Because I only rarely eat red meat (and I never eat it rare, but that is a separate issue that confounds many people in my life, my father-in-law especially), when I do have beef, I want it to be a really good, reliable cut of meat procured from a reputable source. So rather than order meat from any old menu, I’ll head to a boothed-up elegant eatery and allow the experts to strut their stuff.
Even when not especially inclined to eat meat, I enjoy the steak house experience because they do a lot of things well, aside from the preparation of beef and the creating of mashers. They have impressive wine lists, they are darned good at making crab cakes, their dessert menus almost always contain some dense gooey chocolate yum, and they handle vegetables in beautiful ways—where the vegetable itself is recognizable, its flavor evoked simply by the addition of salt, pepper, oil, or butter.
It was a delight, therefore, to dine at Oak Restaurant this past Sunday evening and enjoy the latest greatest deal on the Charleston dining scene: a three-course tasting menu offered every Sunday for $38. To celebrate the occasion (not just the eating out itself but the fact that my husband and I were able to compromise by agreeing to order our meat medium well as opposed to charred), I decided to start with some bubbly. My glass of Champagne with St-Germain and fresh rosemary was effervescent and earthy and oh-so-good, while my husband’s traditional martini was just as briny as he likes it. So far so good!
For an amuse-bouche, the chef sent out a red pepper peanut butter on a lavash cracker with a slice of orange and a shaving of basil. Loved it. The first course was tempura fried whole shrimp over risotto with yellow and green cauliflower and candy cane shaved beets. It was a visually stunning dish that tasted fresh and flavorful. We then had steaks two ways: a mini filet and a sliced rib eye. The chef was so accommodatingly awesome that he made us two portions of each—one cooked well and other medium rare. Our server, Jim from Boston, had overheard our brief negotiating sesh on meat temperatures and had taken it upon himself to ask the chef to cook two smaller portions of each. I just love when problems disappear without ever being voiced—go Jim! Accompanying the meat was charred tomato with thyme, a dish of glistening baby squash that was perfectly tender, and the requisite mashers which my husband really appreciated. Dessert was thick slices of carrot cake that was neither too sweet nor too heavy.
While I don’t expect to start craving steak and eggs for breakfast any time soon, Oak has certainly done its part to elevate my already high opinion of steak houses, even given my non-meaty dietary disposition. And with Oak’s always-changing tasting menu, I am excited to return, knowing that every meal will be extremely well-done (literally, in my case).
Oak tasting menu logistics: the menu changes every Sunday, at least two people at the table must order the tasting menu, and half-priced bottles of wine round out this fabbo deal.
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