Friday, January 7, 2011

Hank's Seafood

Over Christmas Break we visited one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston, SC. Hank's is the place to go for seafood in Charleston. It isn't the nicest restaurant in Charleston, but it does, in my opinion, have the best seafood. The billboards on the way into the city want you to think that Hyman's is the best seafood place and is where all of the locals go. Don't be fooled. While other restaurants have great seafood options, if seafood is your number one interest, then go to Hank's.

I started off my meal with a dozen oysters on the half shell. I love oysters on the half shell. They are one of the most delicate, sensual, and tasty foods in the world.

The dozen oysters were  a sample of four different oysters from three different locations. One group of four were from Apalachicola, Florida. These were your typical Gulf oysters. They are good, but nothing special. The other two groups of four were from the Pacific coast. While all of the oysters were delicious and I would recommend the oyster sampler, I did have a couple of complaints. First, I had to ask the waiter where the oysters are from. I would appreciate it if the waiter, as has happened at other restaurants, informed me of their source upon giving me the plate. Second, I asked if the pacific oysters were pacifics or kumamotos. I recently read a fantastic book on oysters, The Geography of Oysters by Rowan Jacobsen. It turns out that there are four different types of oysters grown in the United States: eastern, pacific, European flats, and kumamotos. The pacifics and easterns are native to the United States. The European flats are native to Europe but are apparently quite rare in the US today. The kumamotos were imported from Japan and account for a huge share of the oysters grown on the west coast. When I asked the question, the waiter was clearly befuddled. Perhaps this was not a fair question of my waiter because as an oyster nerd I am not a typical customer and perhaps I should have further explained myself. Thus, perhaps my complaint is not a fair complaint. However, I feel that the proper response would have been to go back to the raw bar and ask for clarification. My third complaint is that my oysters had an unusually large amount of shell bits in them. Despite having just claimed that I am an oyster nerd, I'm not sure if this is preventable with skill and care or just a random and unavoidable occurrence.

My wife had she-crab soup for her appetizer.

For all of you not from Charleston, she-crab soup is a delicacy often imitated and rarely perfected. She-crab soup requires crab roe and a good she-crab soup should have a generous helping of crab roe, sherry, and portions of crab meat. As you can see from the picture, she-crab soup is a creamy soup. It has a sweetness from the crab and a slightly sweet kick from the sherry. Hank's she-crab soup was above par. Both my wife and I gave it our seal of approval. It was not the best we have ever had but it was worth ordering. It had roe, sherry, and nice large pieces of crab meat.

For an entree, both my wife and I had the tuna. We have ordered the rare seared tuna almost every time we have visited Hank's.
As seen above, the tuna has several pieces of tuna with a nice rare/raw center. It is accompanied by caramelized onions, goat cheese, black olives, basil, sweet reduced tomatoes, and a puff pastry. It seems like it wouldn't work. I always imagine, and most chefs seem to think, that rare seared tuna is a dish to be created in an Asian style. But the sweetness of the caramelized onions, the creaminess of the goat cheese, the spice of the basil, and the salt of the olives all combine to create one of my favorite dishes. The puff pastry has never really done anything for me, although it can be useful to mop up whatever is left at the end. The rare seared tuna entree runs around twenty-eight dollars.

My in-laws and the rest of those with us all ordered a fried seafood platter.

I love fried seafood, but with the other options I couldn't bring myself to order fried seafood. Fried seafood, to me, is more of a meal to be ordered at your local hole in the wall. I don't want to get dressed up (see below) and pass up on the tuna in favor of fried seafood. I will say that Hank's does have excellent fried seafood, as it well should for the twenty dollar plus price tag on the fried seafood platters. The platters offer excellent fried oysters, shrimp, scallops, fish, and deviled crab. In addition, Hank's has excellent fried sweet potato chips that come with the platters.

As I indicated above, I like to dress up to go to Hank's. I consider it to be one of Charleston's nicer establishments. It is no Cypress or Peninsula Grill, but it is still a nice restaurant. As for all of Charleston's nicer establishments, it really grinds my gears when tourists and others lacking sufficient class visit such places while donning their most comfortable t-shirt or jeans. Do yourself and all of those around you a favor and at least put on a collared shirt of some type and some type of pants nicer than jeans. Or at the very least, wear your best designer jeans.

Conclusion: if you find yourself in the Holy City with a hankering for seafood, stroll on over to Hank's. You won't be disappointed.

Hank's Seafood
10 Hayne Street
Charleston, SC 29401

Hank's Seafood on Urbanspoon

Hank's Seafood Restaurant on Restaurantica

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