Coast is the newest restaurant of Gary York, owner of Enoteca Sogno, an Italian wine bar. For months, I'd seen the "Coming Soon" sign in the window on the Grove Avenue space formerly occupied by Escobar and Du Jour and, being a fan of Enoteca Sogno, I was eager to try Coast.
Like its sister restaurant, Coast is small, with a bar, a few booths and several tables, seating about 30 inside with room for more outside under red market umbrellas.
As its name implies, Coast has a seafood focus, although there are meat and fowl options on the menu. But we were there to see what kind of magic chef Andy DeGrange could work on fish. With a background that includes Patina Grill and Bank, DeGrange is young and known to be talented.
My companion and I started our dinner with the mussels and roasted-red-pepper soup with jumbo lump crab. The soup had a one-note flavor of red pepper, was a bit thin and watery, and the crab at the bottom of the bowl seemed an afterthought. But the mussels! Deftly prepared with white wine, shallots, garlic, parsley and tomatoes, they were the plumpest, most tender mussels I've eaten. I was glad there was bread to sop up the lovely broth, too.
I knew I wanted the shrimp-and-grits entrée the minute I saw it listed on the menu. This Lowcountry dish is one of my favorites when well prepared, and I wasn't disappointed. The shrimp — moist and sweet, cooked to pink perfection — rested on a mound of creamy, stone-ground grits and oven-roasted tomatoes and was blanketed with a garlicky, sherry-spiked cream sauce. They were accompanied by some haricots verts, slender and not too crisp.
My companion opted for that night's special of Arctic char, accompanied by succotash. The fish was expertly pan-seared with a crisp crust and was well-seasoned, tender and flaky. Fresh corn and lima beans, lightly buttered, evoked the best of summer's bounty. Rounding out his selection was a side of brown-butter mashed potatoes. They were more like smashed potatoes, with big chunks of potatoes left for an interesting texture, but they were underseasoned. I appreciate that a chef wants you to taste the food as he has prepared it, but these potatoes needed salt and pepper, which our server brought when we requested them.
I highly recommend the desserts at Coast. I sampled three during my two visits, and they all delivered. The strawberry shortcake was a daily special, but I hope they keep it on the menu as long as strawberries are in season. The shortcake was flaky and not too sweet, the strawberries ripe and the whipped cream fresh. The chocolate torte was a wedge of dark chocolate with a crispy sugar top. It was surrounded by crème Anglaise, the perfect foil for the richness of the chocolate. The third dessert was an apple croustillant — apples wrapped in phyllo dough and served with caramel pecans, vanilla ice cream and crème Anglaise. The flavors worked well together, but the phyllo was a bit tough, so I wondered if it had been made a day earlier.
The lunch menu at Coast echoes some of the dinner menu but also offers sandwiches and some different sides.
I was all set to try the oyster po' boy when our waitress said they were out of oysters. So I ordered the Coast BLT, which is just what you'd expect, with the addition of a fried egg. The bacon was crisp, the egg cooked over medium, with just a hint of runny yolk, and the bread was thickly sliced and grilled to a golden brown. My one complaint: The tomatoes were insipid. With the right tomato, the Coast BLT would be a home run.
My friend tried the Kobe cheeseburger. Generously sized and topped with Vermont white cheddar and caramelized onions, it was juicy and delicious.
The servers at Coast are pleasant and knowledgeable about the food and the wine list. On both of my visits, owner York was hands-on — taking and bringing orders, talking with the customers, and even clearing tables when necessary.
Although Coast has been open for just a few months, York's experience and attention to detail make it seem well rooted. One word of advice: Coast doesn't take reservations, so time your visit accordingly. But if you have to wait, know that it will be worth it.
5806 Grove Ave., 288-8466
Appetizers $9 to $12. Soups, salads and sandwiches $7 to $14. Entrées $20 to $28. Desserts $7 to $8.
Lunch: Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m.