Undercover Foodie serves up the local dish: Plums Restaurant
By Author Unknown | Date night. A chance to reconnect. An opportunity to hear my real name for an extended stretch of time. Real, adult conversation. I mean, I love our daughter but talking about Elmo and the potty can get old very quickly. It’s safe to say that I’ve been looking forward to this night all week.
Wearing my favorite date night attire and actually wearing make up for a change, my husband, Mr. Foodie, and I head across the Woods Memorial Bridge, to a charming little eatery known as Plums Restaurant. A Bay Street establishment known for their large oyster bar as seen through a large streetside picture window, and a beautiful back porch on which to dine, Plums exudes a hip and modern vibe as soon as you walk in (but not in any way pretentious). I almost feel like I should hear finger snaps and an upright bass plucking away as we walk in, but I quickly shake off the notion as we head to our ‘back porch’ table. On an early May night with low humidity and a cool breeze, one would be crazy to not take in the gorgeous view of the Beaufort River, Waterfront Park, and of course the amazing sunset.
A very friendly waitress greeted us with menus and a big ol’ dose of southern charm, and before I can order my adult beverage, Mr. Foodie delightedly pipes up to say “Ohhhhh, fish tacos!” …and I know that our first course has been decided.
We quickly receive our drinks and place our entrée orders, and precede to… just… breathe. We revel in the tranquility, the reprieve from the rush and the go and ‘hurry up and wait’ of life. We smile at each other, sit back, breathe in the evening air, continue our normal witty back-and-forth banter, and let the ambiance that Plums offers envelop us. An ambiance that so many restaurants either try too hard to achieve and never do, or don’t bother to include along with their daily specials. Ambiance can make you or break you. It sets the mood and the mind and builds the anticipation for what’s to come.
And what comes, does so in no time at all.
Placed before us are two steaming-hot Fish Tacos. Lightly-breaded mahi placed upon a slaw, tossed with a cilantro-chipotle remoulade and rounded out with a warm, ever so slightly toasted corn tortilla and two slices of lime. A wonderful, amuse bouche sized portion for two. Or, in other words, perfection! Sure, one would look at the simplistic qualities of the dish and think, “So what?” But, as I’ve said before, food needn’t always be a complex, multi-level thing to be successful. It can be simple and clean-cut, and as long as it’s flavorful and rounded and good overall… it succeeds.
We toast our limes together (because, well, we’re just silly like that), squeeze them onto the fish, wrap it up and dive right in. What awaits our tongues is nothing short of brilliant. The crispy fish flakes as soon as you bite into it, revealing the tender, delicate flesh within, signifying that it was pulled off the fire at the perfect time. The lightness of the fish is complimented well by the somewhat spicy counterpoint of the slaw. Not overwhelmingly spicy, but a nice kick to awaken your taste buds and get you energized. The tortilla, again, an exciting touch; crisped enough as to not become soggy from the slaw, and, if I have failed to mention, it’s a CORN TORTILLA! Outside of a better-than-decent Mexican restaurant or a large, multi-cultural metropolitan area, it is very, very, unusual to find corn tortillas as an option, let alone a central part of any dish; so authentic and a wonderful change of pace from the over-used flour tortilla of the standard US interpretation of south-of-the-border fare. The squeeze from our single slice of lime complements all the flavors and the overall ambiance that the dish tries to communicate.
We finish our appetizer and let our lips tingle from delicious spices, and before long, the main event is placed before us; Shrimp and Grits for my husband, and Sesame-crusted Yellowfin Tuna for myself. We waste no time and dig in.
Now, I am a kind, polite lady (and quasi-southerner), so I graciously allow my Mr. Foodie 5-8 bites of his meal before I maneuver my fork and steal a large hill of gravy-covered grits. The smell of smoke and bacon waft upward and please my sense of smell, but, upon tasting, only hit a triple and not a homer. The gravy was, surprisingly, much more restrained and timid than anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, it was earthy and rich, but just missing that one thing, perhaps more pepper or a dash of cayenne, to take it from one to two dimensional. However, the bacon was wonderfully free of chewy fat, and the shrimp were plump, juicy and perfectly cooked, and, beside the need for a little more cream, the grits were salty and smooth.
A hearty dish of southern comfort food and a side of a southern sunset place the dish into the feel-good category for the evening.
The allure of yummy shrimp notwithstanding, I didn’t hesitate long before jumping into my dish; A beautifully presented assortment of sliced sesame crusted yellowfin, with marinated and grilled zucchini and squash and a small portion of jasmine rice, all resting on a roasted red pepper coulis (‘coulis’ being just another word for ‘fancy puree’). A straightforward dish with uncomplicated elements, and it resonates on all levels. The fish is perfectly seared on the outside with a lovely raw finish, and the wonderful nuttiness of the sesame contrasts with the saltiness of the fish in a lovely way. A few bites into the crunchy veggies offer a soy-base flavor; the ying to the the yellowfin’s yang. A bite of delectable sticky rice (and I’m a sucker for sticky rice) which is properly used to mop up the red pepper coulis, and this dish is complete.
What is, basically, a deconstructed sushi roll with premium ingredients pleases the palette and fills you up without making you feel as though you need to be rolled out of the restaurant upon tipping your waitress.
Tummies full and hesitant to bring our date night to an end just yet, we continued to bathe in the wonderful ambience that Plums seems to always have ‘on special’. The breeze, the creeks and groans from the plankwood floor beneath our feet, the shaded view of downtown Beaufort’s Waterfront Park, and the playful drama of watching the cat from Luther’s Rare & Well Done next door chase a squirrel up an old oak tree (yes you read that correctly, and I’m not making it up either).
The charm of Plums is the same charm that is Beaufort itself, and it helps to make one feel that, even if “y’all” wasn’t instilled in your vocabulary from infancy, if grits had to become an acquired taste, or if the fact that a pound of fresh, local shrimp only costs about seven bucks seems too good to be true…you are welcomed here, and you are, truly, home.
It is with a full and contented tummy that this Foodie very happily bestows a 4½ fork review upon Plums.