At 6:00 o’clock on a Saturday The Ordinary was already full to the gills. The newest, hippest bite to eat in Charleston had a wait time of over three hours. Hungry and a bit light headed from imbibing at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, my cohort and I hovered around the reclaimed wood bar like seagulls, hoping to snag something good. In our case, seats.
We sneakily assumed two vacated barstools so quickly after the previous patrons that the seats were warm and their dirty dishes still remained. Nothing a dirty martini from one of The Ordinary’s expert bartenders couldn’t fix.
It isn’t often one feels outside of Charleston in a Holy City restaurant but seated at The Ordinary’s bar I felt a bit like I was in New York. First, because of the crowd. All of us huddled around the bar ordering drinks and waiting, hungrily, for both food and seating. Second, because of the prices. The Ordinary is a pricey restaurant; deep pockets and a small appetite are helpful. Finally, because of the fanfare surrounding The Ordinary’s opening. Charleston– and fans of Mike Lata– have waited for months for Charleston’s new “it” place.
After our dirty martinis, my friend and I ordered the Shellfish Platter ($65) and a side of the house made Sea Salt Potato Chips ($4). The assortment of raw oysters, steamed shrimp, raw clams and scallop ceviche appeared and disappeared rapidly. Served with a blood orange mignonette and the traditional accompaniments (traditional mignonette, cocktail sauce, horseradish, and a housemade tartar sauce) the shellfish platter was refreshing the way cool, salty ocean spray is on a hot day. I’m not sure fresher shellfish exists. The potato chips were light as air and almost gossamer thin. Lightly salted, they served as a delicate, fried foil to our raw shellfish platter.
Thanks to our second dirty martinis, we felt moved to order more. Per the suggestion of our bartender cum server we each ordered a Fried Oyster Slider ($5 each), and opted to share the Skate Wing and Potato Terrine ($13) and Braised Uni on Yukon Gold Purée ($14*).
Though fried, the Oyster Slider was far from heavy. Served on a Hawaiian roll with crispy, crunchy slaw and a slightly sweet aioli, the sliders were light, flavorful and balanced. I wish all fried seafood tasted like this.
As a longtime fan of sea urchin ordering the Braised Uni was an obvious choice. The Ordinary’s sea urchin is like eating umami-flavored velvet The mashed potatoes were flavorful but I would have enjoyed something crunchy for texture. Or, perhaps, just straight braised uni.
Our biggest disappointment of the evening was the Skate Wing Terrine. My friend disliked that it was chilled. While I did not mind the temperature, I did mind the saltiness. It was several notches past salty, which was unfortunate as the rest of the meal was so delightful. The texture of the dish was also fairly one-note, which may have had to do mostly with the fact that the only thing I could truly taste was salt.
Of course, I’ll be returning to The Ordinary. The service, despite the New York City sized crowd, was attentive and the food was without a doubt good. Mike Lata’s attention to detail and freshness has paid off. While I’m sure I’ll try more menu items in the future one thing is for certain: my (expensive) bill will always include something from the raw bar.
Have you tried The Ordinary? What did you think?