Opportunity knocked and Matt Bolus answered. The former sous chef at the Ocean Room at The Sanctuary realized many chefs' dream — a "stove" to call home. In the case of Bolus, the "stove" was the former Red Sky Grill at Seabrook Island's Village Center.
With sweat equity and time, Bolus and team embarked on a renovation process. Red Sky Grill was stripped down to its skeleton. It was reframed, replumbed, rewired and even reclaimed hard woods were repurposed for its resurrection as a casual, contemporary restaurant.
It is simple and streamlined in its decor. Its facelift of warm colors, minimalist appointments and strategically positioned art work speaks eloquently to the labor of love that has been Bolus' mission this past year.
As with almost any and every remodeling project, there have been setbacks and delays. To their credit, the Red Sky team has used these delays to their advantage by growing vegetables and herbs, making vinegar, smoking fish and vegetables, dehydrating peppers, crafting flavoring powders, heck, even writing a cookbook. ("Simply Vanilla," co-authored with Patty Elsberry).
The end result is a mantle of dining pleasure serving Johns Island and only 30 minutes from Charleston.
A comfortable bar sports a communal table and seating for 40 guests. Matt Branca has assembled a fine roster of wines. Bourbon fans will be pleased that Bolus has not forgotten his Kentucky roots.
The menu at Red Sky speaks to Charleston's history. England, France, Spain and Barbados are reflected in the dishes. This right-minded chef honors the seasons, thinks global, shops local, cooks smart.
The menu changes with the season; however, core ingredients anchor the appetizers, "middles" and "endings."
Diver Scallops ($12) riff through the seasons and for winter sit on a pool of sweet potatoes, a splash of lobster emulsion, a trickle of truffle oil, a garnish of baby arugula and salty caviar. Tender scallops, but they were a little over-embellished. Less is more is still a good lesson for every chef to master.
An appetizer portion Hangar Steak ($9) is a bistro classic with its red wine sauce, garlic and frites. Add soup (French onion) or a salad and you have dinner.
The Short Rib ($9) appetizer is a keeper: succulent, tender beef topped with caramelized tangerine filaments, the sweet acidity of the citrus brightening the earthy beef.
Oyster Salad ($8) has been there since the opening. It's a canopy of greens tossed with a vinaigrette of maple syrup, apple cider and bacon drippings. Marcona almonds provide the crunch and tender, salty oysters, perfectly fried, shore up the sides. A seasonal keeper!
Vegetarians will enjoy the Vegetable Risotto ($8) or Ravioli. All pastas are made in-house with tender skill and care.
It is evident that Chef Bolus and his team spent time constructing this menu. It is clever, creative. It takes advantage of the seasons and the bounty of the Low-country.
His take on Paella ($21) is a treat. The golden kernels of saffron rice are replaced by house-made saffron pasta, the chicken is shredded, a delicately smoked salmon stands in for smoky sausage and tiny clams, tender shrimp, and the anise bite of fresh tarragon strike all the chords of the classic rice dish. It is worthy of a Spaniard's genuflection.
The menu is heavy on seafood and features daily specials. Bolus borrows from many cuisines and those skills learned in a classical line serve him well in his execution and presentation.
Kudos to the servers. They know the menu, the ingredients and the preparations, and what they do not know, they quickly find out.
Kudos to the front of the house. They truly get "management by walking around." Every restaurant should master this principle.
Red Sky falters on desserts ($7). They sound good but the tastes do not measure up to the descriptions. Ice creams and sorbets are made in-house: you can create your own flight of flavors. At the time of our visit, they were icy.
Like the core menu, Red Sky takes basics such as molten chocolate cake, bread pudding, me brulee and tweaks them as appropriate to each season. It may be a change in garnish, the flavors in a gastrique or ice cream, or the fruit accompaniment. The basics are there; refinement is all that is required.
For this Red Sky, ignore all the atmospheric indicators. It is a delight at morning and night.
Red Sky: A Culinary Delight
Cuisine: Contemporary American.Category: Neighborhood Favorite.Phone: 768-0183.Address: 1001 Landfall Way, Johns Island 29455.Food: ****Service: ****Atmosphere: ***Price: $-$$Costs: Appetizers $8-$12, soups and salads $7-$9, entrees $21-$27, desserts $7, children's menu $8.50Vegetarian Options: Yes.Bar: Full service bar, seasonal cocktails, single-malt Scotch, small-batch Bourbon, high-ester rums, and house-made infusions.Hours: Dinner 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday brunch offering a la carte and prix fixe items. Closed for Sunday dinner service.Decibel Level: Moderate to animated.Wheelchair Access: Yes.Parking: On-site.Other: Breads, breadsticks and English muffins made in-house and available for purchase.Web Site: www.redskydining.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.