Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Roasted Duck at Chez Nous

     I don't usually take pictures of my food.  I rely on the photos taken by the restaurant, or don't use them at all.  I usually let the food's flavor speak for itself.  Not this time.  The Duck Breast with Roasted Grapes and Mushrooms, on turnip pureé, (which made the dish as perfect as God's original creation in the Garden of Eden...do I rhapsodize too much?) served at Chez Nous on Friday looked like a still life in a Dutch Masters painting.  It was just that perfect.  I almost didn't want to disturb it.  Almost.
     What would your first bite of this masterpiece be?  Mine was a grape.  On the surface, roasting grapes seems odd.  Once in my mouth though it was anything but odd.  The grape's flavor was enhanced by the roasting and its' texture was still firm.  My next bite was a piece of roasted duck whose edges crackled in my mouth and center melted on my tongue.  The mushrooms were King Trumpet, and according to my server, perhaps originated from Mepkin Abbey, perhaps not, which added mystery to the dish.  When swirled in the creamy turnip pureé, I wondered if anything else could taste as good as these mushrooms?  The answer is yes, if it's another dish served at this tiny pearl of French cuisine, just off busy Coming Street in Downtown Charleston.
     With only street parking available, you must plan your attack at Chez Nous.  A small sign just before the intersection of Spring Street alerts you to the restaurant which is set back from Coming St. on Payne Court in a small, Charleston single house. My dining partner and I arrived at twelve thirty for a one o'clock lunch reservation and found two parking spaces out front.  Landing a parking space there was a good sign of great things to come.

     Our second entreé, Pan Grilled Swordfish, was equally enticing as the duck entreé.  And again, the dish was so beautifully presented that you almost hated to disturb it with your fork.  Almost.
     The Grilled Swordfish with Gem Lettuce was another masterpiece.  The colors, orange, green, golden yellow, cream, all combined to create another culinary painting.  The aroma drew me in and  then the flavor held me captive.  Buttery, firm fish, pleasantly bitter gem lettuce, and tart tomatoes bracketed by golden chunks of potato beckoned me to another flavor wonderland.  Again, I may rhapsodize, but all of my flowery praise falls short when you sample the dish.  The flavors cannot be captured by the pen.  They must be experienced, bite by bite, at a shaded table covered by a white tablecloth, in a cobbled courtyard, with a chilled bottle of water and a crust of French bread, and the sound of traffic gliding past on Coming Street.
     And, oh yes, the finish is just as glorious as the rest of the meal; Mousse au Pamplemousse, Grapefruit Mousse, is fun, French and creamy beyond description.  While grapefruit and mousse don't sound like they go together, they do.  Light in texture and gentle in flavor, the mousse was the perfect end to our dining experience, especially when accompanied by a tiny cup of espresso with thick cream and a lump of sugar plopped into the cup, stirred and sipped very slowly.
     My suggestion is to order one of everything on the Chez Nous daily menu.  They offer two appetizers, two entreés and two desserts each day, depending on what locally sourced, fresh ingredients are available each morning.  My advice to you is try them all, share with your dinner partner, enjoy each bite and forget the rest of world for a few pleasant hours at Chez Nous.

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