'South by Southwest" have been the coordinates for success for Ben and Marianna Berryhill and Charlie Chance.
Fueled by wood smoke, stoked with hospitality genes, dedicated to local resources and staffed with a team of cooks schooled in the patient art of cookery, the restaurant known as Red Drum has been a Mount Pleasant success story since it opened in 2005.
From this restaurant, chef/owner Berryhill has expanded his base, remained true to the heritage of his culinary roots and explored new options for his business stable.
For the Berryhills and partner Chance, opportunity came knocking, almost from next door. Samos, a popular Greek taverna, had closed and the property was available.
The restaurant's footprint has remained the same and the cozy charm of the patio with its warming hearth now has a window into the restaurant proper linking the inside and outside.
Berryhill and Chance have brought Kyle Christy on board as chef de cuisine. Christy's experience with the Wolfgang Puck Group will serve him well at Next Door.
Also joining the culinary team is sous chef Nathan Hood, a veteran of Quince (San Francisco), and it is there I suspect he learned the tender art of coaxing the union of flour and eggs into edible velvet: pasta.
Andy Bates has developed a "long drink" cocktail menu and the wine list decants a thoughtful measure of value and food-friendly wines.
The menu is Med-centric and the commitment to local, quality and seasonal ingredients is apparent in every bite. Berryhill's support of local provenance is deep. This is a menu of classic preparations with contemporary expressions. New vitality is breathed into soubise, a classic mother sauce (bechamel) combined with onions that anchors a pan-seared duck breast ($26); purees of parsnip and potato that distill the essence of the vegetable into taste nirvana; vinaigrettes and mignonettes of classic canons with modern acids of Meyer lemon and blood orange.
This is a kitchen that sections "supremes," confits duck and bacon, and makes its stocks and sauces from scratch. In today's modern kitchen, that is extraordinary. And diners will reap the benefits of this dedication to culinary privilege.
The menu is divided into starters, pizza, pasta and main courses. Pastas can be ordered in full and half portions.
There is excellence in every section. Rabbit roulade ($14) is served on a bed of polenta, cushioned by corn's cream and enhanced with fragrant chanterelle mushrooms and a bit of humor with a baby carrot garnish nestling the bunny's "hutch."
Add the buffalo mozzarella salad ($11) with supple orbs of mozzarella that actually had taste, roasted wedges of beets and carrots, refreshed by segmented oranges and sparked with peppery arugula, and you have a delicious dinner.
Soups ($7, $9) -- cauliflower and oyster stew -- are prepared with patience. Layers of flavor percolate through their "fonds," French for the foundation that serves them well in every luscious spoonful.
Pastas will change with the season, so I encourage visitors to get there now while the buckwheat tagliatelle ($9, $16) tangles with roasted cauliflower, creamy Parmigiano, Marcona almonds and fresh lemon. It is a nutty homage to ingredient simplicity.
Raviolo ($14) marries all the flavors of breakfast with the diligence of a culinary artist: tender pasta, a sheath for a delicately poached egg, seasoned with ham and house-made ricotta cheese, all toasted to the fullness of flavor with browned butter and bits of sage.
Pizzas are shaped with soft crusts, nudged with quality ingredients. The simple Margherita ($9) is my preference, but carnivores will find a beef topped with horseradish cream and onions to devour ($10).
Main courses demonstrate an amalgamation, that of French techniques, Italian classics and competent execution.
The due diligence of a passionate kitchen hums with the fresh excitement brought to each dish. Crust and contrast are found in a local tilefish preparation ($25); flavor-centric garnishes season a duck breast ($26) that beats with bits of sliced duck-heart nubbins in the sauce; a minerally braise of short ribs ($23) flourishes with its lemony pine nut gremolata condiment.
Well-informed about the conceit of each dish, the service staff tempers their dialogue to each guest. They are not robotic to the menu but clued into their perceived take on each table's guests. It is refreshing to hear their adeptness at service.
Lauren Mitterer of WildFlour Pastry provides the desserts for both properties. Right-sized and seasonally influenced, Mitterer continues to deliver inspired endings.
The folks at Red Drum restaurant should be very happy with the neighbor that has taken residence Next Door and diners will, too.