If I should think of love
I'd think of you, The Establishment,
Your arms outstretched,
Offering me a bowl of razor clams ($13).
Adorned with delicate, yet pungent garlic blossoms,
I blush as my breath grows bad.
In contrast, the sweet, light shellfish meat luxuriates in a fresh gazpacho made with tomato water and tiny bits of cucumber. Topped with three gossamer slices of jalapeno, it's all but guaranteed to be like nothing you've ever put in your mouth. Soon you may find yourself wondering about the nature of obsession: Is it dictated or chosen?
Realistically, I should have seen this coming. For days, nay, weeks, leading up to that first encounter with The Establishment, everyone tried to warn me. "Have you been?" friends asked, voices lowered. "Promise me you'll go to The Establishment," texts read. As I passed by strangers on the street, the message their eyes seemed to implore was all too clear.
With something of a Midas touch, everything about the restaurant works: Buzzy, popular, and teeming with energy around the bar, service remains personal and intimate. The space itself feels historic, with high ceilings and portions of artfully exposed brick, yet the large, digital aquarium and chef's table dining area are fresh and contemporary. Fun meets foundation: There's undeniable chemistry from the start.
And the food?
I carry the beet-cured mackerel ($10) with me
(I carry it in my heart).
Pretty as a picture, the lightly pink, translucent fish mingles with vibrant blood orange slices, toothy fresh potato crisps, and sprigs of feathery dill. The clean, bright citrus notes balance the inherent fishiness of the rich, perfectly cured mackerel. Combined with dill crema, it's an impeccably balanced bite.
The Establishment wants to expand their menu into the homes of their customers, offering up customized menus for each client and event. "We have been consistently doing multiple dinners every week," said restaurant general manager Brad Morgan.
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. 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.