The Establishment

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The Establishment

by Deidre Schipani, Charleston Magazine

November 19th, 2018

Charleston is known for its history, so it should come as no surprise that when Atlanta's Concentrics Restaurant Group entered the Holy City market, it considered a bit of the past as it planned its new endeavor. The group found its analogue in the historic James Gregorie residence, a Broad Street building ripe for renovation.

As William Shirtcliff laid the bricks for 28 Broad Street in 1791, President George Washington was spending a week in our fair city. The Congress of the newly minted United States was ratifying the Constitution's Bill of Rights. In it the forefathers included the Establishment Clause, securing citizens' freedom to worship as they pleased. In homage to this amendment, The Establishment restaurant came to be in the spring of 2018.

Rich wood paneling, handcrafted fixtures, and innovative wall surfaces deliver a luxurious vibe that calms and welcomes guests. Banquettes, soft as lamb's leather and tinted Charleston green, invite you to recline in their comfortable embrace. The dining room of The Establishment is tailored and trimmed with craftsmanship details worthy of a boardroom - and some evenings, it appears it is, as the power elite gathers at its Instagrammable bar.

What a bar it is: Technology is re-mastered on a digital display that visually toggles between sea and sky with stunning footage reminiscent of the BBC's Planet Earth.

To accompany this splendor is a cocktail menu filled with garden fresh herbs, vibrant purees, modern tinctures, and creative spirit combinations. The Stylist and The Realist will not disappoint. Vodka is the canvas of The Stylist, blushing with an ice dome tinted with blueberry puree and tinged with floral bitters, all fine companions for a balanced drink. The Realist shines with its sparkling cava base, a hint of Campari's headiness provided by Contratto Bitter, an aperitif without the bitterness. Once properly primed, take a seat in the open kitchen area - at the chef's marble counter or community high top - and enjoy the show as the kitchen staff works with the precision of Japanese itamae, the artistry of Robouchon, and a respect for the seasons that define the best Charleston cuisine.

Service strikes the lovely balance of informed and engaged, with hosts, servers, and the team of GM Brad Mogan and restaurant manager Josh Wheat maintaining watchful eyes over the guests.

Executive chef Matt Canter helms The Establishment's seafood-centric menu. Coastal cooking comes easy to this chef whose culinary career includes the kitchens of The Park Cafe, The Ocean Room at The Sanctuary, Charleston Grill, and FIG. He's competently assisted by sous chefs Allison Porter, who refined her skills at Tristan, FIG, and Minero, and Zach Tyndall, who dabbled in the modernist and high-tech cookery world at NOMA in Copenhagen.

Canter's food is local, seasonal, and sustainable. His market-driven menu features two sections: "Taste" and "Savor." The former includes small plates easily combined for a meal of exploration, and the latter bears more heft with creative compositions of the Lowcountry's fields and forests. In "Taste," ingredients parade their global pedigrees as salsa verde, peperonata, crema, and conserva trickle over pristine fish. Local shrimp, plated over a kaleidoscope of vegetables, spark taste buds with tarragon. A buoyant boudin de mer (sausage of the sea), striped with translucent zucchini, sparkles in a citrusy escabeche. Mackerel, cured in beet essence, glistens on a wide swath of dill-perfumed crema. Crispy fingerling potatoes marshal this dish to a delicious finish - the sea, made manifest.

Not all of the smaller plates espouse seafood; if the freshly dug, charred baby carrots splayed on the cream of house-made ricotta cheese topped with a fig vinaigrette still catch the chef's fancy, be sure to order them.

The larger plates under the "Savor" section are engaging juxtapositions of textures and flavors. Burnished scallops, sweet corn puree, a shower of chives, and a conserva of mushrooms bring surf and earth to new heights. Fish dishes - snapper, triggerfish, and wreckfish - were nurtured in their cooking and augmented in flavor by a variety of peas, beans, rice, and the restrained use of saucing. Freshness reigns as Canter sources with attention.

To complement Canter's menu, Andres Contreras has procured a smartly edited wine list. Tatomer's Gruner Veltliner, a clean, refreshing Santa Barbara wine, works with most dishes, as does a crisp glass of Raventos Xarello Macabeo, a Spanish cava. A Chilean carmenere delivers strong fruity flavors, perfect for the substantial rib eye drenched in herb butter.

Desserts are designed for wide appeal: chocolate mousse, ice cream, sorbet, lemon tart, and a seasonal selection. Expect creativity; the lemon tart, for example, deconstructs a lemon meringue pie into a crisp tuile of crunchy almond wafer, a confiture (preserved jam) of lemon, and fragrant lemon custard.

With a sustainably driven menu, innovative design, and awareness that relationship is the soul of hospitality, The Establishment needs no amendment.

On Charleston Magazine

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