NOTE: Blossom Deli is no longer serving dinner.
Blossom Deli – Downtown, Charleston, WV
“Respectable citizen by day . . . killer by night” describes both the main character in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Blossom Deli! Why, you ask? The Blossom is a very busy New York Style Deli for lunch. Once the sun sets, the Blossom’s personality turns. The white tablecloths drape the tables, chefs don their toques and flames leap from the grill. The servers memorize the specials and know the preparation of every dish. The Blossom Deli is one of Charleston’s few fine dining establishments.
Why is it fine dining? First, they take reservations. If a restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so they can move the cattle past the trough as quickly as possible, it’s not fine dining. Second, the menu has two to three pages maximum. It is impossible to make 60 different excellent dishes. Third, the servers are professionals. They don’t need to go ask the chef what’s in a dish or check with the bartender about what dark beers are in stock (pet peeve). Finally, the specials are special. It is not the same old recycled crap! The chef either goes to the market or knows what’s in season and plans a special dish using those ingredients and their skill.
Our server, who was our server on our previous visit, took our drink orders. I like beer and like to start my meals with a beer. I enjoy beer with flavor and asked what dark beer they had. She told us they had Beck’s Dark and Amber Bock. What? Charleston has a great beer distributor and you give me two choices. How about pairing a wine and a beer with each menu item. A Stella Artois would go great with the Grouper en Vinaigrette.
The specials on the night we visited were a yellow tail tuna dish and a grouper and crab cake dish. After surveying the menu I was torn between the Five-Spice Pork Chop, a Red Potato and Leek Encrusted Salmon, and the grouper special. Since I had a similar salmon dish at Gratzi before its untimely demise, and I thought I might be able to have the pork chop off the menu some other time, I went for the grouper ($30).
Tossed Salad with Pine Nuts and Balsamic Vinaigrette
After polishing off a roll with the Parmesan oil dip I decided I wanted a salad. I got our server’s attention and she had a salad at the table in a snap. The salad was incredibly fresh. The tomatoes were excellent considering early season. The pile of mesclun greens were topped with red roasted peppers, red onions, and pine nuts then dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. I placed the plate between us and it was gone as quickly as it arrived.
I polished off the Beck’s Dark that I had selected from the plethora of choices and ordered a Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc. It was very smooth and delicious. If you like white wine I highly recommend this choice. It went well with the Jamaican Jerked Grouper and Crab Cake. The crab cake was lovely. It contained a large portion of lump crab courtesy of Sig Hansen of the Deadliest Catch. The cake was sauteed until it had a perfect crust. The grouper was dusted with a jerk rub. This rub did not impart the jerk flavoring that I was expecting. Maybe a wet marinade might do it, but you risk turning the protein into ceviche. Ceviche is good and might be a nice addition to the menu, but it is not what they were going for here. The fish was placed on a Dijon mustard sauce, and served with sides of cheesy polenta and asparagus.
Jamaican Jerked Grouper and Crab Cake with Cheesy Polenta
The polenta is righteous, to steal the word Phil Pfister used to describe a certain fish sandwich that will remain nameless. The mouthfeel is silky smooth. Flavored with garlic and sauteed spinach, the polenta was Yum. The asparagus was, well… asparagus. Drizzle a balsamic reduction on it and I’ll have something to remember to write about. I feel the same way about the desserts. I like the whole soda fountain thing, but I really don’t know what they have since there is no dessert menu. Seeing the other desserts wrapped up in the case in front also is a barrier for me. The plastic wrap doesn’t speak excellence to me. I wanted something sweet so I ordered the Chocolate Cake. It was unnotable.
