Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cru Cafe

For more than 20 years, Cru Catering in Charleston has been stirring up crowd-pleasing dishes, the kind Executive Chef and Owner John Zucker calls Eclectic Modern American Cuisine. 

Cru Catering's recipes are creatively delicious, all feature Asian, Carribbean, Italian, Southern and/or Southwestern influences and has has been voted Best Caterer in Charleston consecutively since 2001. 

With a heralded lineage, it came as no surprise to learn Zucker's restaurant, Cru Café, has been receiving accolades routinely since it opened in 2002. 
John Zucker
Zucker was the top graduate in his class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Then, he trained and created culinary delights under celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at Spago in Las Vegas. From there, he became sous chef for the opening of Canoe, which was nominated “Best New Restaurant of the Year,” by the James Beard Society. 

Thus, being able to dine at the Cru Café on Pinkney Street while in Charleston this week was a high priority for me and the rest of our family.

We booked a table for the six of us for mid-day, taking the very last reservation available before the restaurant closed to rest and re-group before the New Year's Eve dinner crowd arrived.

I was surprised by the size and intimacy of the restaurant. It was housed on the first floor of a charming old Charleston single house. The main dining room, a former parlor no doubt, provided seating for just nine small groups. There were tables for two, four or a few more people. Additional seating was available closer to the kitchen - a chef's counter looking directly into the workspace, as well as a rectangular high-top table nearby with seating for eight.

Duck Confit Arugula Salad
It was at the high-top table that we sat, and I couldn't have been more delighted. From there we could see all who came and went, watch the goings on in the kitchen and in the main eating area. Additionally, Zucker himself was positioned nearby. Often he would walk over, check out what we had ordered, ask for input on our selections, etc. We liked that!

Because we were on vacation - and not planning to eat another big meal that night - we opted to sample many of the items on the lunch menu, including some of the chef's signature dishes - like the Mesclun Fried Goat Cheese Salad and the Duck Confit Arugula Salad, as well as the Four Cheese Macaroni, Coconut Fried Oyster Wrap, Shrimp BLT and Pepper Jack, etc., etc. In short, we stuffed ourselves!

By the end of the meal, we had struck up a conversation with the affable John Zucker and were in no big hurry to wrap up the dining experience. So, coffees and bread puddings were ordered all around. 

I walked away from the experience well-fed and very satisfied. I couldn't help but comment to the rest of our group, "We just had our last official meal of the year, and I do believe it was one of the best of all."

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