Jacob's Kitchen - I'On (Mount Pleasant/Charleston)
The restaurant is open now, but I recently had an opportunity to attend the media dinner at Jacob's Kitchen, the new restaurant attached to a small inn in I'On.
I'm looking forward to seeing how it does. Here were my thoughts:
Though I had never been to Mt. Pleasant's I'On neighborhood before, I certainly had some preconceptions about the type of restaurant I'd find there. I assumed that, amid the fancy homes and equally fancy people, I'd find a stuffy, overpriced, country club-style dining room where I'd feel a little uncomfortable and out of place. After all, the general vibe I've gathered about I'On is that it has a sort of Stepford feel to it.
I'm happy to report, however, that I'On's newest restaurant, Jacob's Kitchen, is much more inviting than I would have ever expected (and no, they didn't even attempt to turn my girlfriend into a cyborg). The restaurant is a part of the brand spanking new Inn at I'On, which features seven rooms with features like, "fireplaces, hi-def televisions, and jet soaking tubs...wireless Internet access, a full complimentary membership to the I’On Club,...and breakfast for two." The girlfriend and I were thoroughly impressed; the rooms are certainly much nicer than most places we've stayed.
I know you didn't come here for my thoughts on the rooms, so let's get down to business. Jacob's Kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Jonathan Languell, whose name you may recognize from his days at Sal Parco's popular Boulevard Diner. Languell describes the cuisine as "New South" which, not surprisingly, is all about modern interpretations of classic Southern dishes and flavors. The comfortable 60-seat dining room reminds me quite a bit of those found at Hominy Grill and Fat Hen with a slightly more modernized faux-country home feel. It also features several very cool paintings by local artist Nancy Valelly.
The evening began with a really nice take on one of my favorite Southern side dishes, the hushpuppy. Jacob's Kitchen's version ($7) had the perfect, light interior texture, and were boosted in flavor by tiny pieces of shrimp and corn.
The Peach Spiked Crabcakes ($9) were the highlight of both my and my girlfriend's evening. They were, as all crabcakes should be, filled almost entirely with crab meat. There is nothing more frustrating than excitedly ordering a crabcake, only to bite into it and come away with mostly breading. The subtle peach flavor provided a unique accent to a dish that I imagine will be one of their most popular appetizers, if the crowd's reaction was any indication.
The BBQ Duck Spring Roll ($6.50), wasn't bad, but it didn't particularly impress me. In general, I wish people would just give up on BBQ duck. It may sound great in theory, but the flavor of the bird always seems to get lost in the mix.
Other intriguing starter items featured on the menu but not at the tasting include a drool-inducing Fried Green Tomato Tower with a cajun crawfish corn salad and roasted red pepper coulis ($7) and Southern Fried Quail over cheddar grit cakes, maple pecan brown butter, and caramelized Granny Smith apples ($10).
One of Jacob's Kitchen's most appealing features is the very reasonable pricing of their entrees. Ranging from an $11-$19 with most items settling in around $15, you'd be hard pressed to find most of these items for less than $20-25 downtown.
Braised in a double chocolate stout and served on a piece of cornbread and grilled asparagus spear, the Short Ribs ($15) were another high point. I'm a sucker for braised short ribs in general, but for a man who loves dark beer, this was a match made in heaven. The aroma of this dish was enough to make my mouth water.
The sampling included two dishes featuring everyone's favorite pricey ground chuck replacement, Kobe beef--Jacob's Kobe Beef Meatloaf ($13.50) and a Kobe Beef Burger ($11). The meatloaf was served as a "shooter" in a little glass with red eye gravy. I've never been a meatloaf lover, but I did enjoy Chef Languell's version. The meat was juicy and full of flavor, pretty much everything you want from your meatloaf. Served in slider form and topped with creamy pimento cheese, the burger was tasty, if not a bit too well-done. I have to say, however, I feel the same way about these dishes that I do about BBQ duck. I think using Kobe in these types of dishes may be a bit of overkill. Sure, it looks fantastic on the menu, but it's the culinary equivalent of going to the grocery store in a Rolls Royce. Meatloaf and hamburgers can be done perfectly well (and significantly cheaper) with regular fresh ground beef.
The Carolina Gold BBQ Pork Ribs ($15) were wonderfully tender and flavorful. The only downside was that I had such trouble resisting their call that I very nearly burned my mouth biting into one as soon as it was in front of me. When ordered off the menu they will be served "over a warm potato salad and southern corn cole slaw." Mmmm.
Dishes I'm looking forward to trying in the future include the Roasted Stuffed Pork Tenderloin filled with pear and goat cheese and rolled in honey panko herb crumbs ($15.50) and Lowcountry Paella with mussels, shrimp, scallops, and fish for a crazy $15.50 price tag.
Overall, I think Jacob's Kitchen (set to open February 17th) is going to do very well. The product is high quality, the prices are very reasonable, and the menu is simultaneously both familiar and fresh. It's a little bit off the beaten path, but, in my opinion, well worth the trip."
Hope this helps!
http://www.DavidGHeiser.com - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film
Since I am always telling road-weary friends and colleagues to use Chowhound as a travel resource, I am doubly pleased when the site comes through for me.
Faced in Charleston with options of expensive downtown restaurants and tourist-trappy rib and fish spots, I followed the reccomendation above and had a wonderful meal at Jacob's Kitchen, located just over the bridge in Mt. Pleasant. As a single diner I did not sample much on the menu, but I had an excellent green salad, a very tasty (and large) pork chop with grilled zucchini, sweet potatoes and some sauteed apples; and a nice Zinfandel from the glass wine list. And for both the quality and the portion sizes, the prices were extremely reasonable. I could have easily been satisfied with just the entree plate. Plus easy parking and able, friendly guidance from staff.
If anything, the portions seemed too large, as the margins (and likely the chance of long-term success for the place) could be improved by cutting portions 10-20% at the same price-point. They might sell more dessert that way, too.
The only negative was room acoustics. The place was sparsely attended when I was there, and it was clear that the room would be very, very loud at any capacity over half full.
I will definitely be back next time I am in the Charleston/Mt. Pleasant area.