Rice Market: Charleston, South Carolina
The Rice Market is a place that you want to see be successful. A beautiful renovation, a great location, and local restauranteurs all could be a recipe for tremendous success. Not so much on the night we were there.
First, let me say that the restaurant is beautiful – elegant, yet warm, and very pretty. They have also added an expansive patio area, which in the spring, I would imagine, could be a lot of fun.
We found the staff on shift that evening attentive and very personable. One of the waitresses was even kind enough to open the door and welcome us in. The restaurant however, was very slow so we chose to sit at the bar versus at a table in the empty dining room.
Shawn our bartender was delightful. As you know one of my pet peeves is when a server doesn't introduce themselves. Shawn went beyond the intro and inquired as to whom we were, how long we've lived here, etc. He was very engaging. And now on to the menu…
We started with the Lettuce Wraps that featured basil and cilantro diced chicken, rice noodle crisps, cashews, carrots and a lime peanut sauce. Unfortunately, this was not a winner. The portion was small, the chicken was dry and the sauce was very bland. A flavor profile that we would come to see in all of our food that evening.
Although the menu is not small, it still feels limited. I asked Shawn what he liked on the menu. One of the things that he suggested was the Bacon Wrapped Wood Grilled Crispy Pork Tenderloin. It sound very interesting but it was served with marinated cucumbers. I asked Shawn if I could substitute something else for the cucumbers. To my amazement he said that, “The kitchen was getting used to the menu, and no substitutions were allowed.” Counting the two of us there were 10 people in the restaurant – how tough could this be?
Another suggestion was the Rice Market Fried Chicken served with Hoppin’ John, Seasonal Vegetables and Red Eye Gravy. Shawn explained that the Red Eye Gravy was made with veal stock, coffee, tomatoes and spices. I asked Shawn what Hoppin’ John was and he struggled with an answer. Luckily, there was a manager perched at the end of the bar doing paperwork. When Shawn tried to ask him what was in Hoppin’ John the manager mumbled “black eyed peas” and walked away. At a time when there were so few customers, you would think he’d want to win some of us over.
We also ordered the Wood Grilled Moroccan BBQ Lamb Chops with Moroccan style rice, and house made Harrisa (a hot chilli paste typically found in North African cooking). We waited anxiously for our dishes to arrive.
Not surprisingly our meals were served by a food runner in no time. They were hot and looked great. You know, another one of my pet peeves is when the food served is not hot. Hot food served fast usually wins me over.
However, this was some of the blandest meals I’ve eaten in a while. Shawn mentioned that he was taking suggestions for the chef, etc., and before I could even say anything, he said, “We have been getting a lot of comments that things are bland.” Even the Red Eye Gravy tasted bland. Zero, I mean zero flavor.
As for the lamb chops..... They served 3 , 2 of which were fine both in size and the temperature. But the third little chop was about the size of a quarter and way over done. I mean beyond well done. Getting three of the same size chops shouldn't be that hard either.
One of the owners has been quoted as saying that the design of the restaurant was important and, “We want people to go to the space for the space.” I get that, and the restaurant looks and feels great. Now how about going to the space for the food, which as of right now, is a big disappointment.
This venue is now closed.