Cypress Room Character

December 2013
Written By: 
Denise Mullen
Photographs by: 
Bobby Altman

Oceanfront eatery serves personality by the plateful






Supping at the Cypress Room inspired me to coin this phrase: “Character dining.”

The home restaurant of the Island Vista Resort hotel, this oceanfront property used to operate as a Colonial-style lodging with inclusive meal options and a chef’s choice, five-course dinner menu.

Suit jackets were mandatory and the local fan base kept it the best-kept secret on the beach, as seating was limited.

There’s still an Old World feel to the bar area and dining room that looks out upon a wide swath of beachfront. Tables are draped with white linens, waiters wear jackets and water goblets are filled immediately upon seating.

A sprig of fresh rosemary and stem of berries in a vase sat poised on our candlelit table, and a silver covered dish held pats of butter. In white shirt and tie, a performer played guitar and sang smooth and low renditions of songs like “Operator” and “Maggie May.”

Our server, Phillip, was a formidable long drink of a man who could have had a career shooting hoops for the NBA. With a grand piano smile and a gracious countenance, he was every inch a professional, anticipating our every need as if by telepathy.

The meal began with the Berkshire pork belly and baked goat cheese tart appetizers.

Pork belly you say!? It was to die for!

My husband and I had just returned from a two-day walking and eating stint in Charleston, and I have to say that this pork belly dish surpassed the renowned pig’s ear lettuce wraps we had at Husk.

The dark and crispy belly came perched on top of couscous with cauliflower, pistachios and golden raisins, all creamed over by popcorn sauce. Kernels of corn are popped and mixed with heavy cream to create this unique sauce, which imparts a deliciously distinctive taste and texture to the dish.

Now, the baked goat cheese tart caused me to gasp, a presentation so artful that I had to take a picture of it with my phone.

The cheese was nestled inside puff pastry atop a slice of San Daniele prosciutto and surrounded by tiny melon balls, slices of Mission fig and drizzles of port reduction.

A house salad comes with every entrée, but outshines the usual restaurant version. At Cypress Room, it is a bowl of fresh spring greens and veggies and one of their homemade dressings. I don’t normally get excited by salad dressings, but I chose the garlic and herb and it was a creamy dream!

As our main courses, we ordered from the menu, but three additional fish entrees were offered that evening as well.

I opted for the Carolina flounder-crab roulade and my husband went for the roasted pork chop.

Again, the plates themselves were photo ops.

Two flounder filets were tightly wrapped around a filling of seasoned crab and then lightly browned on the outside, accompanied by a nest of wilted kale, plus relish and vinaigrette made from vine tomatoes and olives.

The bone-in roasted pork chop was plumped with cornbread apple stuffing, lying in a pool of cider au jus. Rounding out the dish was a mound of white cheddar cheese macaroni and wilted kale.
As if this wasn’t quite enough culinary bliss, another server came around to offer fresh-from-the-oven squash casserole, a little something extra from the chef to his guests.

For dessert, it had to be none other than the award-winning almond cake, and it lived up to every accolade. A small tower of butter-baked yumminess, it came smeared with honey and vanilla bean crème fraîche and encircled by strawberry compote and chunks of caramelized pineapple.

For this type of intuitive Lowcountry cuisine, I would expect prices to be steeper.

Most of the Cypress Room appetizers are $8.95, including a smoked salmon terrine with pickled red onions and watermelon radish. Caesar and wedge a la carte dinner salads are just $5.95, and the house dressings set a new standard.

Main courses start at $14.95 for pasta primavera with fava beans, charred corn, and vine tomato succotash in a parmesan cream sauce, with the most expensive entrée topping out at $28.95 for a grilled filet mignon accentuated by red onion marmalade and Madeira au jus.

All I can say is that from the minute you meet the Cypress Room, you know you’re in the presence of a one-of-a-kind character. Don’t expect it to conform. Just enjoy the authentic personality and eat up its menu of love.