Undercover Foodie serves up the local dish: Emily's Restaurant & Tapas Bar
By Author Unknown | This foodie has something to confess; I’m a completely indecisive individual. Well, that’s not entirely true. I find when it comes to major life-altering decisions, those are easy to make. But ask me what movie I’d like to watch or what band I’d like to listen to while driving around town… well, bring a book, kick off your shoes and get comfortable because it’ll be a while before I come up with an answer.
I’m just as bad inside of a restaurant, which drives Mr. Foodie completely batty. But it’s not that I don’t know what I want, far from it actually. My indecisiveness persists while pouring over a menu because, quite frankly, I want it all. Everything. I love flavors, and am always wanting to sample any and all available. Textures, tonalities, spice, heat, savory, sweet, cold… all of it is appetizing. So it always takes me forever, and a severe staring contest on behalf of my husband, for me to make a decision on a meal.
That’s why a diverse place like Emily’s Restaurant & Tapas Bar is just perfect for a person like me.
Emily’s Restaurant and Tapas Bar, a Beaufort staple and favorite of many, truly has something for everyone no matter what flavors you crave or what type of evening you desire. Offering two different yet equally inviting dining rooms, an extensive menu for both tapas and dinners, an absolutely gorgeous bar, and a huge wine list… they have everything that you could possibly need to have a wonderful night.
Taking a seat in the larger dining room and sitting against the wooded, almost spiced-infused wall, I immediately take in my surroundings and feel as if I’ve stepped into an old classic that, like a fine wine, has only gotten better with age. After perusing the menu, I realize it would be quite easy for me to get lost in it. However, by pulling flavor profiles from numerous backgrounds and pairing them with a wide assortment of proteins and veggies, Emily has, quite literally, everything you can think of. You can easily tell that this menu was created by someone with something very special in mind. With the small bites and small prices, I think that even this indecisive mind can be easily made up.
Choosing a sampling of fare from both land and sea, I decide to start with Grilled quail over béarnaise sauce, and the Oysters trio; a sampling of three oyster tapas offerings. Or, in other words, my own version of surf and turf.
Almost as quick as I order, my experience begins. Hard to decide where to start, but unable to resist the almost adorable quail presentation, I go for the bird first. Upon first bite, I know I started in the right direction. Earthy, gamey, tangy-hot and so, so delicious. Perfectly cooked quail with moist, tender meat with a slight char from the grill. It has been ages since I indulged in a game bird and as I eat, I have no idea why I’ve waited so long. To further compliment these savory flavors is a wonderfully herbed, ever so slightly sweet and buttery sauce that just begs me to drag my quail legs through. On the side, a spongy slice of garlic bread to help mop up the extra sauce, and almost too soon for my palette’s liking, my plate is clean.
Before me, lay two oysters in three distinctive styles; Oysters Morgan consists of Onion Bacon and Swiss Cheese, Oysters Rockefeller renders Spinach, Parmesan Cheese and hot sauce, and Oysters Casino contains Bacon, bread crumbs, onions, and peppers. Of the three, Rockefeller is my favorite. It blends a creamy richness, salty and slight whisperings of a kick, with the delicate taste of oyster coming in and out of spotlight. The other two styles are quite delicious, the wonderfully contrasting texture of the Casino, and well balanced varying flavors of the Morgan, but the toppings are slightly overpowering to the extent that it can be hard to taste the oyster itself. Overall, it’s a satisfying selection that helps to get you energized for the rest of your meal without filling you up.
At this point, I realize it may be a good idea to order dinner, since kitchens and restaurants do close eventually. One dish that happens to be on special for the evening, Grilled Salmon with a Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce over Wilted Spinach, has had me enticed from the moment I sat down, but with so many equally attractive options like Canard al’orange, Beef Tartar, Rack of Lamb, Steak Au Poivre with a Peppercorn, Cream & Cognac Reduction… it was a seemingly impossible decision. Deciding that I cannot resist sundried tomatoes and my renewed love for salmon, I order the entrée, along with a cup of She-Crab soup.
Quite the regionally specific dish, She-Crab soup is a Lowcountry staple. After living in Charleston for 6 years, I’d like to think I’ve become well versed in this South Carolina delicacy. I couldn’t resist the temptation to try Emily’s version.
Placed before me, piping hot, creamy and thick, I can just smell the familiar notes of the soup. The delicious flavors of crab, sherry and slight dash of paprika immediately make an impression and bring back a wonderful memory. There is simply no comparing a Beaufort She-crab to a Charleston She-Crab. This version is in its own right unique and bold, reminding you that while Beaufort is an intregal piece of the Lowcountry as a whole, it is truly distinctive and shining in its own way… and much like this soup, quite delicious.
Finally, the main event arrives. At my eager hands is a filet of Grilled Salmon with a sun dried tomato cream sauce, over wilted spinach, and rounding out the line-up are zucchini, squash, and rice. Before I even dig into the fish, I sacrifice manners for flavors and sample the sauce with my finger. While a cream sauce, it is refreshingly light and thin. Subtle citrusy flavors that always compliment a fish are further punctuated by a squeeze of orange and the slight tartness from the tomatoes, and the sauce serves to gently blanket the fish and never takes away from the salmon itself. Digging in with my fork, I find the fish to be perfectly cooked and flaking with only the slightest pressure from my utensil. Upon tasting, the salmon starts delicately upon the tongue and finishes with slight buttery notes. The tart and delightfully chewy sun-dried tomatoes offer a wonderful bold flavor. Placed upon a bed of wilted yet-still-crunchy spinach; all serve as a perfect support cast to the main star, the salmon. This is the kind of dish that you immediately analyze and break down in your head in order to figure out how to replicate at home, all the while knowing your version may come in a close-second to this winner, because it’s just that wonderful.
The alternate texture of the meal that lies in the rice, while welcomed, falls short. Slightly over-salted and ever so slightly undercooked, the flavor of the rice doesn’t quite compliment the fish, and had the starch been a quinoa or couscous, or even a wild-rice may have complimented the dish better. However, while the zucchini and squash seem like just a simple veggie side, the flavors are quite surprising and downright savory. It’s as if the veggies were cooked in a delightful batter that was removed before being placed on my plate. Buttery but not drowned in any liquid, and retaining a wonderful crisped crunch which is difficult at times with zucchini. It’s all I can do to keep myself from asking my waitress for more. This was definitely a savory, tasty dish and happily gobbled-up by yours truly.
Finally, after a long noshing session, I sit back in my chair and relax. Though I ate a lot of food, and many of you may be wondering how bottomless my stomach may actually be, I realize how everything about Emily’s just makes so much sense.
How this humble establishment succeeds by filling me up with delicious and diverse food without weighting me down with out of control portions. Emily’s Restaurant & Tapas Bar does it by creating a warm and inviting atmosphere, offering various ways to have the dining experience that your heart and stomach desires, and proves why it’s a favorite among Beaufortonians and visitors alike.
Even from something as simple as a coat rack by the front door and a piano at the bar, Emily’s invites you in, to leave your troubles at the door and to not worry… they’re here to take care of you.