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The promise of a magnificent sunset inspired a spontaneous weekday cruise to sample the fare and enjoy Sermet’s courtyard view of life on Daniel Island.
Opened last year by chef/owner Sermet Aslan and partner Dana Vosburgh, this attractive café is lively, family-friendly, and the ideal place for a summertime outing just a few steps from the riverside dock at the Daniel Island Sales Center. The jaunty interior is rich with personality lent by Aslan’s colorful paintings, and the comforts of leather, wood, and natural stone blend with lofty ceilings to create a peaceful atmosphere that is both urban and serene. The prominent bar tastefully accommodates a well-placed television and separate tables, while the adjacent dining room includes cozy booths, tables, and a wall-to-wall banquette. Expansive windows shed light on the local scenery. Outside, the pace is brisk, with popular courtyard dining offering live jazz on many evenings.
Fans of Aslan’s distinctive cuisine will once again recognize his Turkish heritage and Mediterranean soul in the fresh, contemporary food also enjoyed at his recently renovated Sermet’s Corner downtown. Favorites include calamari; artichoke torta; salad of grilled salmon, mixed greens, pears, and Gorgonzola; and polenta with shrimp that are just as delicious as their city sister’s, yet slightly different in preparation at Daniel Island. Many items may be ordered in half- or full-size portions, an option that Aslan was among the first to offer years ago.
Our server did such a great job describing the shrimp couscous that it was our unanimous choice that evening. Plump local shrimp sautéed with prosciutto were resplendent with cilantro, mushrooms, peas, and sun-dried tomatoes finished with a curry-citrus cream sauce over pearl couscous, each ingredient adding unique dimension to this glorious dish. In order to make it home by dark, that was our only sampling on this evening—but what a winner!
When we returned, we enjoyed a leisurely meal, beginning with a pungent baked torta consisting of marinated artichokes, tomatoes, capers, Kalamata olives, and lemon—a splendid melding of flavors that never disappoints. Sautéed calamari was a departure from the commonly fried version. A toss of capers, orange zest, basil pesto, and shaved fennel made it truly unusual over a bed of wilted spinach. Multiple baskets of bread disappeared quickly with the delicious sun-dried tomato olive oil, another house specialty. Though we didn’t try the soups on this trip, the cold yogurt variety sounded particularly refreshing with roasted fennel, cucumber, mint, and dill.
We couldn’t resist the juicy lamb burger, topped with caramelized onions and Gorgonzola. Succulent and full of flavor, this spicy version was placed on a thinner-than-usual kaiser roll for easier handling, fresh romaine, cherry tomatoes, and a small mountain of sweet potato fries. Ridiculously good roulade was joined by crisp fried eggplant slices with lemon-zest ricotta and white bean ravioli, the crunchy bite of the eggplant an excellent contrast for the silken texture of the ricotta.
On a heartier note, the tender braised boneless beef short rib was paired with a lemongrass-infused shiitake mushroom risotto. This tremendously satisfying dish, flavored with saffron, coconut, and a bold finish of ancho chili-apricot glaze, brought rave reviews from all. We chose a worthy companion in the Australian Kangarilla shiraz that paired nicely with the entire meal.
For dessert, we couldn’t turn down the house-made key lime tart and tres leches cake. The classic tart—lightly drizzled with chocolate and caramel—was delicious. The tres leches, soaked in three kinds of milk and crowned with whipped cream and fresh, toasted coconut, was a light yet still luxurious version of this traditional dessert.
With its great vibe and seasonally changing menu, Sermet’s Courtyard is another welcome gift from this chef with a passionate palate, generous heart, and dedicated community spirit.
Featured Photograph: Mediterranean lamb burger topped with caramelized onions and Gorgonzola and served with sweet potato fries
115 River Landing Dr., Ste 101,
Daniel Island, (843) 471-1777,
Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.
Friday & Saturday, 5-10:30 p.m.
Average entrée: $15