NOTE: This restaurant is now closed
Rule #1 – Never wait in line more than 30 minutes for any restaurant in Greenville. There are just too many nice places in town.
Rule #2 – Even taking into account the first rule, Valentine’s season is a tricky time to find a place to eat in any town, and any restaurant that isn’t full has a problem.
So, here it is the Sunday, the day before Valentine’s, and we decide to take a chance. Our first target was Stax Grill – closed on Sunday. We scooted across Haywood Road to City Range Grill – it was hopping, and there was at least a 45 minute wait for those of us foolish enough to have not made reservations. Not caring for the mid-range chain places that we knew to be open nearby, we decided to try Rene’s Fishmarket.
The parking lot was empty, so we thought the worst. The place was closed not only because of the lack of cars, but also because of the lack of customers, but a sign on the door indicated that they were, in fact, open. I guess I have watched too many episodes of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. I figured with this lack of custom, something must be wrong. Turns out they had many reservations for the evening, and that we were just a tad early for the fashionable dinner crowd. We were seated and had the entire place to ourselves.
Rene is a Guy. Rene Rott escaped from Communist Czechoslavakia in 1968, and came to Greenville. In 1980 he opened Rene’s Fishmarket, and after a brief stint in Europe, opened the present Fishmarket in 1992. Rene’s Steakhouse was opened next door to the Peace Center in 1999.
Quiet, relaxed, simple elegance. This was much less frenetic than City Range up the street would have been. An extra effort seemed to have been made for the occasion, and Laura was presented a yellow rose as we were seated. Two large salt water aquariums serve as center piece to the main dining area, serving as light entertainment, but hopefully not as storage for the next course.
We were seated at a small booth for two, and the entire table was pulled out by the maitre’d so we could enter easily. Since we were the only ones in the place, our waiter was prompt, first offering us (think suggestive sell) a nice Evian or Perrier to start our meal. We offended him and his potential increased sale by just ordering tap water. This is Greenville. We have good water. Throughout the evening, service was efficient but not overly officious.
This evening’s menu was limited due to the holiday. What I had learned by watching Ramsey, and confirmed by the waiter, is that limiting options during a high-volume dining period increases kitchen efficiency. I guess that’s obvious. Regardless, there were still plenty of choices from the Valentine’s menu, including a special for two that included soup, salads, two filet mignon, a huge lobster, dessert, and champaign for a meager $150. We decided to skip that. Prices for the rest were in line for fine dining in our area.
We started with she-crab soup. The soup was superb, with generous portions of crab and obviously flavored with traditional sherry. Soon after our entres arrived. Laura ordered crab cake. I asked her to describe it, and she could only come up with “delicious”. Mine was a pan-seared piece of tuna encrusted with caviar, garnished with seaweed salad and pickled ginger. While echoing Laura’s sentiment, I’ll describe mine a little more in depth. The caviar provided neat little surprises that popped between my teeth, and the pickled ginger and seaweed provided the best flavors of sushi without actually having to eat raw fish. The entire meal was outstanding.
Much, much more peaceful than any of the chain options for this evening, this is a great place for a quiet get-away. However, I understand that Saturday night was a zoo, and that Valentine’s proper was supposed to be just as crazy. I guess fine dining with the option of alcohol is still something of a novelty in Greenville.