We were three couples – six well developed palates with high expectations, that arrived for dinner this past Tuesday at Restaurant 17 in Travelers Rest, SC.
Restaurant 17 is located in Hotel Domestique, the newly opened venture owned by brothers, Rich and George Hincapie. The latter of which is a retired 17 time Tour de France “domestique“. Are you with me on the naming of this French-inspired, 13 room boutique hotel and restaurant?
Why high expectations? The Hincapie’s have staffed 17 with top notch talent, beginning with Executive Chef Adam Cooke (previously of the renowned Blackberry Farm). Not confirmed, but from a good source and totally believed after this dinner, Cooke brought Blackberry Farm’s pastry chef with him.
Beyond the food, we wanted to check out the total, high quality remodel of the space that had taken place. The two-story lighting fixture below is just one of many new features installed floor to ceiling.
We sat at a large round table near this corner fireplace on the first floor. There is now a second floor seating area with great views. Tables themselves are of note. Topped with beautiful, slightly off-white solid surfaces, they help set the relaxed fine dining ambiance without need for tablecloths. A friend who’s been multiple times describes 17 as “casual chic”.
Quite a bit of discussion went in to our wine choice for the evening. After a couple twists and turns – “Would you like to try a very expensive Champagne that was opened by mistake – at a ridiculous discount?” “Yes, we would!” – we settled on a couple bottles of 2011 Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon. Deliciously perfect with all our dishes!
Half our party went with the 3 for $30 Restaurant Week menu. By the way, our server mentioned Chef decided to serve normal portions on the restaurant week menu. A deal! The other half of our group couldn’t resist regular menu items.
Snacks and Small Plates lead off the 3 for $30. Two of us ordered the Local Beet Salad, made with local Bibb Lettuce, Raddish and Fennel, tossed in a Buttermilk-Cucumber vinaigrette. What we got was one of the most deliciously, beautifully presented plates we’d ever seen.
Let me take a minute to tell you that for me, this meal was a series of taste surprises. Call me jaded, but it takes something truly special to make me sit up and take notice.
I’m convinced a big reason, beside the obvious talent of Chef Cooke, for the quality and depth of flavor in every one of our dishes is their sourcing philosophy. For instance, much of their produce comes from Broken Oak Organics farm just down the road.
Another 3 for $30 first course option, Ricotta Cavatelli – Cavatelli pasta with Duck Confit, Rutabaga Mostarda, and Apricot. I’d like to ask Chef about this tasty dish, because I’m not sure where the Rutabaga Mostarda comes in.
In-house cured meats took center stage on the Cheese and Charcuterie ($17) plate. Only slightly, though, as the pickles, candied nuts, mustard, and especially the cheeses were fantastic!
Braised Beef Short Ribs ($26, regular menu), were fabulous. A friend familiar with the dish said a four day prep is involved. I believe her! Ribs topped with fresh greens were gently placed on a bed of Anson Mills Brown Rice, smoked onion, peanut miso, Asian greens, and marinated Daikon.
Anson Mills is a Columbia, SC company doing extraordinary work growing and hand-milling organic heirloom grains, including Carolina Gold Rice.
“At Anson Mills, we chose early on to grow and mill Carolina Gold rice and a full complement of heirloom grains adopted by Antebellum rice families, and to follow the sustainable rice-crop rotation. In some ways, we hope to restart the Carolina Rice Kitchen cuisine itself—a cuisine that depends on a complex agricultural system suited to local conditions and cultural needs. It is an effort that requires extraordinary research into planting practices, seedsmanship, and preparation. The soil must be made right and the interrelation of cultivars reestablished.”
Braised Veal Cheeks ($14, regular menu) were at the heart of this dish made with Pappardelle pasta, grilled Romaine, and a smoked tomato mixture, topped with breadcrumbs. A lovely Small Plate bursting with flavor.
This same diner followed the Veal Cheeks with Saddle of Rabbit ($24, regular menu). The saddle cut is the choicest, central part of a rabbit. Think small tenderloin sliced into sections. Chef presents his version with King Trumpet Mushroom, Celery Root Puree, Bacon, Cherries, and Charred Fennel. The rabbit was perfection, set off by interesting mushroom-charred fennel-cherry flavors and textures.
Just in case there weren’t enough mushrooms in the rabbit dish, this diner also ordered a side of Wild Mushroom Fricassee ($7). If you are a mushroom lover, I’d highly recommend doing the same. It really is hard to describe the incredible flavors Chef coaxed from these mushrooms. Fantastic!
At first taste of the stock, this diner thought, “Oh, no. I’m going to like my appetizer better than the main course!” Slightly bitter at first bite, it transformed into the perfect accompaniment when eaten with the trout and other ingredients. Don’t you love the grilled theme of this dish. Look at those sliced Leek edges! Beautiful.
Also from the 3 for $30 second course offerings, Bethel Trails Pork Crepinette. The star of this plate was the Crepineete. Chef bordered the parcel of shredded pork with monochromatic white beans and a Creole Mustard smear, and topped it with Ruby Streaks Mustard Greens (reddish, as the name implies). Sliced kumquats, having been placed strategically, added a nice little flavor punch.
Our last entree vies for star of the evening: Seared Scallops and Crispy Sweetbreads ($28, regular menu). Just look at that plate! Cauliflower, Truffle Puree, and Watercress, mixed with sweetbreads shared center stage with gorgeously cooked scallops. Smears of Lemon Brown Butter Sauce not only tasted fabulous with everything else, they acted as visual brackets, focusing attention on the riot happening in the middle.
Get ready . . . dessert is an event for the senses.
First up, from the regular menu, Dark Chocolate, Praline and Espresso Napoleon ($9). I should have taken a photo after we cut into this gem so you could truly appreciate this layered chocolate-lovers dream. The plate was adorned with Meyer Lemon Custard and dark chocolate, while an edible flower and chocolate curl topped it all off.
I’d recommend sharing. This was so rich, neither of the two of us who had this could finish it on our own. We shared around the table and still left some behind!
Next, from the 3 for $30, as is the final dessert, a Meyer Lemon Tart. Also on the plate, edible flowers, drops of crisp Pink Peppercorn Vacherin (meringue), and Olive Oil Jam. That’s a disk of drizzled white chocolate garnishing the tart. Didn’t get to taste this one, but was told it was wonderful. Be sure you like lemon before ordering this as Chef lets it shine.
Last, but definitely not least, Chocolate Buttermilk Doughnut. Also on the plate: crunchy sesame, brown butter, and candied kumquats. I’m not sure, but I think that’s frothy cream, possibly mixed with the brown butter in the doughnut hole? A slightly less whipped dollop of the same on the plate lightened up bites mixed with chocolate.
Our server was an absolute treasure, full of character. Dinner did take a long time, but this might have been due to the restaurant’s newness and the nature of our group. We thoroughly discuss menus (food & beverage), ask a lot of questions, and generally have a good ole time.
Upstate South Carolina is lucky to have Restaurant 17 and Chef Cooke. I count myself lucky to have been able to experience this dinner!
Coming up at Restaurant 17: Valentine’s Day Dinner – 5 course prix fixe with 3 choice entree for $58 pp/$98 pp with wine pairings with courses.
- There’s still time! Restaurant Week goes through Sunday, January 19th.
- Loved the cuisine variety on the menu, especially when Restaurant 17 refers to their fare as “Contemporary American”
- Surprisingly, entrees are priced in the mid $20s. I expected higher, so was pleasantly surprised.
Restaurant 17 at Hotel Domestique
10 Road of Vines
Travelers Rest, SC 29690