Setting the Table
If you're wondering whether there's room in the Grand Strand market for another upscale steakhouse, the answer is "Absolutely!" if you're talking about the new 21 Main at North Beach Plantation.
Picture a steamy June evening, you've had a swim and put on fresh crisp cool cotton or linen clothes. You're hungry and thirsty and want to unwind with a meal that's a treat, provides refreshment and will satiate your culinary cravings. Well, grab your sweetie and head for North Myrtle Beach.
North Beach Plantation is a luxury oceanfront resort, and 21 Main is its newest amenity. The property also has, in its accommodations towers, a cafe (open) and a nightclub/lounge called BLU (opening soon). A New York-based company called Lovin' Oven owns and manages the restaurants, and the name 21 Main derives from the company's established steak house in West Sayville, New York, of the same name.
Some familiar local names are also associated with 21 Main. Dana Wilson, formerly of Ruth's Chris Steak House in Myrtle Beach, is the general manager, and the chef overseeing steak and chop preparations is Sean Thomas; he most recently has been a chef at Divine Fish House in Murrells Inlet. The executive chef is Richard Maurer, who transferred here from the company's Long Island location to oversee all of Lovin' Oven's food services at North Beach Plantation, including catering for destination weddings.
The restaurant has a New York steak house/bistro feeling with dark woods, sleek lines and black and white linens. Diners can pull up through a circular drive and take advantage of free valet parking. Dining tables are to the left and right of the front door. Straight ahead is a sushi and raw bar, and behind that is a lounge area with a long gleaming honey-colored marble bar top. A window behind the bar reveals a courtyard and a transcendental view of an Asian-inspired landscape.
Servers are dressed in black slacks, white button-down shirts, striped ties and black-and-white striped aprons. Diners are offered a choice of bottled water (still or bubbly) or tap water and are informed of the evening's features, such as Basil Risotto, a fresh catch of mahi-mahi or Blue Points for the oysters.
Down the Hatch
Many of the appetizer choices ($7-$11, or market price on some items) sound incredible, and my dining companion and I were extremely happy with our picks. Our favorite is the visually exciting and lavishly flavored appetizer Lump Crab and Boursin Salad that is vertically presented and rests on a pool of basil oil garnished with intensely colored saffron aioli and fried carrot strands.
We also savored (actually we jostled each other over who would scoop up the last bit) Beef Carpaccio served elegantly and in a generous portion. It is topped with tangy dressed arugula, shaved Parmesan and Dijon aioli. An intriguing component on the carpaccio is fried capers; the tiny berries are encased in a delicate crispy coating that enhances their salty appeal.
On another visit a couple of friends and I checked out the sushi and raw bar, which provides dozens more appetizer choices (or, if you're like us, you can make a whole meal just out of sushi). We tried the Golden Dragon Roll that sushi chef Keith Carter showed his new apprentice how to make, and while the pieces were too large to eat easily, the crispy soft shell crab in it was yummy.
Raw bar selections ($9-$14, or market price on oysters) include Shrimp Cocktail, Lump Crab Meat Cocktail with lemon aioli, Little Neck Clams and oysters of the day served with mignonette sauce. Four salads are $8 each: Caesar, Iceberg/Tomato, Chopped, and the 21 Main Steakhouse Salad with hearts of iceberg and Romaine, cucumber, cherry tomato, apricot, blue cheese, spiced walnuts, black pepper and cabernet vinaigrette.
Entrees are$22-$45. and we tried an 8-ounce Black Angus Filet Mignon. For an extra $3 you can choose a house-made sauce to go with the steak, and we enjoyed the Cabernet Demi-Glace. Next time we'll splurge on one of the U.S.D.A. Prime steaks with Béarnaise or Gorgonzola au Poivre sauces.
Another entree we tried is Stuffed Chicken, which is organic chicken filled with basil ricotta. It was served with a side of crispy savory bread pudding studded with sun-dried tomatoes, grilled asparagus and remarkable oyster mushroom sauce. Other entrees include Scottish Salmon, rare Tuna Steak, Lobster and White Truffle Ravioli, and dry aged Pork Porterhouse. You can see the entire menu at www.21mainatnorthbeach.com.
Side dishes are $7-$8 and include an amazing version of Creamed Spinach that is prepared to order and topped with pancetta and Parmesan.
Desserts include classic New York Cheesecake and a Lemon Tart topped with meringue foam.
The sushi and raw bar keeps this an affordable and elegant any-night-of-the-week restaurant, but for date night, impress-a-client night or be-nice-to-yourself night, the full 21 Main treatment is an exciting new Grand Strand culinary top pick.
21 Main at North Beach is at 719 North Beach Blvd. in North Myrtle Beach, and the number is 315-3000. It's open from 5-10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 5-9 p.m. Sundays. The lounge opens at 4 p.m.
Becky Billingsley serves daily restaurant news at www.MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.