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Behind the Review: Goin’ Coastal

Credit: Becky Stein
Credit: Becky Stein

In this week’s review of Goin’ Coastal — the new Virginia-Highland satellite of a popular Canton seafood restaurant — I’ll tell you about my efforts at tracking down a recipe.

One of the items on Goin’ Coastal’s menu called Sullivan’s Island Shrimp purports to be a “Low Country favorite.” I didn’t particularly like or hate this thick, tomatoey saute seasoned with curry powder. It might have been better had the seasoning been more layered or if the shrimp were a little less springy in texture, but it was easy enough to eat.

Yet I was unaware of any curried seafood dishes in the Lowcountry repertoire, so I asked chef Zach Kell about it through his publicist, and he responded in an email that it was an “adaptation of a recipe that I came across in a 19th century Charleston League cookbook.”

I called or wrote to several cookbook authors and food writers to get to the bottom of this recipe. Many turned up a dish called “Sullivan’s Island Shrimp Bog” — so called for the saturated, well seasoned rice that is mixed with shrimp but no curry.

This plate of food tasted more like a shrimp version of Country Captain — the curried chicken dish popular around Charleston.

I liked Goin’ Coastal, but it felt to me like a one-star restaurant under our new rating system — in other words, it’s a good neighborhood choice despite an uneven performance from the kitchen. I really liked the simply prepared, sustainable seafood dishes, but on any given night the choices were slim. One night, the only choices of finfish were steelhead trout and amberjack.

On the other hand, the menu offers a number of more complex preparations that needed some tweaking, especially the Lowcountry-style dishes. I think with a little more recipe moxie or fish-market variety this restaurant will hit its stride.

A few more notes:

  • Because of space limitations, I didn’t mention a couple of good-enough dishes we tried, including a fun basket of fried pickle chips and a decent slice of pecan pie made by an owner’s mother. Nor did I mention a dull lobster-and-peekytoe-crab cake served with a bit of corn salsa or a rubbery butterscotch pot de creme.
  • The bar mixes a variety of house cocktails I didn’t try and pours an OK lineup of wines by the glass.
  • Seconds after giving the hostess a bogus name at the front desk,  some guy came up and loudly said, “Say, aren’t you….?” I lied through my teeth to him and fooled no one.

11 comments Add your comment

Reds

September 17th, 2010
11:03 am

Gotta love dumb @ss people….

Deanna

September 17th, 2010
11:17 am

Did it make you feel a little bad to have to say that someone’s mama’s pecan pie was just OK? :)

Kenbud

September 17th, 2010
11:23 am

LOL … I actually thought about that. What if I saw you out and about? …. Probably just be like “hey!” ….. and that would be it. LOL

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Behind the Review: Goin’ Coastal http://bit.ly/9kt9UI [...]

Spoiler Alert

September 17th, 2010
1:31 pm

In case anyone forgot to record Top Chef, Kevin Sbraga won.

KEAD

September 17th, 2010
4:50 pm

I am thoroughly enjoying the “Behind the Review” content. This is a great new feature, and I hope you continue it. Thanks for the additional context!

RK

September 17th, 2010
5:15 pm

Crab and butterscotch? That reminds me of the scallop-butterscotch Top Chef nightmare of a few years ago…

Muffin

September 17th, 2010
6:20 pm

My grandmother used to make and now my mother makes Country Captain. That is some good stuff!!

Soupy Sales

September 17th, 2010
6:21 pm

John: I’m the dude who spoke to you during your dinner at an “undisclosed location” last Friday (in the general vicinity of Inman Park). I tried to be discreet (waiting until your dining partner was away from the table, and out-of-earshot of any waitstaff), but wanted to tell you I enjoyed your writing. Ifigured you must get spotted regularly given the photo above your column. My wife smacked me later for interfering with your dinner – - we’re from NYC where you never bother local celebs at a meal. Reading about the guy above, I guess I wasn’t so bad considering…

If spotted during work hours again, I’ll be sure to play Alfred the Butler to your Batman. Everybody with a brain may know you’re really Bruce Wayne, but I ain’t sayin’ nuttin’.

Seriously, it was nice to see you and I hope you enjoyed dinner. Also enjoy this “Behind the Review” segment; very “Inside Baseball” stuff.

Soupy Sales

September 17th, 2010
6:56 pm

D’oh! Just noticed that said photo has been neatly scrubbed recently from the ajc site. (Hopefully now you’ll be less bothered by knuckleheads like me and the fan from Coastal.)

But I have to admit I think it’s a shame – - I always thought it was pretty ballsy and cool to show your face as a dining critic. So long as you take reasonable precautions (fake name, low profile, table away from kitchen), there’s no reason to think your experience would be affected much one way or the other. At most, you’d be running the same risk that, say, a music critic runs at a concert. Sure he might be spotted by the band or orchestra, but are they really gonna change the play list just for him? At most it might make for a more energetic performance, but that’s good for everybody. Similarly, an “aware” chef may seek to improve your service or plating, but that’s good for the entire restaurant – - and it’s not like he/she is gonna pull out some “super secret” ingredient just for your dish. Quality will out. (And so will blah-ness, for that matter.)

My vote? Be bold. Keep the photo up.

(And apologies for two consecutive long posts.)

Barbie

September 19th, 2010
3:02 pm

Strange combination (espacially the curry and crab). I’m very difficult with new dishes but this could be good. Have to try it soon. Kuhn Rikon Duromatic