The Westendorff– I find myself having to say this word with a sophisticated English accent and my pinky up. The Westendorff is the newest hot spot restaurant in Charleston, yet it sits in one of oldest historic buildings on the peninsula. The building use to be a hardware store owned by the Westendorff family for 100 years. They lived on the second floor. The building is beautiful with the original stucco and restored Westendorff sign from 1915. On the back side of the building there are iconic Charleston porches where the restaurant features private dinners and cocktails. On the third and fourth floor there is even a furnished two-bedroom apartment comlete with a chefs kitchen with an island that sits nine and is available for short-term rentals!!! Whose down for a stay-cation????? So last week Julia and I put on our ritual Thursday game faces and started our night at The Westendorff. I went in open minded and without any expectations because I had heard mixed reviews on the food. The typical, “It’s a new restaurant and needs to work out the kinks.” Understandable with any new opening, bring it on!
Walking into the restaurant was like being back in New York trying to get into a hot restuarant in the West Village. This was a foodie gathering and there was certainly a hip crowd present. Good thing I had my trendy sock bun on top of my head, phew. A hostess approached us with an iPad and announced a 20 minute wait (and by the way no reservations) so she put our name down. In the meantime we walked to Pane E Vino just down the street for a cocktail. Not too long after they texted us that our seats were ready! Making our way into the restaurant, I immediately noticed the lovely exposed brick and light fixtures. The restaurant comes off as a social place, especially where we sat at the counter, very inviting with an easy-going atmosphere.Ben was our waiter and very friendly. He suggested starting off with the Moscow Mule Cocktail with homemade ginger beer that he made himself. It was a classic great Moscow, but my only comment, where’s the copper cup yo??? Maybe Rarebit has spoiled us…
Julia and I decided to order a variety of plates and share them. From the menu we started with plates from the “First” section: the Crispy Heart of Palms, Geechie Boy Grit Arancini, and the Ricotta Gnudi. Our favorite was definitely the Ricotta Gnudi. The cheese comes out warm and my favorite was the crispy texture on top against the smooth ricotta. It had a smoky flavor and paired nicely with the nutty drizzled olive oil. The dish is served with red and gold beets, pine nuts, and bright green parsley sprinkled on top.
The next two dishes didn’t really do much for us. The heart of palms were heavily breaded and I couldn’t even taste the inside. I found myself taking the crispy breading off and enjoying the taste of the palms that way. I’d never had heart of palms before, but Julia was right in figuring they tasted somewhat like artichoke hearts. They were served over a romesco sauce which had an amazing thick texture that seemed like a lot of flavors went into the mixture, however it was so bland. It didn’t taste like anything. Romesco originates from Spain and is a nut and red-pepper based sauce but this needed more. I’m not the expert but maybe some lemon and salt? Or a kick with some spice?
Now for the Geechie boy fried grits. These were good, but again with the breading. Back it down. The main feature here should be the grits and the breading was so thick that it took over. I hate to even make this comparison but Hymans always brings us their fried grit cakes to the front desk at the hotel and the ratio is right on point. The breading should be there to hold it together, not to be the spot light. I want the grits to steal the show and really shine!
After our starters we were between the Hanger Steak and the Pan Roasted All Natural Chicken Breast for the entree. Ben was helping us talk it out with these two dishes and it finally came down to the Chicken because of the corn puree and okra accompaniments. Unfortunately, I could not have been more disappointed. The chicken itself was okay, a little overcooked, but a typical piece of white chicken meat. However, I was so upset with the corn puree…or should I say lack thereof!That juice on the bottom of the plate is supposed to be the puree. That is not puree! Puree should have some consistency that you can scoop up on your fork and eat together with the chicken. That was also the main reason we chose this dish and I felt misinformed. Also, I think two pieces of okra sliced long ways and the four tiny mushrooms is a little skimpy. I mean load it up please. What is this new trend? If you are advertising on your menu okra please follow through with some okra!And lastly we had a side of Mac N Cheese which unfortunately didn’t cut it either.Looks amazing and was cooked perfectly, however the sharp cheese flavors were extreme. I love a good tangy and complex cheese, but this was too much in each individual bite. It tasted like a whole block of strong parmesan cheese in each small shell. Our server did acknowledge that the Mac N Cheese was going uneatten (sorry cheese gods) and was kind enough to send us out a complimentary dessert.
My final thoughts regarding The Westendorff: I have better expectations for brunch. This place is set up with a great brunch atmosphere allowing for mingling at the diner style counters and the wait staff freely walking around with the open kitchen in the background. So to make this blog post a bit longer, I am now revisiting after going back for brunch this past Sunday.This time I had my #Respect4Respect girl Shannon with me for round 2.As I sat down for the second time at the very familiar counter, it did feel different. The Westendorff really encompasses that Sunday morning vibe. The crowd was still hip and cute, but also you could tell the majority had just rolled outta bed and were trying to cover up the Sunday sleepiness. Or maybe that was just us….ANYWAYS here’s what we ordered.
I had the Eggs in Cocotte which had oyster mushrooms and wilted baby arugula served with avocado ciabatta toast. The toast informed me that my instincts were right. The avocado was so creamy and a great mix between smooth guacamole and still chopped up whole avocado pieces. So far so good! Shannon ordered the Egg Sandwhich which had mascarpone, smoked tomato pepper jam, house maple cured pork belly and served on a Browns Court benne seed roll. Right on point. We also ordered a side of grits which were exactly what I had hoped this time. Creamy, buttery, and certainly stealing the show!Now back to my eggs dish. Cocotte is the type of dish that the eggs are served in and I’m guessing cooked in as well. I imagine the chef cracks two eggs into this dish and then bakes it in the oven with the other accompaniments. However, with this type of dishware, the eggs continue to cook even once removed from the oven. By the time I had my first bite of the eggs, they were completely cooked through.This made the dish extremely dry instead of having a nice consistency with a runny egg through the mushrooms and arugula. Again, this was disappointing. I also wish this was something the kitchen would pay attention to because I saw a neighboring patron with the exact same dish and of course a runny egg.
So yes, great atmosphere with a great vibe for brunch, but I would agree, some kinks still to be worked out.
Happy Monday folks!