Restaurant Review: Cesca Charleston

Cesca on Urbanspoon

Before it was ‘Cesca, it was Buccaneer’s. Before it was Buccaneer’s, it was City Bar– a slick-floored place I once partied as a PYT in college.

It appears that both I and 5 Faber Street have grown up.

Now, the brick walls aren’t illuminated with fluorescents or some phosphorescent derivative. This is a grown up place, with a bar that is not only elegant but energized and comes complete with a wine list that will satisfy your “mature” palate and your just-out-of-college wallet.

The restaurant, I will say, doesn’t feel as warm and as intimate as I had hoped. This place has brick walls, a material that should evoke coziness. The layout of the dining room leaves you feeling bare and vulnerable, as if you’re the tallest thing in a field when there’s lightning striking.

This particular visit, our group tried the Restaurant Week offerings– three courses for $30– to great disappointment.

The arugula salad with shaved parmesan and lemon was simple but wasn’t cause for celebration. The salad of baby octopus with microgreens, olive tapenade and salsa verde was, frankly, pretty bad. The baby cephalopods were served charred and chewy. Admittedly, octopus is a difficult item to work with but the Italians have a reputation for handling this sea creature pretty well and one should be confident an Italian restaurant with octopus on the menu can handle it well, too.

The chicken milanese entrée was by far the best part of the meal. The chicken was pounded thin and pan fried to a great crispness and served beneath a salad of heirloom tomatoes and arugula that was, with my table-side addition of salt and olive oil, really fabulous. My companions ordered the salmon with caper butter and truffled mashed potatoes. The potatoes didn’t taste much of truffle and I didn’t taste the salmon for a reason: there wasn’t much of it! The portion size was so abbreviated my fellow diners were finished many, many minutes before I was even close to my last bite.

Dessert was equally disappointing. “This tiramisu is the worst I’ve ever had,” my dining companion said. She didn’t finish her final course. After a bite, I agreed. There was nothing perky about the traditional Italian dessert. I chose the trio of gelato with a variety of Italian cookies. Perhaps there was a typographical error; I received a scoop of berry and a scoop of lemon sorbet.

As always, I like to give restaurants more than one try before completely writing them off, but I was supremely disappointed. It would appear that ‘Cesca has some growing up to do.

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