Really Dark and Really Delicious

Helen Mitternight



5Church is dark. Really dark. So, if you’re expecting Instagram-worthy photos, just forget it.



But the food…

that makes up for the darkness.




I attended a dinner at 5Church on Thursday night, prepared by executive chef Jamie Lynch and one of his Top Chef nemeses Katsuji Tanabe of Mexikosher Restaurant in Los Angeles.



The dinner was a benefit for the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital as part of the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. The chefs alternated dishes rather than collaborating on any one dish (when I asked Lynch if the two had collaborated, he said, “Katsuji doesn’t share well.”)


with Chef Katsuji


The dinner started with an Oyster Kinilaw, two briny Chesapeake Bay oysters in a broth of lime, ginger, Fresno chilis, coconut milk and a bit of cilantro.


This was Lynch’s dish and it was my favorite of the evening, with layers of flavor, starting with the lime’s puckeringly sour initial taste, followed by the heat from the chiles mellowed by the coconut milk. It paired well with the Hungarian wine featuring the furmint grape, an acidic white.


oyster kinilaw


spooning up every last drop


Katsuji had the next course, a butter-poached lobster with refried black beans, saffron and the bite of pickled jalapeno. The plate was dusted with onion ash, which is literally what it sounds like: onion is cooked all day and the charred powdery remains sprinkled over the plate.


It’s a big trend now. I’m not sure why. The lobster and black bean combination offered a buttery taste that paired well with a Spanish rose cava.


Katsuji also prepared braised beef tongue mole. The mole sauce was probably the standout offering of the night and the mellow tongue beneath salty cotija cheese was delicious.


My only quibble is that the dark dish on the black plate in the dim restaurant made it hard to see what you were eating. I’m not a great photographer, but the cheese sprinkles look like stars in a night sky, and not in a poetic way. The French pinot noir was easily the best wine of the night.


beef tongue mole with cotija cheese


Lynch’s halibut was tender, the fish swathed in an earthy mushroom demi-glace complemented by roasted Hen of the Woods mushrooms. The highlight of a bitter note was offered by Chinese broccoli. If I were to create the menu myself, I would have slotted the halibut before the beef tongue, whose robust flavors may have masked what was supposed to be notes of ginger in the halibut.


Still, the halibut was very good, and the Acacia Chardonnay that accompanied it was also good, although, again, it may have stood up better if it didn’t follow the bold Pinot Noir of the previous course.


confit halibut atop mushroom demi-glace


The final course was a coconut cream cake topped with passion fruit mousse atop a smear of hardened carmelized white chocolate. I’m not usually a fan of white chocolate, but I joined everyone at my table in using our spoons to scrape shavings of the hardened white chocolate from the plate where it had adhered. Chef Lynch offered to bring me a bowl of the stuff, but that seemed excessive, especially given that I had already moved on to the delicately sweet Inniskillin ice wine.


coconut cream cake, passion fruit mousse and a smear of white chocolate