Blacksmith John Boyd Smith captured the Lowcountry in the Ocean Room's grand gate.
Kiawah Island is one of the nation’s most picturesque oceanside resorts, and thanks to The Sanctuary, the island finally has a hotel befitting the surrounding splendor. Guests at a deluxe hotel need to eat, and The Sanctuary has two restaurants (three in the summer). Thanks to Chef Chris Brandt’s stylish preparation of local ingredients, sweeping ocean views and courteous service, the Ocean Room is the hotel’s most impressive dining option.
The restaurant’s on the second floor, at the top of a grand staircase. Savannah blacksmith John Boyd Smith’s substantial wrought iron gates welcome diners and incorporate distinct Kiawah touches: an egret, sea grass and sea oats.
The gates open to a mahogany paneled bar furnished with a variety of leather and equestrian accents. White marble steps rise into a main dining room that features a domed ceiling and a selection of seating options. The restaurant has 110 seats with a private wine room and a large ocean view terrace. The dining room offers four kinds of seating, including traditional tables, banquettes, and side-by-side sofas.
We received a complimentary bread basket – French, whole grain and sourdough – served with a partitioned dish of olive oil, creamed butter, and Kalamata olive cream cheese.
The Amuse Bouche involved mojito-cured salmon wrapped around julienned veggies on a terroir chip, accented with lime zest.
My parents and I split an oyster tasting ($14): Kumamoto oysters on the half-shell; baked and served in the shell with breadcrumbs and lemon aioli dabs; and in a savory bread pudding drizzled with lemon oil. It was an inventive and tasty way to sample oysters, especially the cooked preparations.
I opened by ordering duck confit with caramelized shallots and dried blueberries on an herbed crepe with port reduction ($12.50). Duck confit on cardboard would taste good, and Chef Brandt’s herbed crepe was certainly not cardboard, so the fact this is Chef Brandt’s signature starter was no surprise.
Jane got the Baby Beet Salad ($10) with cuts of Sweet Grass Dairy goat cheese, micro greens, white truffle oil, and pairs of purple, golden and pink beets.
My father ordered the “local shrimp BLT deconstructed” ($15), a simple but dazzling starter with five sweet shrimp, baby organic arugula, a brioche triangle, sliced heirloom tomato, and bacon aioli..
Amuse Bouche #2 involved a single crab ravioli with sage brown butter and balsamic, topped with microgreens. Microgreens seemed to appear on every plate.
Jane got grilled Kobe beef “flat-iron” with parsnip and Haricot Vert frites, garlic fondue, and cranberry compote ($29). The steak was wickedly good, beyond-tender, with big flavor.
For his entrée, my father selected “seared Gulf snapper” ($34) with creamed spinach, rosti potato, roasted red bell pepper, and balsamic vinaigrette.
I got a special, a 10-ounce, bone in pork loin chop brined and poached in duck fat with corn, lima and bacon succotash with a mustard flan ($37). The duck fat really brought out the pork’s flavor, and savory flan was an interesting twist.
The wine list is 19 pages and divided into some unusually fun categories: Tiny Bubbles, Dry and Crisp Whites, Smooth and Supple Whites, Beyond Chardonnay, Burgundy: Blanc, Rouge, Juicy and Jammy Reds, Silky Smooth Reds, Rib and Bold Reds, Bordeaux, Rustic and Rowdy Rhones, Roman Reds, Robust Reds, Stickies, Port. To drink, Jane and I each got a smooth glass of Shiraz, 2001 Fairview, South Africa ($13).
Our intermezzo featured striated layers of apricot sorbet and fig compote, with a matchstick cut of fig cake. I’m partial to figs, so this glass went over big with me.
To pair with dessert, I drank an expertly-prepared decaf cappuccino with more striations: milk, coffee, and froth, white, brown and white.
For dessert, we split two desserts ($9 apiece).
Pastry chef Claire Chapmans’s signature dessert is “Sweet Grass Dairy goat’s cheesecake with sour cream raspberry ice cream, rhubarb compote, Grand Marnier syrup.” I really enjoy goat cheese in its basic form, and its creamy consistency lent itself well to a “cake.” The sweet-tart notes from the ice cream and the sweet liquor-spiked syrup added excellent depth of flavor.
It’s not often that my photos get artistic. This exception displays a different perspective on the geometric cheesecake.
Apricot Upside-Down Cake with orange buttermilk sherbet stuffed brandy snaps featured thin, crisp cookies shaped like little cannolis. The sherbet was light and summery, but the square of cake was a tad dry. This was one of two dishes we didn’t finish, the other being my father’s snapper.
Overall, the Ocean Room is light-years above previous island dining options thanks to their stunning setting and ambitious cuisine.