With a little ironing out, Revival has plenty of promise (Charleston City Paper) Aug15


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With a little ironing out, Revival has plenty of promise (Charleston City Paper)

High-backed chairs, warm lighting — both natural and electric — and exposed brick accents make Revival a sophisticated space that belies our idea of a stuffy hotel restaurant. But looking a little more closely at the interior of Revival, one may note that every table in the dining room is festooned with a deeply creased, comically crinkly white tablecloth. Likewise, the food emerging from celebrated Chef Forrest Parker’s kitchen is an apt metaphor, where some attempts at elegance arrive a bit rumpled.

The tuna crudo ($15), however, is not one of those moments. Visually stunning, its looks are just the beginning. Here, four thin rectangles of salted cucumber are topped with slices of raw ahi tuna, drizzled with olive oil, and dotted with whipped avocado. Light and fresh, yet well-seasoned, the spicy shichimi togarashi pepper and toothy, salty tuna prosciutto add additional interest. It’s also strangely addictive: The more you eat, the more you crave.

In contrast, the hearts of palmetto salad ($12) never quite comes together. Creamy, yet bitter, the sweet subtleties of the delicate palm and fresh avocado are overshadowed by pungent raw red onion and Meyer lemon. Stridently tart, it’s reminiscent of unsweetened limoncello, along with packing a bad breath chaser.

Set in the Vendue hotel, Revival is a fittingly refined space, with floor-to-ceiling windows, low-key jazzy music, and fresh orchids on the tables. However, perhaps in a nod to the unfussy tablecloths, staff is dressed in a casual combination of dark blue jeans and suspenders, keeping it real. Service is warm and well-intentioned, but some servers are better than others. Multiple times, it was clear that adjacent tables were listening to their server’s colorful tale of a dish’s history, while ours remained mum.

When asked, she emphatically endorsed the crumb fried seafood ($26), a recreation of the former Edisto Motel’s legendary fried shrimp. (Or at least I think that’s what I heard a waiter tell a nearby table.) Made with cracker meal, the breading is crisp and light, perfectly suited to the three fresh shrimp and flounder filet. The three oysters, however, were cooked to a crisp, the mealy, shriveled shellfish inside tortured to a dull brown.

On the other end of the spectrum, the hush puppies are beautifully crisp and golden on the outside, but doughy — almost wet — inside. Accompanied by red rice with peas, as well as a slaw of raw collards and (what tastes like) Thousand Island dressing, it’s homey and familiar. Those seeking informal Southern comfort food will likely find satisfaction here.

Revival imperial flounder

Also highly recommended by our server, the flounder imperial ($34) does not live up to the hype. “I’m sad that I wouldn’t order this again,” lamented my dining companion after a few bites. Here, three beautiful chunks of fresh flounder are pan-seared and punished to the point of forming a leathery crust. The butter knife provided doesn’t stand a chance, and two of the three pieces are all but desiccated and tear apart haphazardly. The third, the thickest, fared better and the tender meat at the center gives a hint of what could have been. Mixed with the deviled crab and lobster sauce américaine, it’s a rich and decadent tease that makes the leathery flounder all the more disappointing.

In contrast, the forbidden shrimp and grits ($28) are as creative as they are gorgeous. The grits — made with ‘forbidden’ black rice — are sweet, nutty, and chewy, with a chunky texture that works. Normally the seven seared shrimp would be the star of such a dish, but here the rice grits and cherry tomato pan gravy take center stage. The gravy is akin to a smooth, rich marinara, and together they’re something really special.

With an equal amount of hits and misses, Revival is likely just working through the inevitable kinks of a new venue. But with the promise of strong, thoughtful dishes like the tuna crudo and forbidden shrimp and grits, it’s apt to be nothing that can’t be ironed out.