Jeff Williams, a chef at Purlieu, had never made anything with loquats before this week, when life handed them to him.
Well, actually, owner John Zucker told him about a large loquat tree in the yard next door to the Westside restaurant.
The pair then asked their neighbor's permission to pick the tree’s fruits, which are yellow in color, have a tangy, sweet taste and are related to apples and pears, but not related to kumquats.
And Williams said he instantly got an idea for the loquats, of which the tree holds hundreds.
The crew previously tried making crudo, a raw fish dish, shortly after opening Purlieu in January 2018, but “didn’t love how it turned out.” They’ve since wanted to try again.
The chefs came up with a beeliner snapper crudo with a base of loquats that “bring in a little bit of sweetness and acid, so you really get a nice balance for the fish,” Williams said.
The crudo is topped with lime supreme and hot red pepper, and served with daikon radish and creme fraiche. The dish, which costs $14.50, was first offered Wednesday and will be available through the weekend, if not longer.
Loquat trees typically can be spotted in April and May around the Lowcountry.
“They’re abundant here,” he said. “But you have to be looking for them.”
Those looking for a loquat tree may get some tips from an online locator map.
On a recent visit to the tree just a few steps from Purlieu, Williams described it as "awesome." He used the same word for another tree he found in the yard.
"Are those figs?" he said. "We'll be using those, too."
Williams says loquats in some form will stay on the menu for as long as the nearby tree’s supply lasts, likely a couple weeks. He hinted at putting loquats in a salad, as well as a cocktail with champagne.
“A lot of people have never seen them or tasted them,” he said. “People go out to dinner to experience something they can’t really get at home.”