On Hilton Head Island we are fortunate to be home to an extraordinary number of fine-dining, award-winning, nationally recognized restaurants. Eat! with an exclamation point in the name, is Robert Irvine’s island endeavor, and might I say, Eat! Okay, I draw attention to the exclamation point so that you don’t think I’m one of those writers who has to use excessive punctuation to make my points because I don’t have a good command of the American English lexicon and accompanying grammar rules.
This is not the case, so if you peruse this blog and see a number of exclamation points, it is because I’m reviewing the restaurant Eat! (which almost makes me want to follow with the word “now!” or to actually shout the name of the restaurant whenever I say it, which would give my friends pause, wondering if I was telling them to meet me there shortly. It also complicates the fundamentals of punctuation that we Type A’s try to follow, making us use less dots and dashes throughout our copy but then we’re always wondering if readers will understand where and what we mean to emphasize – sorry, digressing).
Robert Irvine’s other restaurant is nosh, which tells you he’s not hung up on stylized prose and frills. This is a good thing, because he obviously puts his gray matter energy into the cuisine, which you will totally get after just one meal. We, of course, have enjoyed many more than one meal at Eat!, located in the Village at Wexford – adjacent to the Jazz Corner (very convenient for music lovers) – where you will be treated to a delectable array of tapas, entrees, and desserts, in a very chi-chi, but not at all pretentious atmosphere. Everything fits the bill as it should, without over or underdoing any details. For example, booths are round and comfortable, with high backs, so you feel as though you are in an intimate setting, while not being cut off from civil society, which would be the extreme of intimate dining; as in, ‘”Honey is this the time-out room? I told you not to scarf down all those olives at the bar.” The decor is a little New York deco, with really cool stone, cave-like, very clean bathrooms with water dripping down the walls, and sensored gadgets that always seem to work; another pleasant surprise meaning it is a well-maintained restaurant.
Now to the food, which has never let us down (“It’s about time,” you’re thinking to yourself, “When is she going to get to the food?”). First of all, I get she crab bisque every time, perfectly seasoned with big lumps of crabmeat. We also have the prime rib sliders at every visit with brie and a sliced pickle, always perfectly cooked. We also like the tuna tartare, very zesty and fresh adding a tantalizing chill to the palate which offsets the savory warmth of the other appetizers. Other appetizer winners are paneed blue crab cakes, bacon & shallot compote topped oysters, creole barbeque prawns with bacon & horseradish, fried green tomatoes with brown butter & feta cheese, and baked brie, which pretty much covers all the appetizers on the menu, I just noticed.
My favorite entrees have been, in no particular order, blackened snapper & tomato harvarti grits with bay shrimp & a red pepper goat cheese coulis, char-grilled N.Y Strip – prepared different ways, and whatever fish special they are offering. Another fave is the pan-roasted free-range chicken roulade stuffed with pork sausage, drizzled with pan jus, and served with yukon mashed potato. This is Johnny’s standard that he orders every time, and every time he tells our server, “You know, I never order chicken when we’re out except when we come here, it’s that good.” And every time the same waiter, being a good sport, says, “Really? That’s high praise, thanks for telling me.” The menu changes frequently, and the aforementioned dishes may be served a little differently if you go there in a few weeks. Please remember this when looking over the menu and thinking to yourself, “Boy, that The Vacation Company blogger really doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
Finally the desserts, again never fail to delight. And again we have a constant, the sweet potato bread pudding with tabasco ice cream, a surprisingly great blend of flavors if you haven’t ventured into the fairly recent trend of totally out-of-your-head ice cream combinations (others that I have tried and loved are basil ice cream and feta cheese). Please try these at any fine restaurant when you see them. I’ve never been disappointed.
The service is excellent, and our guy Nathan, who works early in the week, is the go-to front house man always looking after us, even when we’ve called too late or just showed up, unprepared, and you can see the pained wrinkles around the corners of his ears and you know he’s thinking to himself, “Can’t these idiots even organize themselves around a simple dinner reservation?” while he graciously smiles, shakes my husband’s hand and says, “Of course, no problem Johnny, if you don’t mind waiting at the bar, I’m sure we will have a table for you in a moment.” And he always does. What a guy. In case you didn’t know, Nathan is Johnny’s guy at Eat! (Johnny has a guy for everything; the car – both buying and fixing -, the hair, the clothes, and of course, eating out. Price over at Truffles is his other guy for eating out. And in case you were wondering, Bob is the guy for fixing the car, Frank in Providence is for buying the car, Charlie is the hair guy, and Hughey at Knickers is one of his many guys for buying clothes.)
The owner, very telegenic Robert Irvine, has his own website describing his career, as well as four television shows, and recipe books, making it hard to imagine how he does all that while maintaining such high standards in his restaurants; actually, one imagines he has a marvelous team of chef’s in-training, interns, and p.r. minions excited to just be part of his organization. This is evidenced by the wonderful staff at the Hilton Head restaurant. And if he hasn’t already, he should definitely consider doing a tv show here (and if he has, he should do several more) because the place is filled with marvelously telegenic employees from the hostesses, servers, to the busboys, bartenders, and even the cute kid who waited on us in the lounge the last couple of times we were there. And of course, don’t forget Nathan, Johnny’s guy at the front. Very charming. Of course, tv shows would really pack the place out more than it already is, and Johnny and I would have to get it together and better organize ourselves around dinner reservations.
Menu prices are on the high-end-ish ranging from $18-$36 for an entree on any given day (high, only if you’re from around here or the mid-west; deli-counter prices if you are from New York, Boston, California, or Providence, Rhode Island), but well worth it for the quality, service, and ambience. For more information, details, and directions, go to Eat!’s website, now! Ha, ha, get it? Or just call for reservations, 843.785.4850 (ahead of time, please. Just because last-minute works for the Legendary Johnny D, I can’t promise it will work for you). Or, if you’d like to take one of their cooking classes, check out the Eat! events calendar for dates and times.
P.S. And don’t forget to tip well (I have to say that, having worked in Hilton Head restaurants a while back – not that long ago, smarty-pants – and know that I would be shot on-sight if I didn’t remind everyone to remember your servers and bartenders).