Amidst the noise about the adventures of Top Chef contestant Jamie Lynch from 5Church, executive chef Adam Hodgson quietly toiled at the Market Street restaurant. But now that Lynch has shuffled off to Charlotte, Hodgson is ready to make some noise, starting with a media dinner this week.
Want to drool along at what was, I have to disclose, a freebie for food writers?
We started with a sparkling rose that complemented rounds of white bread topped with fois gras and red wine-roasted pear with salty, crunchy pistachios that contrasted well with the velvety fois gras.
Fois Gras — photo by Zheng Chia
Next was Nigiri made with steelhead trout draped over Charleston’s own Carolina Gold rice with orange segments and Wasabi pearls. You had to run the mouthfuls over the honey-soy glaze on the plate to get the right salt balance on the Nigiri. What are Wasabi pearls, you might ask (or at least, I did)? Hodgson takes Wasabi and mixes it with agar-agar, a jelly-like substance that comes from algae. When droppers-full of the mixture hit cold oil, it forms tiny gelled pearls.
Nigiri — photo by Zheng Chia
Next up is a kusshi oyster with umami liquor, forbidden rice ramen noodle, uni and caviar. Hodgson explains this is his take on a ramen bowl flavor. The briny flavor saturates the tongue and is smoothed over only after a few sips of the Hungarian Evolucio Furmint, a sturdy white.
Kusshi Oyster — photo by Helen Mitternight
One of the most beautiful presentations is tuna tartare served in a scooped-out coconut half and mixed with cashew, Fresno chili, mango foam and sweet plantain. That heat from the Fresno chili is echoed in a Rum on Over, a cocktail with pineapple-infused rum and citrus along with the heat. Bring on over the beach blanket.
Tuna Tartare in Coconut — photo by Zheng Chia
Tortellini is stuffed with ricotta and served with mustard greens, candied pine nut and guanciale (pork cheeks – I had to ask). A delicious and surprising accompaniment is a malted wheat beer from Barcelona, Estrella Inedit.
Tortellini with Ricotta — photo by Zheng Chia
Alaskan halibut is slightly less successful than previous courses, although its presentation atop kohlrabi puree and alongside a kohlrabi fritter, is intriguing. The accompanying cocktail, The Redeemer, a mix of gin, pink peppercorn, basil, ginger, and citrus is worth a trip to 5Church on its own for its bright herbal and citrus notes.
Alaskan Halibut with kohlrabi —photo by Zheng Chia
A lamb rack that had been aged 17 days (a happy mistake, Hodgson admits – he ordered a rack not quite so aged) falls apart with pink tenderness. A purple haze carrots and blackberry port pearls (made with the same technique as the aforementioned Wasabi pearls) make this a perfect foundation for the plummy private label Pinot Noir from Sonoma County.
Rack of lamb with Blackberry Port Pearls — photo by Zheng Chia
Finally, a caramelized orange tart atop a sugar cookie crumble crust with blood orange puree and vanilla gelato is accompanied by a surprising – but surprisingly perfect – beer from Cornelius, NC, D9 Sour Whiskers.
Caramelized Orange Tart — photo by Zheng Chia
Hodgson is ready to roar.