"Study the past if you would define the future."
This ancient ingot of Confucius wisdom gets modern expression at Revival, where dishes from Charleston's culinary past are being redefined for generations of diners, old and new. Chef Forrest Parker, a South Carolina Chef Ambassador in 2016 and devoted student of local food history, shepherds his knowledge through time's crawl space and emerges into the present with the bones of classic dishes intact, yet wearing a few nouveau embellishments. Reviving these classics while balancing nostalgic and contemporary touches is a tough gig, but Parker aims to be master of the challenge.
Revival, which opened in June 2018 at the Vendue Inn, has a relaxed, yet refined vibe and a staff that has done its homework. Ask your server anything about an ingredient and you'll get the full rundown on origin, uses and unique qualities. Parker and local farmers work together to bring heirloom foods like Jimmy Red Grits, Bradford Watermelons, the African Runner Peanut and Nostrale rice to the table. You can also get a bit of a history lesson on the dishes themselves.
For example, diners learn the She Crab Soup is based on the original recipe of William Deas, an African-American chef who worked in Charleston in the early 1900s. True to its roots, Parker's version sinks lump crab into a silky cream broth that is lightly seasoned and stippled with sherry and glossy orange crab roe for a bit of tang.
A familiar Charleston rice dish is another classic honored with a place on Parker's menu. His Lowcountry Pirlou is built on a foundation of one of South Carolina's most heralded heritage foods: Carolina Gold Rice. Parker nudges the light sweetness of the rice toward nuttiness by cooking it, pancake-style, until it has a toasty bottom - a tender-crisp disc that holds up beneath a mound of fresh lobster, crab and shrimp.
Another offering that falls into the "local legend" food category is the Crumb Fried Seafood, in which flounder, shrimp and oysters hit the fryer dressed in the signature cracker-crumb coating of the former Edisto Motel. It's a dish that tugs the brain-strings of locals and lures lovers of fresh fried seafood, too.
The cocktail menu hits all the right spots. If you require an antidote to the Charleston heat, try the Blushing Beauty - vodka, fresh watermelon, lemon, mint and Champagne - or the Revival Julep, spiked with the traditional mint and a surprise hint of peaches that deepens the Southern flavors of this regional classic.