The gem that is Austin’s Ocean One serves food you won’t be able to stop talking about
PHOTO: (left) Austin’s Ocean One; (right) The Grilled Seafood Salad at Austin’s is a toss up of shrimp, scallops and crab served over baby greens with fresh avocado and roasted tomatoes. A lemon herb vinaigrette dresses the dish perfectly.
I have to confess that I really don’t want to share the secrets of Austin’s Ocean One with you.
It’s that good, that juicy, and I’d like to keep it all to myself.
Litchfield Inn has been a long-standing South Strand landmark, but its second floor casual-fine-dining establishment somehow failed to blip on my radar screen. There’s no billboards or road signs or buzz about it.
No one’s been talking.
The underground privileged who have had this place locked down knew instinctively to keep this level of food and service with a sublime ocean view on a need-to-know basis.
So, I guess I’m here to be the big blabbermouth.
Through the Inn’s lobby, a discreet door takes you upstairs to Austin’s, a wide-open space dotted with tables that all serve a captivating ocean vista. Minimalist decor and white tablecloths play backup to the rolling waves, but keep in line with the Lowcountry vibe that mashes up plain and fancy.
On our visit, the dining room sat windswept tourists in chinos, an anniversary party decked out in black velvet and strappy heels and a ladies reunion of some sort who were clad in Easter-egg-colored blazers and floral prints.
As diverse as this crowd was, they had a comfortable “knowing” about them. This was not their first time at Austin’s and many seemed to head toward a “usual seat.”
We first-timers were warmly welcomed into the Austin’s family by the host and again by our server, who deftly realigned my knife before filling our water goblets. I don’t know about you, but I like a little OCD-ness in my waitstaff.
As we looked over the “small plates and soup” lineup, a warm olive roll slid onto my bread plate and a trio of spreads was laid down that included black olive butter and herbed olive oil.
“We have a few chef specials tonight,” our waitress began. But when I heard her say, “... a bone-in veal chop with a demi-glace, served with mashed potatoes and green beans ...” I knew, for my husband, that the heavens had parted and he was hearing a choir of kitchen angels singing on high.
I also knew at that point that with such a hearty meal coming, sharing a starter would be pushing our digestive limits.
But for future reference, I made mental note of the Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Cake ($12) with lima bean succotash and lemon caper tartar sauce, Sundried Tomato and Burrata Bruschettas ($10), Angry Mac & Cheese ($14) gone mad with jalapeño and blackened shrimp and a tempting “fritto misto” dish of tempura battered seafood and veggies ($14).
I tend to like ordering a destination dish, and a house specialty at Austin’s is the Pistachio and Ginger Crusted Grouper ($29) draped over risotto and topped with Thai basil and blue crab sauce.
It did not disappoint.
From the delicate flaky filet to the masterful sauce and smooth risotto, this dish was perfect.
“I can’t remember when I had a chop this tender,” my husband blissfully murmured. “I don’t know what they did with these mashed potatoes, but they’re amazing.”
With a four-forks-up rating on these two dishes, I can only imagine how good the rest of the main plates are.
There’s a crispy oven roasted half chicken ($25) with those star-quality mashed potatoes and tarragon pan gravy, a pan-seared duck breast ($28) with port pomegranate sauce, lobster Milanese ($32) atop a toss of angel hair in lemon butter, and pepper-crusted baby lamb chops ($29) with Dijon au jus. Other standouts include grilled Faroe Island salmon ($30) given some love from lemon caper butter sauce and arugula pesto; a “Ring of Fire” ($28) stunner featuring seared scallops and shrimp with shiitake-crab-fried rice, coconut milk and spicy sriracha; prime Angus ribeye ($42) with that veal glace; and a grilled filet mignon ($32) that comes with creamy Parmesan spinach.
Even on the “green plates” side of the menu, Austin’s takes some tasty twists like a Caesar salad option with shredded Brussels sprouts and roasted red peppers ($9), spinach salad with mushrooms and warm bacon vinaigrette ($9) and a grilled seafood salad of shrimp, scallops and crab with avocado ($14 for small, $26 for large).
Could we ... should we ... do dessert?
That question was answered the split-second I saw the words “Chocolate Caramel Demon.”
Oh my. The dark Devil’s food cake with ganache and caramel had a creamy fudge-like consistency, made even more demon-y with chocolate and caramel drizzled on top and big dollops of whipped cream.
Dessert offerings at Austin’s rotate through the seasons, but in April, apple walnut cake, a lemon tart, key lime pie and Godiva chocolate mousse were in the mix of sweet selections that run from $7 to $9.
Austin’s also offers a full bar and a well-curated international wine list. And on Wednesdays, all bottles of wine are half-price.
So, now I’ve done it. You’ve got my whole delicious scoop on Austin’s Ocean One. But I have to ask, is there any way we can we keep it just between us?
Austin’s Ocean One
The Litchfield Inn
One Norris Drive
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
Open for dinner, Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m.