Chef Josh Keeler’s 492 redux is mostly on point (Charleston City Paper) Dec07


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Chef Josh Keeler’s 492 redux is mostly on point (Charleston City Paper)

HKFC8482There’s a new 492 in town.

Elegant as ever, the space is a knockout both inside and out. Between the open kitchen, the outdoor patio, and the enviable collection of stylish lighting fixtures, I would like to live in the house version of 492, should that ever be an option.

During brunch service, my waitress was quick with enthusiastic recommendations. Shortly thereafter, the beef tartare ($14) arrived. A bit of an odd pick for breakfast, the 492 iteration finds the brunoised cubes of raw beef mixed with creamy tuna fish-based tonnato sauce, a clever way to include the traditional flavors of anchovy and caper. Topped with grated, cured bresaola, the tartare is accompanied by three small, doughy green onion pancakes. It’s an interesting idea, but without any crisp contrast, the chewiness of the meat becomes the main focal point, which is a pity. Traditional toasts or even a crisp crêpe would change everything.

But here’s the thing: That first Sunday of which I speak was six weeks ago, and much has changed since then. Specifically, every single thing I ate and wrote up — except that tartare — is no more. Chef Josh Keeler’s new menu is fully on display, and in the spirit of full disclosure, that’s mostly good news. The original review I wrote on Halloween was decidedly concerned, with a persistent ‘no comprendo’ thread stringing the confused tapestry together.

RJKI4264Happily, Chef Keeler, formerly of Two Boroughs Larder, has adjusted to the new address and written his own menu, and I’m no longer having to price-shop Botox to combat all the worry lines. Yes, the beef tartare is still on the menu and still comes with Korean pancakes, but maybe I’m alone in my desire for some crunch. To each his own.

One thing chef and I can agree on are his confit wings ($11). The three, full wings are lightly charred and coated with a fish sauce-predominant glaze that achieves the perfect hallelujah of hot, sour, sweet, and salty. Topped with a spicy pickled jalapeño relish, they’re sublime. I had no idea fish sauce and toasted garlic could hit such high notes, and, well, now that I know, I can’t stop thinking about them.

The Brussels sprouts ($9) are most simply described as an adult version of broccoli with cheese sauce. The well-charred sprout-halves are coated with a thick, mild raclette fondue and sprinkled with a raw apple garnish, which helps to balance the savory richness. Touted as a vegetable side dish, this is a perfectly fine, though indulgent, accompaniment.

That stated, if you’re trying to keep your daily caloric consumption in the three-digit figure range, get yourself some Sunburst trout ($28). Although beautifully plated, it’s hard not to feel a little rick-rolled when you first examine the dish. Is it legal to keep a trout this small? I jest, but be prepared for what’s probably the tiniest fish entree of your life, with two Lilliputian pieces of skin-on fish atop a mix of potatoes, Romanesco cauliflower, and dashi broth. That said, subtle and elegant, the strong flavor of the skin comes through at the finish and dominates to an unfortunate degree. Topped with smoked trout and trout roe, the flavors culminate in a trout-based hat trick that tastes, well, really fishy.

WJDH9399If you find you’re eating both, however, you’re probably at 492, as the Bavette ($32) steak comes with a thick slab of house-made bologna. Accompanied by a salad comprised of some of the woodiest stalks of watercress I’ve ever encountered, the beef is — in stark contrast — so tender that teeth are arguably optional.

However, although the thick piece of allspice-rich bologna is well-crafted, it’s hard to understand its presence on the plate. For whatever it’s worth, the bland Pommes Macaire are forgettable.

The potatoes aligot ($10) are not. Touted by the waiter as “potato fondue,” that’s a bit of an overstatement. More realistically, consider the richest, butteriest mashed potatoes you’ve ever had, add aged cheddar and the delightful contrast of green onions, and you’re pretty much there.

NAMU6045With the same to-die-for interior design and a new menu, 492 appears to be in a bit of a chrysalis stage, and a damn fine one at that. Everybody needs a little time to settle into a new place. 492 possesses some of the most attractive digs in town. And the food is well on its way too.