by Susan Cohen
Wednesday night, 82 Queen invited a handful of media and marketing folks to their chef's table for a taste of their spring menu. Seated at a big table on the restaurant's charming patio, we were stuffed silly with six courses of inspired Southern food and wine pairings.
Chef Steven Lusby was excited to serve us the restaurant's famous she-crab soup (the Best of Charleston readers' pick winner for who knows how many years now) tableside. Servers elegantly poured the buttery base over an island of lump crab meat, and it was difficult to pass up every last bite of this overly decadent dish. Fortunately the next course, a perfectly cooked pistachio-encrusted scallop over roasted tomato grits, was much lighter.
Next up was the jambalaya. On the left side of the plate was a square of Carolina red rice, topped with a "tangle" of sauteed peppers and onions. On the right were two pieces of shrimp over a crawfish beurre blanc. That sauce made for an interesting take on the traditional dish, which was overall less tomato-based than the version my mother made growing up. No offense mom, but I liked this one more.
For the fourth course, Lusby wanted to give us a taste of their lunch menu, but he wanted to do it creatively, so he deconstructed the seared salmon wrap (with arugula, Marcona almonds, and a cranberry goat cheese vinetto) that's offered during the day. It was almost too pretty to eat.
After a brief limoncello interlude, we were served the main course, a grilled rib-eye topped with duck confit and buried in gooey melted pimento cheese. It was a pretty heavy entree after all the other dishes, so we begrudgingly had to leave most of our meat behind, especially since we were saving room for dessert. Except for the sides of potato puree and crispy-crunchy leeks, which were both too perfect to pass up.
Speaking of dessert, just when our stomachs were about to burst, out came the caramelized banana pudding. There was a jar of the creamy stuff (with a hidden Nilla wafer buried at the bottom) and a pair of banana slices topped with a layer of caramelized sugar, adding a good crunch to the dessert.
Johnny Williams, 82 Queen's general manager, handled the night's wine pairings. He started us out light with a Ferrai Carano sauvignon blanc and a Villa Wolf gewurztraminer, and got heavier as the night moved into the meatier dishes. The Mer Soliel dessert wine served with the banana pudding was an extra sweet bonus at the end.