With a refined menu and sophisticated service, Tradd’s is a beautiful newcomer (Charleston City Paper) Nov28


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With a refined menu and sophisticated service, Tradd’s is a beautiful newcomer (Charleston City Paper)

When Cypress shut down in May 2017, it was hard to imagine anything filling the venerable farm-to-table restaurant’s shoes. A year-and-a-half later, Tradd’s — now occupying the stunningly renovated space — has arrived on remarkably nimble feet.

To start, the interior has been elegantly brightened and polished. Gone are the space age color-changing ceiling lights and the multi-story, glass-enclosed wine cellar. While the rustic exposed brick walls remain, there’s now a chic, upscale interior filled with velvet, leather, white marble. and life-size artwork. The menu is equally elegant, yet convivial, with familiar ‘ladies who lunch’ standards like shrimp cocktail ($14) and vegetable crudité ($12).

From the top left corner, the fava toast ($12) beckoned. The thick slice of bread — cut in two — is slathered with a layer of blended chevre and ricotta salata, the combination of which tastes remarkably like cream cheese. It’s then decorated with individually placed pieces of halved green fava beans, toasted pine nuts, and thin slivers of fresh mint. Although pretty to look at, it’s decidedly underwhelming. The bread, most notably, is untoasted and the blanched beans are possessed of a strident weediness. If you’re on the fence about the fancy toast craze, don’t start here.

In stark contrast, the beef tartare ($16) is impeccable. Set upon four gaufrettes (that’s freshly fried, waffle-cut potato chips in American-ese), the cubes of raw beef are topped with shallots, capers, and caviar, plus a crumble of olive oil-poached egg yolk. The crisp, salty potatoes are a perfect foil to the creamy, buttery meat, served a smidge cooler than room temperature. “That was the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” sighed my dining companion, a culinary school graduate.

Service is upbeat and ingratiating, and one’s menu selections are quickly applauded as unquestionably brilliant. Timing was a bit off, with the bread course arriving several minutes after the first round of appetizers and a snafu with the serving of the main courses, but the likable server handled it all in cheerful stride.

The lobster gnocchi ($17) can also be selected as a main course ($34) and is a rich, pleasing option. The oven-dried tomato-based sauce is mild and savory, spiked with the snap of preserved lemons and fresh arugula. The chewy potato pasta is served in both Malloreddus (the more commonly seen Sardinian version, rolled with a gnocchi paddle) and round Parisienne forms and accompanied by a near-equal amount of lobster. It achieves a soothing sort of decadence likely to appeal to even the tamest of palates.

Similarly, the fritto misto ($16) arrives in generous portion. The fried Italian classic comes in a rainbow of variations, ranging from the seasonal or regional to simply what’s available. Tradd’s version features five fresh tail-on shrimp, two slices of mild fennel, and two whole shiitake mushrooms, as well as three pieces of zucchini and five calamari rings. Served with a massive portion of tartar sauce-esque herb remoulade, the dish is plentiful, but was dismissed by the table as “a soggy tempura plate.” Simply put, it’s bar food-esque, radiantly overshadowed by its more-refined menu mates.

Tradd’s wine and cocktail menu arrives encased in a leather-bound cover and includes a handful of traditional picks, like a classic daiquiri or caipirinha, as well as an extensive list of wines and some local craft beers. There’s also a Champagne bar, with an accompanying food menu focused on caviar and seasonal raw seafood.

On the entree side of things, the Magret duck ($28) came highly recommended by our waitress. Served medium-rare, the tender, cinnamon-dusted duck meat is perfection. Plated on brown butter-fried spaetzle and tossed with a rich, cream-enhanced turnip sauce, the only downfall are the five, bitter, fingerling chunks of turnip root. Perhaps if the same dimensions as the spaetzle, the presence of the tender, yet bracingly harsh turnips might make sense.

Happily, the seared scallops ($32) suffer no such restraints. The five mollusks are lovingly seared and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Surrounded by a cream and saffron-infused melange of corn, roasted mushrooms, and pancetta, it’s a sweet and salty mouthful of autumn.

Barely open a month, Tradd’s operates with near-flawless sophistication in both menu and service. A few fumbles notwithstanding, this beautiful newcomer steps into the proverbial shoes of a giant, and signs are they’ll soon fit like custom-made glass slippers.