#Huangry: A Tasting at The Anchorage
There's been a ton of hype about The Anchorage already.
My friends at Community Journals have done a great job of covering this restaurant leading up to its opening, so if you want to know more, you should hit up these links:
- "It Takes a Village" // TOWN Dec 2016
- "We've watched The Anchorage Every Step of the Way" // The Greenville Journal, Jan 20, 2016
From all that coverage, you can find out about the chef, his staff, his philosophy, the artisans he uses, the evolution of the space, etc. But in my opinion, there's only so much you can glean about the experience of eating and drinking at a place when you stick to that background info. Though descriptions and experiences are entirely subjective and highly personal, I think those are still really helpful elements in setting the stage for a place.
So here's my (admittedly limited) take on some of the food and drink. Word of warning: this isn't a comprehensive look. There are so many factors involved just in the act of dining that its a bit futile for me to try and be authoritative or objective. Plus, The Anchorage's menu has changed several times in just the month it's been open. Items have disappeared, been replaced, or been reincarnated in slightly different forms. But if you want to get a better sense for how the menu vibes (in a general sense), perhaps this will be helpful.
Let's start with the poke. Though the ingredients may change, it's my understanding that there will always be a bowl of poke on the menu. By virtue of its definition, this traditional Hawaiian raw fish salad is fresh, savory, chewy.
This particular version used mackerel (trout has also appeared), though right now, The Anchorage has pivoted instead towards ceviche. (I suppose you could consider that a distant cousin to poke.)
Mixed in with the fish is baked fish skin, Granny Smith apple chunks, shoyu, lime, ginger, and charred scallion.
It's a dynamic and playful dish. Individual flavors stand out so as to keep the dish from becoming this morass of generic "flavor," while also playing well together. I rather enjoyed the baked fish skin, which were delightfully crisp and savory. The charred scallion was also a welcome touch, a light smokiness that kept the acidic apple and lime in check.
My notes: A ton of umami balanced against punchy bursts of tart apple, and a gratifying, firm mouthfeel underpinning it all.
The slow roasted Muscovy duck was another really enjoyable dish, and really beautifully presented. Typically, meat dishes are hard to translate visually since they tend to be rather brown and flat. Not so in this case.
Slices of rare duck, charred kale, crisp mushroom, and black garlic puree are certainly darker in color, but there's a wonderful tonal play. And that's before we get to the flavors.
The richness of duck is something I tend to be very on or off about, and here, it's still not my favorite. But it nevertheless is mouthwatering, and the delicate kale leaves play off the meat's robustness for some interesting textures.
My notes: Rich and unctuous, tender and succulent to the bite, with charred kale providing a flourish of crumbling crispness.
The cocktail menu is also quite appealing to me. It's a limited list, and the cocktails err on the boozier side. In other words, there's not so much choice as to paralyze, and you're almost guaranteed to have a strong, but well-balanced drink. I've tried quite a bit of the menu, but this one hit the spot the other day (a breezy, sunny day in the mid-60s).
The Snowbird: Espolon blanco, green chartreuse, Lillet Blanc, basil, cucumber, and a St. Germaine glass rinse.
As you might imagine, it's light and refreshing, a smidge sweet, and on the verge of dangerously easy to drink.
I also should take this opportunity to mention the insanely high quality of ice in The Anchorage's cocktails. Clear, through and through, made fresh and cut daily.
My notes: Tender and green like early spring, with tequila riding a smooth wave on the back end, reminding you to sip, not gulp.
Here are some other recommendations I've sampled:
- The Board (listed on the menu as "For the Table"). An incredible value at $20, and here's a tip: you can ask for additional bread at no charge. Chef McPhee simply doesn't want to provide too much and have it go to waste. But it won't. You'll want every bit of bread (baked down the street at the Bake Room) to gobble up the spread. The duck marmalade was a highlight for me, and I'm always a sucker for pickles.
- Brussel Sprouts. At first, I wasn't convinced. The sprouts are well-executed, to be sure, but I perhaps have had sprout-fatigue, since everyone seems to label every restaurant's sprouts as the best. In this case, I've come around. I still would hesitate to say these are the absolute best sprouts, but I really enjoy that McPhee is playing around with the funk that is fish sauce. It's a bit pungent if you're not accustomed to the smell, but it just adds so much damn umami.
- Brown Butter Cauliflower Grits. I love grits, so I'm admittedly biased. With the addition of brown butter? Game over.
- Shiso Vain. This cocktail is perhaps my favorite — a go-to when I don't want to make a decision. Four Roses bourbon, Gosling's Black Seal, tonic, ginger, shiso leaf, lemon-hopped bitters, and ground allspice.
I've also heard universally good things about the carrots, the fermented vegetable dumplings, and the Bahamian salted fish fritters, though I've not yet had a chance to try them. As you might imagine, there's plenty I haven't touched upon, and it would be a futile (if delicious) task to try without an unlimited budget. The menu changes too frequently for that.
But that's also rather wonderful. There's always something new, thoughtful, and interesting to try.
586 Perry Avenue
Greenville, SC 29611