just the ticket as we perused one of the most compressed one-page menus ever.  The existence of mozzarella and roasted beet salad, duck confit with orange segments, and Wagyu beef tartare indicated that we are going to have to make some tough choices.   My wife’s penchant for seafood choices and my interest in a good caprese salad broke all ties.

4A lovely dish with these ingredients showed up:  Pasta Nero alla Chittara had local shrimp and cobia, and Calabrian chile pepper lit up the spice thermometer a little bit.  Tremendous.  This half-order of pasta et cetera would have won on the colors alone, and all of the flavors came together seamlessly for a wonderful first course.   And the caprese salad?  See for yourself.  I was impressed that these ingredients came together without (what I thought was) an essential ingredient:  the balsamic vinegar.  Of course, I had to order some on the side to prove myself wrong.  With the balsamic, I felt I was cheating the preparation in its simplicity, so major kudos to the garde manger station.

As it turned out, the aforementioned Mr. Berryhill was on the premises, and the kitchen

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 made some impromptu gnocchi for him.  As luck would have it, we got a crack at that as well as an exceptional bonus.  Few things impress me more than producing excellence on the spot with little time, and this preparation of cippolini onions, pancetta, and cherry tomatoes in a light cream sauce showed me why Chef Berryhill was able to sit comfortably in his dining room and not worry in the least about his kitchen.

For the main course, my wife stuck to her seafood leanings and went with the tilefish that came with local Charleston gold rice, peas, asparagus, and an extremely light fine herb vin that never stole the show away from the main ingredient.  I absolutely had to have the pork chop, as any skillfully prepared entrée that includes the ancient grain farro is not to be missed.  Anson Mills grits fans would be well served to get their hands on properly executed creamy farro at their earliest convenience, and clearly this chop with sautéed rapini (gotta get your folic acid somewhere) and a savory bordelaise sauce was the ticket.

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On the liquid side of the meal, something called the Hemingway Daiquiri beckoned.  10 Cane rum (made with cane sugar rather than molasses) makes all the difference, and when combined with grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice, and maraschino cherry liqueur (!), now you’ve got something.  With help from Certified Sommelier Lauren Levine, I was encouraged to go with the Sivas-Sonoma Zinfandel (my favorite varietal) and a Washington Cabernet in all of its raw power and excellence.

I am happy to say that I have been to both of Chef Berryhill’s properties, and I wondered how Next Door would stand up against Red Drum.  I can safely say that my change of address form will send me Next Door for the time being.  A leisurely feel and sublime elegance will always be my style, and any high-end restaurant that has the self-confidence to serve PBR on tap gets my vote for panache.

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