I am hesitant to even post my nighttime cellphone camera pictures of our dinner at Chez Nous; their social media campaign already posts a daily menu in photos that is absolutely stunning. I highly recommend you check out their Facebook page or Instagram account if you are thinking about dining here. You will be sold.
We went on a sleepy Wednesday evening, and very early (before 6 ) to make sure we could grab a table for four people. The restaurant is in a carriage house on Payne Court, a tiny street that even after 12 years of living in Charleston, I'd never heard of. The dining room has one large group table in the courtyard outside, a very private café style two-top on the bitty front porch, two areas of bar seating for about four people each and a few independent tables downstairs, and around six tables of two and four upstairs. That is to say, it's small, and frankly, a little cramped, but not quite uncomfortable. However, it's also gorgeous; it's sleepy and romantic -- dark, with exposed wood and brick. A beautiful combination of tucked away French restaurant combined with classic Charleston charm.
The handwritten menu changes daily but always has the same format: two appetizers, two entrées, two desserts. The descriptions are deceptively simple : fried oyster with shaved fennel, swordfish with haricot vert, garganelli pasta with ricotta and guanciale.
We started with two orders of fried oysters for the table.
Four oysters arrived on each plate, over a baby fennel salad. I'm not usually a fan of fried oysters or fennel, but these were amazing. The oysters were not greasy -- they were perfectly light and crispy. The fennel salad was comprised of thinly shaved baby fennel tossed in a refreshingly lemony and zesty dressing that complimented the oysters perfectly.
The swordfish arrived as an almost tenderloin type of cut, with heavy grill marks on the top, served over haricots verts and potatoes. I've always considered swordfish to be a meaty, borderline tough fish, but this was tender, with a lovely crisp from the grill on the top. The aioli served in a tiny lion head dish on the side was boldly garlicky, and I couldn't resist trying it with some of the crusty french bread that was brought to the table after we ordered. The haricots verts and potatoes were lightly seasoned and paired nicely with the fish.
The garganelli pasta was clearly made in house, and cooked to a true al dente. The ricotta guanciale sauce was better than the deceptively simple description lead me to belive it would be. Rich but delicate, the dish was weighty enough to leave my meat and potatoes husband full, but not so heavy that we wanted to take a nap.
For dessert, we all split a chocolate pot de crème with chestnuts. After a different meal in another restaurant, I would have called it wonderful, but after such a sublime appetizer and entrees, our expectations may have been too high, so I will leave it as good. The dessert was good. I don't know that I'd order it again.
Bottom line, Chez Nous accomplishes what other restaurants only think they are doing. The service is prompt and friendly, the food is executed perfectly, and the flavors are right on point. A true gem in a culinary sea of wannabes.
Hands-down the best restaurant in Charleston right now. My expectations were high, and this place still blew me away. A meal we'll be talking about for years (or at least until they next time we go back!). Make sure to follow them on social media for gorgeous images of their daily menu items.
As many things as you can afford from the small daily menu.
A bottle of anything from their fabulous wine list! ( French, of course)
Dressy Casual or better.
6 Payne Court
Charleston, South Carolina 29403
Off of Coming Street, between Spring and Cannon Streets.
Residential ( free ) 1 and 2 hour parking on all surrounding streets of Payne Court ( St Phillip Street, Spring Street, Cannon Street, Coming Street ).