Chef Paul Yellin wrote the book on cooking with rum literally. Known as The Rhum Chef, the New York-born and Barbados-raised chef learned to incorporate rum and Caribbean flavors into his cuisine from his first cooking jobs on the island, and he used that know-how to write Infusion! Spirited Cooking in the Caribbean, published in 2004. Now he is bringing his Caribbean cooking style and love for rum to Charleston with his new restaurant, Cane Rhum Bar and Caribbean Kitchen.
Cane is a culmination of more than 10 years of planning. Originally, Yellin set his sites on New York City and Washington DC as possible locations for his rum bar but after moving to Charleston, and learning about the history of rum and its strong ties to the Holy City, he knew he had found the perfect place for his venture.
Chef Yellin insists that Cane is a rum bar first. They plan on serving 80 different rums but the cuisine will also play a major role. The menu at Cane features staples from around the Caribbean like two of Haiti’s most traditional dishes, Pork Griot and Pikliz. Pork Griot is made from pork shoulder that is cut into cubes, marinated, braised and then fried. The richness of the pork is tempered with the sweet and spicy Pikliz that is made with cabbage, pineapple, mango and spicy Scotch bonnet peppers.
“Like Shrimp and Grits, everyone has their take on Pikliz. This is a dish that plays on your taste buds—it is all over the place. It has sweet, spicy, sour and salty, it will hit everything. This slaw goes well with very rich stews and fried food because it cuts through the fat and richness. Most of the dishes from the Caribbean are made from what is available, and they have all of the influences that came to the region, Middle Eastern, African, Indian, and Chinese,” says Yellin.
Of course you will need a rum cocktail to wash down the Caribbean fare and Paul shared two with us. The first, St. Cecilia’s Society Punch, is based on the St. Cecilia punch that was prevalent in Charleston in the 1700s. It combines brandy and rum with black tea, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and fresh lemon finished with a splash of champagne. The second cocktail, Modern Revolution, uses Charleston distilled Red Harbor rum mixed with a banana liqueur, a chicory liqueur and a housemade almond orgeat. Want to try more of Chef Yellin’s cuisine? Cane is on track to open in downtown Charleston later this spring.