This originally appeared on my Patch.com weekly column.
I apologize for the lack of photos. I promise, they were taken (the food was too good to not document!) but due to computer and iPhone technical issues I only have one photo to show you! When you go (or if you’ve already made the trip) to Two Boroughs Larder, please comment with your photos!
Two Boroughs Larder is a restaurant and market located on the corner of Coming and Morris Streets in downtown Charleston. To label this new addition to Charleston’s culinary scene as anything more than a purveyor of great food would be a mistake.
The interior design of Two Boroughs Larder says it all: this is a restaurant where details are taken into consideration and taken seriously but not taken too far. The establishment has two rooms; both are for eating, though one room is clearly the ‘larder.’ I’ll be honest, all of my visits have been spent seated hungrily at one of TBL’s small four tops staring at the open kitchen hoping the next dish is mine. The refined yet rustic farm-style wood planks of the bar and dining tables gives the restaurant a chic yet cozy feel.
Two Boroughs Larder’s attention to detail carries over onto the waitstaff. Everyone is happy, enthusiastic about the restaurant, smiling and all too ready to suggest menu items. You’re served with the same congeniality of a friend but still treated like a paying customer.
Like so many great Charleston-area restaurants the menu at Two Boroughs Larder changes with the seasons and ingredient availability. So, when you go, you have to start your meal with The Oxtail– that is if it’s still on the menu.
The Szechuan Ox Tail ($11) comes served in a while porcelain bowl with a beige smear around the lip of the vessel. One taste of the beige paste and immediately you’ll recognize the distinct earthiness of boiled peanuts. A sunny-side up egg sits atop braised oxtail, ginger, peanuts, scallions, red chili flakes and the most delicious and texturally intriguing fried rice this side of the Orient. The rice is, of course, pan fried with oil and spices rendering it nutty and flavorful. The best part? There are bits of rice that are, however, truly fried and they snap and crackle like pop rocks providing a fantastic textural surprise with every bite. A word to the wise: use your fork and knife to cut the runny egg so the yolk binds the dish and adds a delightful creaminess.
Served with unctuous roast pork, house made soba noodles (impressive in its own right), and a soft boiled egg in steaming hot aromatic broth, the Bowl o Noodles ($9) is a lesson in style and substance. Sesame greens, pickled mushrooms, kimchee and extra pork are available as additional add-ins. I highly suggest the pickled mushrooms ($.50 extra), kimchee ($1 extra) and extra pork ($2 extra). I can’t speak to the sesame greens ($.50 extra), but if they’re like anything else that comes out of Two Borough’s kitchen they’re sure to be good. The broth is salty, but in a good way. It balances the umami grandeur of simply roasted pork, fatty and crispy all at once. The noodles are perfectly cooked and toothsome as only beautifully made soba noodles can be. The pickled mushrooms possess just a touch of sweetness and the kimchee a needed crunch to the soup, making it a palate lifting dish.
The Rice Pudding ($8) here is absolutely divine. Custard-like in taste but risotto-like in texture, this rice pudding is simple and beautiful. The smoked maple syrup adds a subtle smoky earthiness, and who doesn’t love golden raisins? The generous portion is suitable for two and served burn-your-mouth-hot but the pain is oh so worth it.
The Chocolate Budino ($5) is good desert option, too, but not my favorite. Somewhere between a mousse, a pudding and a ganache, the chocolate budino is very chocolatey but not overwhelming. The olive oil and sea salt drizzle are intended to add a bit of richness and cut the sweetness, respectively. A word to the wise: stir the olive oil and salt into the budino. Though small, this dessert is decadent enough for two.
Run. Go. Quickly now! Try Two Boroughs Larder before becomes everyone else’s favorite restaurant, too, and a small four top is as rare as a parking spot on King Street on a Saturday. This place is perfect for any meal, though my favorite is lunch. Regardless, you can order breakfast all day. The restaurant offers beer and wine and fun nonalcoholic bottles, too. Prices range from $5 breakfast sandwiches and à la carte sides to $30 for an entrée. Keep in mind, the menu does change, so prices probably do as well.