If you ever find yourself on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, make time to have a meal here. We (my family and I) avidly follow the “Impossible” adventures of Chef Robert on television; whether he is on Iron Chef, Restaurant Impossible or Dinner Impossible. His determination, obvious culinary skill and leadership abilities inspire me and clearly, inspire the people directly around him in his daily life. So far as I can see, he makes a point of staying true to his ethos, which our visit to his restaurant here in Hilton Head bore out.
There are many small shopping centers along the main road through the Island, often making it difficult to find a destination. I would recommend calling for directions or using a GPS to find the restaurant as it is way back in a nook in one of these shopping areas. The reward for the hunt was worth it though. The previous owners ran an Indian buffet from this site before EAT! took over. While the decor is Spartan, it is warm and the seating arrangements allowed us to feel we had privacy even though the restaurant was completely full. All of the visible staff were male and clearly worked well together. Our waiter was Jim and he was an absolute delight. He had a warm demeanor and even brought Chef Lee out to the table to answer questions…and Chef Lee made not one but two trips to check on us! Jim does a wonderful impression of Chef Robert and when he says “this is good” then, by golly, you should believe him!
The menu is dedicated to fresh local foods of the highest caliber. The menu is organized into four main sections: Tapas, Green, Entrees and Sides. We will discuss dessert later. We ordered more than we could eat, but didn’t want to miss an opportunity to really sample Chef Robert’s cuisine. We were not disappointed. My son had the baked brie as an appetizer. I managed to sneak one small bite without getting stabbed with his fork and it was sublime. My husband had a seared tuna appetizer with a ginger “slaw” side. I was surprised by his selection…but his plate was empty when it was removed! I had the crab benedict and we all shared the tomato soup. I should have just stayed with the soup…it was the best I have ever had. (The crab dish was superb too.)
The entrees included chicken, fish, beef and other seasonal items. I tried the cold smoked ribeye…having seen this technique on Iron Chef ala Chef Morimoto. It was delicious! My son had salmon and succotash. The succotash was made from hominy, white beans (looked like lima beans) and something else…it was fabulous. Whenever my mother used the word succotash in our house I developed an instant GI issue to avoid the meal. I am now a convert…but only for this kind. In short, it was all amazing and delicious. We tried sizzled collard greens, grits with tomato and harvarti and foie gras on housemade blini…YUM!
THEN there was dessert. Fortunately, Jim let us have a little rest in our booth…having gone entirely off reservation with our diets, though, there was no turning back. So we rested and sipped water. Then THE ANGELS SANG HYMNS OF GLORY!!! While the Chocolate Ridiculous Cake rocked my son’s world, my husband and I went at the Sweet Potato Bread Pudding…and folks, it was manna from heaven. At the end my husband proclaimed (and this was completely out of character for him) that he would love to run his tongue all over that plate. (I spoke privately with Jim and took some of the caramel sauce home for private use…enough said. Why miss an opportunity like that after 22 years of marriage?)
Here is the skinny (which we no longer are) on reservations. For some reason, Tuesday nights book up 10-11 days in advance. We went on a Wednesday evening (with reservations). Nathan handled the arrangements and was quite professional. Don’t let his professionalism fool you…he has a sense of humor. He came by and saw our empty dessert plates. I informed him the desserts were utterly unacceptable…for a moment horror swept across his face, then he looked at me, we both laughed (well, he actually snorted!) and the plates were swept away. Additionally, there is first come/first served seating in the lounge. If you show up at 5pm and just go into the right, there likely will be seating there in the lounge and you will have a lovely meal…so do not despair if you can’t get a reservation.
The food was top notch. The staff were perfection. It was a memorable family outing. I do have two questions, that go for all restaurants. What is the obsession with dim lighting? I am near-sighted anyway and this dim lighting thing does not feel intimate, it feels like I am in a cave. The other question, well, I will put it out there and let you decide for yourselves. Here is a photo of the main lighting in Eat! Besides being dim and RED (the whole place glowed red), it looked like this:
I highly recommend this dining experience despite the dim lighting. Bring a book light and enjoy spectacular food as it is meant to be enjoyed. You will not be disappointed! Thumbs up to Chef Lee and Chef Robert and all their impeccable staff!
with love, light and laughter always, Mary Ellen
P.S. I checked this morning with those in the know and the NEPA FIBER FESTIVAL IS ON!!! If you can get there go, maybe wear boots, but don’t miss my favorite event of the year! ❤