The dining experience as a whole was great. Excellent service, great ambiance and an outstanding entree go a long way towards a perfect fork rating. Three things have been nagging at me when trying to decide on a rating for the Blossom. One thing that gives me pause is the poor beer selection. Another thing that bugs me is that the table service (plates and silver) are the same ones that take a beating at the very busy lunch service (which we will “Fork” soon). If I am going to pay $30 for an entree, the plate in comes on should not distract me from enjoying my meal. I would love to see this elegant presentation on a bright white, square plate. Finally, get a pastry chef to hook me up with a dessert that is truly special. Back to the rating – I really think everyone should enjoy a meal at the Blossom. The negatives I mention are not enough to outweigh the numerous positives so I will give Chef Bill Sohovich FIVE Forks! I look forward to writing the second chapter of the “harrowing tale of good and evil as revealed in the same person” or in this case – restaurant.
So, it was my birthday (yippee!) and I suggested three restaurants for my official celebration. It was between Aladdin, The Blossom, or the new Barge restaurant. Because of logistics, I finally decided on The Blossom. Our last visit was in August, so we were excited to go back. Dan told me that he had reserved our special table– the one where we seem to be seated each time we go there. Evidently, it’s not that we’re special or anything though, because when we arrived there was only one other couple in the place and guess where they were sitting? You got it. So, we were seated at the next-to-our-special-table table instead.
Of course, I was not too concerned with this minor detail because for some reason I was having a severe and strange allergic reaction to something I encountered during an earlier moment in my full day of Birthday Extravaganza Activities. The reaction started in Kanawha City and by the time we got to the downtown restaurant, I was digging at my neck and face and my eye was practically swollen shut. I have to say, it really put a damper on my otherwise perfect day. And probably Dan’s too because I couldn’t stop talking about it.
I knew that we were having mom’s baked rigatoni at my post-birthday unofficial celebration the next day, so I decided to forgo my standard build-your-own pasta dish. This threw Dan for a loop because I usually find my favorite and stick to it. It’s a veggie survival strategy, I guess. On this evening, however, I squinted at the menu with my one good eye and picked out the black bean succotash. The waitress, as she tried not to stare at my curious (and what I hoped was temporary) deformity, said that it was most excellent because of the homemade tortilla chips.
Black Bean Black Bean Succotash
Between glances in my compact mirror to check the status of my puffing face, I dipped a yummy roll in the cheesy olive oil dip and tried not to act annoyed as Dan typed notes into his I-phone and prepared to take pictures of all the food. This was a challenge, especially since my mood was compromised because of the itching. When our lovely meals came, I peered at mine with delight. My black bean succotash looked just like sunshine on the plate– the shape at least. Dan’s food was much more tolerable than the creepy sea creature that stared at me from his plate back in August.
Mine was heaps of black beans and corn kernels and seasonings mixed all together and piled on top of a spiced up (cumin?) portabello mushroom. I had forgotten that the menu mentioned the mushroom, so when I found that under there, it was a nice little surprise. She was right about the homemade tortilla chips– which were all poking out of the dish in circles like the rays of the sun. Crispy and warm. Tucked on one side was the pico de gallo (which I don’t really like anywhere) and on the other was the guacamole (which I do like everywhere). I had enough for a filling dinner and then a filling lunch the next day at work. I may have left less on my own plate, though, if I could have kept my fork out of Dan’s creamy polenta. MMMMMMMMM…..
Dan complained that he expected a nicer plate than the rough looking ones on which our food was served, but I didn’t care about that because A) there was so much food you couldn’t see the plates til you finished eating anyway and B) if the place buys new plates, they’ll probably charge me $20 instead of $18 for my succotash.
By the time we finished up with the entrees, I was really ready to go claw my eyes out in the privacy of the car, but Dan was pretty set on trying a dessert so we got the Dark Chocolate cake ($6). It was good, and probably sounded best to me of all the choices on the menu, but he got irritated when I stole a bite of it before he could take a picture of it. Don’t be putting a giant hunk of dreamy dark chocolate down before me on my birthday and expect me to wait while you chat with the server! Whatever.
Dark Chocolate Cake
Aside from my physiological misery, it was a very pleasant meal and as we left, the server said, “honey, I hope your eye feels better” so I give The Blossom FOUR forks for compassionate service, yummy food, and vegetarian-friendly menu options (dishes available without having to special order). I promise to do them the courtesy of an update to go for five when I can engage all my senses properly. Happy Birthday to me!