Setting the Table
Mother’s Day, one of the nation’s busiest restaurant days, afforded me an opportunity to try this casual/fine dining restaurant near my home, one I’d heard about for years, but hadn’t yet visited. Among just a handful of casual/fine dining restaurants in the area, it’s one of even fewer with an ocean view, something Mom requested for her special day. Not as large (or expensive) as its stand-alone competition, the Cypress Room is open to hotel visitors and locals. Reservations are accepted and recommended.
Cypress panels decorate the ceiling and walls below the chair rails, and a long row of windows affords a view of the ocean, though you’ll look over the tops of hotel umbrellas, palm trees, and guests from the nearby swimming pool. If the weather is perfect, not too cold or hot, consider a table outside and you’ll be within earshot of the crashing waves and enjoy the sea breeze, although you’ll also be closer to the livelier resort activity.
Linen tablecloths and napkins, oil lamps, comfortable fabric chairs, along with several levels of service were a pleasant surprise based on the more than reasonable prices.
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A small bar has room for a dozen or so patrons who may just be drinking, eating from the happy hour bar menu, or waiting for a table. The overflow crowd often enjoys the dining porch for a cocktail as well.
Down the Hatch
The extensive French-inspired / New American cuisine dinner menu comes with seven appetizers, two soups; soup du jour and She Crab, along with Caesar Salad, Iceberg Wedge Salad and option to add protein; grilled, sautéed, or blackened chicken breast, shrimp or salmon, making the salads a stand alone meal, if desired.
Nine main courses from chef Michael McKinnon should tempt anyone in your party. Choose from Carolina flounder, diver scallops (most in our group ordered these, and I think they licked their plates clean), along with pork chops, grilled filet mignon, fresh catch options, a chicken dish, pasta primavera, braised beef short rib (my choice) and even a vegetarian offering, Provincial Vegetables; braised romaine, red peas, asparagus, tomato olive relish, and red onion marmalade.
The sides and sauces are where these dishes really shine; sea island red peas, wilted kale, charred corn, roasted fingerling potatoes, shallot whipped potatoes, arugula pesto cream sauce (served with the citrus crust grouper), and creative pairings between protein and vegetable. Each in our party of five were delighted with their choices, and our server knew the menu well, made recommendations, and kept the service moving nicely. Two of us started with She Crab soup, which was excellent, and we all had salads. On a subsequent visit I had the Oysters Rockefeller ($6.95), which were outstanding, and are only available during happy hour, to bar patrons, though with a little arm-twisting I got the feeling they might be available to dinner patrons as well.
Interestingly, the menu lists the main purveyors of foods served. The mushrooms, for example are grown by monks and come from Mepkin Abbey Farms, near Charleston. Anson Mills in Columbia provides heirloom grains, rice and other specialty items. Seven Seas Seafood in Murrells Inlet provides as much fresh, local seafood as is available and in season.
Here’s the real delight; a Caesar salad ($5.95) with added grilled chicken ($5) is only a couple of dollars more than you’d pay for a substandard fast food combo meal. Even my braised beef short ribs ($23.95), which came with roasted shallot whipped potatoes, sautéed spinach, roasted carrots, and red wine au ju, is priced far below other area fine dining restaurants with comparable quality and service.
We ordered two bottles of wine in the $40 each range, but could have gone cheaper, or much higher into rarer vintages. Assorted soft drinks, tea, coffee are $2, and a children’s menu (12 and younger) offers a wide variety of options from $6.95 (chicken fingers, burgers, pasta) to $8.95 (sirloin tips over rice, or broiled or fried fish and shrimp). Desert ranged from pecan tarts with bourbon crème anglaise ($6.95), several cakes $6.95 – 7.95, and cobblers and ice cream around $6. An automatic 18 percent gratuity is added to every dinner check, but it’s clearly stated on the menu, and on your final bill.
Breakfast patrons might spend anywhere from $3 for a la carte offerings to a maximum of $9.95 for full breakfast including eggs, juice, breakfast meats, potatoes, grits, toast/English muffins and coffee.
For the level of service, oceanfront atmosphere, the culinary skill and food quality, the Cypress Room, while not cheap, is one of the better buys in the casual/fine dining marketplace, and definitely worth a visit.