Bistro 217 is a culinary ambassador to the Lowcountry, France and Asia
To really get a taste for the culinary fusion served at Bistro 217, think French brassier with a drawl and mix in a pair of chopsticks.
It’s a charismatic kind of upscale café in Pawleys Island, with a center bar area surrounded by banquette and table seating plus a tented outdoor patio space for alfresco dining. Windowsills are lined with jars of pickled veggies and preserves, artful wine storage units serve as room dividers and lush flowerpots burst with florals and the scent of herbs. In fact, the bartender picked fresh mint from one of the pots to muddle me a marvelous mojito.
It’s the little things like that that set chef-based eateries apart and co-owner/executive chef Adam Kirby is toqued-up and hands-on in the kitchen as he orchestrates what the daily homemade focaccia bread will be, the specials du jour inspired by seasonal local foods available and all of the deliciously covert ingredients plied to sauces and soups.
Kirby’s brand of fusion is at its best in the Bistro’s signature dishes like the Bangkok Chicken, chicken fried tempura with five pepper jelly, mustard, soy, broccolini, roasted cashews and, of course, steamed rice. Lowcountry also shakes hands with Asian BBQ Baby Back Ribs, bringing the plate back home with potato salad and country baked beans. Along with the overall atmosphere at Bistro 217, a distinctly French joie de vivre comes through in the classic French Onion Soup and Seared Diver Scallops with a spring pea risotto and lobster carrot reduction.
On a recent visit we were lucky to be seated inside, our timing just right to snag the only remaining two-top and even on that steamy-triple-digit-heat-index day, people seemed content to take a table out on the patio—which indicated to me they were very partial to the Bistro menu.
The precursor to dinner was a basket of warm garlicky focaccia and artisan breads, but instead of butter, it was served with a chunky pimento cheese and olive spread. Our waiter informed us that making fresh focaccia was Kirby’s newest passion and that the toppings change with each day’s supply of fresh produce.
Starters on the menu range from exotic sounding salads like spinach frisee topped with warm pistachio encrusted goat cheese to fried green tomatoes and oysters dappled with blue cheese and a creamy sauce smoked with apple wood bacon.
But it was the signature Tomato, Crab and Jalapeno Soup that caught my palette’s attention, a glorious blend of all three flavors served with the textural crunch of toasted corn sticks.
I struggled with giving up on the Hoisin and Sesame Seared Salmon accompanied by shrimp potstickers for my entrée, choosing instead the intriguing 217 Eggplant Treasure Chest. And I’m happy to say, it delivered a trove of taste.
Paper-thin strips of fresh eggplant, lightly fried, make up the “treasure chest” that’s brimming with tender shrimp, scallops and grouper pieces folded into a silky basil Parmesan sauce.
Equally as impressive was my husband’s dish of choice—a grilled barbeque pork chop nestled atop a black-eyed pea cake and underlying mash of creamed collard greens. The chop was substantial and juicy, the collards an interesting twist, but the star was the sautéed “pea cake,” dense and flavorful with roasted red pepper, sweet onion, breadcrumb and a hint of cumin.
Besides a provocative list of wines, champagnes and after-dinner ports, Bistro 217 offers up to ten homemade flavors of ice cream. The dessert menu offers a flight of ice creams if you want to pass on other virtuoso sweets like white chocolate vanilla bread pudding or poached Asian Pear Napoleon with whipped mascarpone and puff pastry crackers.
Dinner plates average $27, but if that’s too rich for you, a number of evening entrees cross over to lunch for half the price.
There’s no doubt that Bistro 217 has created an excited buzz amongst foodies—the reservation list, crowds of diners and recent expansion all testaments to the unique ambiance and culinary craft.
Even before we got inside the doors, a couple leaving the Bistro stopped to tell the group of us standing at the hostess station, “Y’all are going to love this place!”
10701 Ocean Highway
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday