After dining at a couple of way too ordinary oyster bars in Charleston we were on the lookout for something out of the ordinary so we went to The Ordinary. The Ordinary is a fantastic seafood hall and oyster bar on the outskirts of the old town in a refurbished former bank building.
I have no qualms about saying that The Ordinary provided an extraordinarily superb dining experience for my bride and me ... once we got past the door-Nazi chicks.
Our taxi dropped us off at the front door at 4:45 or so. Our dinner reservations were at five and we knew that The Ordinary didn't open until five, but we were at the mercy of the taxi driver and the door was unlocked. We stepped inside and were greeted with a terse, "We don't open until five."
We acknowledged that, but since the taxi dumped us at the door and there was nothing of consequence in that nondescript neighborhood, we asked if we could just sit off to the side out of the heat. "No you can't. We don't open until five." It was ten to five as we stepped outside and if there had been a passing taxi we were inclined to tell the door-Nazis what they could do with themselves at five.
But at five, since we had not seen a passing taxi, we went back to see if we could get past these two paragons of parallel universe customer service. We succeeded and were led to a table near the oyster bar.
Adam, our friendly and professional server for the evening brought menus and inquired of our desire for an adult beverage. "Yes, yes, a thousands times yes," we croaked through parched lips and dry throats. We ogled the menu whist sipping a couple of glasses of ice cold Val de Mar French sparkling Chardonnay.
Since the oyster bar was so close, I walked over to see what was available that evening. The Wellfleets looked and sounded the best, so I ordered a half dozen. The gentleman manning the bar and the knife did a spectacular job of shucking and presenting these salty, creamy, gifts from Neptune with subtle hints of seaweed.
I have no idea what condiments were provide since those Wellfleets needed absolutely nothing to enhance their briny goodness. My bride, meanwhile, was enjoying her house salad that was included in the $35 Prix Fixe Saturday menu. The protein on that menu was a tender, juicy New York Strip Steak with a savory sauce sprinkled with farm-to-table cherry tomatoes.
I was content to stay with small plates, so from the oysters I moved on to more oysters. This time it was the Crispy Oysters with Beef Tartare, an ambitious pairing that worked perfectly. The oysters had a creamy center with a nice crunch from the breading and created an exciting juxtaposition with the beef tartare.
Next came the Capers Inlet Clams, Fregola, Soffrito, Fennel. Fregola is a bead-shaped pasta from Sardinia; it's nicely chewy and was used as a phenomenal base for the clams and soffrito. I swoon over pasta and clams, so this dish was definitely swoon-worthy.
I am starting to think that I should have invested in a pair of stretch pants, but my eyes said to ignore the stomach and get that Squid a la Plancha, Olive, Paprika dish. A la plancha is a Spanish term that refers to a method of searing food over a very hot metal plate. This is a rather simple dish that is loaded with flavor.
Well, I am done ... d-u-n done. My bride, though, had a dessert coming; a Chocolate Vanilla Bread Pudding served warm with a caramel sauce and a dollop of ice cream. It looked good, but I chose to sip on a very pleasing Moscatel.
Suddenly, another dessert appeared. I had to ask my bride, "Did I order that?" She said I did, and I had to ask, "Why?" I was thinking maybe we should eschew a cab back to the hotel and just walk, but then a voice commanded that I just eat that delicious Posset, a cold dessert made from thickened cream similar to a creme brulee and topped with berries and chocolate.
Our dining experience at The Ordinary wasn't cheap, but we weren't driving and a fair amount of alcohol consumption possibly occurred. Our bill came to $219.20. We added 20% for Adam.
I might mention that a few days later we arrived a bit before opening at The Optimist in Atlanta and were greeted warmly and invited to sit at the bar and enjoy a beverage until our table was ready.