Chef de Cuisine Jason Rheinwald’s favorite is his Filet Oscar, served with asparagus, Yukon gold potatoes and the restaurant’s signature béarnaise sauce. “It’s a fairly new item for us, but I plan on keeping this as a staple for many years to come,” said Rheinwald. “My goal is to become the premier steakhouse in the country.”
He is on his way, having earned top distinctions from both Forbes (Four Stars) and AAA (Four Diamonds). “We cook our steaks under pressure with garlic and thyme,” said Rheinwald. “The garlic and thyme serve as a perfume while water pressure cooking (at 130 degrees) yields a perfectly cooked steak throughout.”
“I have some of the freshest fish in the country,” said Jonathan Banta, Chef de Cuisine at The Atlantic Room, who chose his favorite tasty redfish dish that is served in Lowcountry style. “Our redfish is seared and served with Adluh Farms grits, sautéed spinach and tomato jam, then topped with a hollandaise and herb drizzle. It’s probably my second-biggest seller. We are one of only two restaurants in the Charleston area that offers it, when available.”
The biggest seller at The Atlantic Room, where seafood is king, is the crispy fried shrimp that is part of the “tasting” menu. Banta notes that he sells a sizable amount of the dish annually. “It’s not a creation of mine, but I have to give it respect,” he chuckled. “If we took that off the menu, there would be a war. It will never leave the menu.”
Chef Ryley McGillis chose his favorite sauce, the sausage gravy that his guests rave about and tops some of his signature dishes, including his biscuits and gravy, the shrimp and grits and the “Tour of the Lowcountry,” a menu favorite for more than seven years. It is also a dish that proudly uses produce from local growers, such as Geechie Boy Grits from Wadmalaw Island and tomatoes from John’s Island. The “tasting” includes the signature She Crab bisque, fried green tomatoes served with crispy chorizo and pimento cheese, a surf-and-turf combination of filet mignon and shrimp and grits, and the seasonal bread pudding.
“Jasmine Porch is a restaurant that is built upon familiar flavors and southern cuisine,” says McGillis. “Our goal is to provide our guests with an experience that offers a true taste of genuine southern hospitality.”
Chef Jon Williams’ favorite on the Tomasso menu is his new menu creation of Butternut Squash Ravioli, with toasted pumpkin seeds, escarole and parsnip puree.
“The parsnip blends beautifully with this dish, as it adds a nutty creaminess to complement the butternut squash and balance the bitterness of the escarole,” said Williams. “I am a big fan of all of our raviolis because they are carefully handmade here in the kitchen. And this item can change with the seasons.”
One menu item that isn’t likely to change at all, however, is the short-ribs pasta, the top seller on his menu. The meat is braised and served with handmade pasta and local mushrooms.
Chef Jason Cote surprised us when he spotlighted his signature salad as his favorite, instead of the meaty dishes that fill the menu. “One of my favorite dishes would have to be the Warm Spinach Salad,” said Cote. “The dish has been a great success and that is why it is on our menu year-round. You can add a meat like smoked pulled chicken, grilled salmon or grilled local shrimp to make it a healthy full meal. We sell a fair amount of this dish, and the people love it. It gives us a chance to showcase our fresh, local ingredients, like our goat’s milk feta cheese from Split Creek Farms in Anderson, SC. People will write to ask for the recipe on this dish, and I don’t mind sharing it.”
The salad consists of crisp spinach topped with sautéed caramelized red onions, grape tomatoes, broccoli and artichoke hearts deglazed with the House-Made Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette. The dish is then topped with local feta cheese and toasted pine nuts from the Charleston (SC) Nut Company.
“Our goal is to serve upscale comfort food, and we mix it up,” said Cote. “We even have an Asian flair to some of our dishes, but we do the signature BBQ, a smoked chicken, a gorgonzola meatloaf and a black and blue steak. And a signature side is our macaroni and cheese that is made with four cheeses.”
This is a place where most visiting families with children dine at least once. And Cote is ready to serve large parties and big numbers. “I can remember a night when we served 350 for dinner,” said Cote.
Every meal on Kiawah Island deliciously expresses why fresh is best. At more than a dozen dining spots around the island, Kiawah chefs enthusiastically embrace farm-to-table philosophy and source vegetables, meats, seafood and more from the Lowcountry’s abundant farms and docks. The result is enticing menus and great value in a wide choice of settings. So whether you’re enjoying fine dining or a quick bite on the way to the beach, freshness and flavor season every plate.
“We have some farmers who deliver to us so fresh that they still have dirt on their hands,” said Williams, Chef de Cuisine at Tomasso at Turtle Point Clubhouse, where Italian cuisine is offered with exciting new twists on traditional favorites. “We work with a lot of local farms. We feel it is important to buy the freshest vegetables. It also helps us support the local economy. We get tomatoes from John’s Island, and our mushrooms are from Daniel Island.”
Beef served at the award-winning Ocean Room is purchased from local farms in the region, such as Palmetto Beef Co. in Gaffney, SC, where the cattle are pasture-raised and naturally lean. The fish is purchased fresh from the marina on Wadmalaw Island whenever possible.
Everybody wins when local purveyors are used—from farmer to chef to diner. The food naturally tastes better. Farm fresh is a growing trend in fine dining, but here at the restaurants at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, it has been a standard for decades.
“Everyone is trying to replicate what we have here, but it’s almost impossible,” said Banta. “We have the ocean and the most fertile soil found almost anywhere in the country. We have the best of both worlds—great local farms and fresh seafood. It’s great for our chefs and great for the customer.”