Offering the delicious fare of chef de cuisine Nathan Thurston amidst graceful surroundings and a grand view of the Atlantic, The Ocean Room at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island is a welcome retreat indeed.
The only steakhouse in the country to earn both Forbes 4-Star and AAA 4-Diamond ratings, the restaurant features grass-fed beef from MiBek Farms in Barnwell, South Carolina, alongside seafood and locally sourced produce paired with Wine Spectator’s “Best Of” award-winning wines.
The approach, winding up The Sanctuary’s regal stairway through majestic murals of island marshes that remarkably capture the subtle transition of light from dawn to dusk, is enchanting. Beyond elegantly hewn wrought-iron gates lie the well-appointed bar and main dining room, edged with crow’s nest seating and offering comforts like tufted perches for purses alongside vases of simple yet elegant calla lilies.
Seeking respite from our busy lives on a recent evening, a friend and I were welcomed for dinner by sommelier Garth Herr, who delivered a delicate Bouvet Sparkling Rosé that complemented an amuse of house-cured salmon and pickled red onion garnished with mango purée. Attentive server Lesly adeptly shared descriptions of the evening’s seasonal and degustation (tasting) menus, the latter including five courses that each incorporated strawberries. Intrigued by this unusual concept, we chose to alternate selections with interludes from the main menu, beginning with local arugula and strawberry salad served with organic Anson Mills heirloom oats, strawberry-black pepper jam, and Sweet Bay Farm basil.
Beautifully displayed Maine lobster, poached shrimp, and Misty Point oysters were accompanied by a simple cocktail sauce, cucumber sorbet, and red-wine mignonette, followed by Ambrose Family Farm asparagus salad with Rosebank Farms spring peas, smoky Benton’s bacon, parmesan, and richly flavored lemon vinaigrette. Soulful, tender balsamic-braised MiBek beef was delicious with tart green strawberry slices, ricotta gnudi, Mepkin Abbey oyster mushrooms, and pungent Virginia wild ramp soubise.
For the main course, traditional surf and turf included perfectly crusted seared diver scallops and densely marbled MiBek short rib, which gets its unique flavor from perennial peanut hay that is both fed to the cattle and infused into the meat. Baby fingerling potatoes, julienned yellow squash, green beans, braised radishes, and carrots rounded out this memorable dish enjoyed with smooth 2007 Archery Summit Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. Gently seasoned spring harvest risotto flavored with Rosebank Farms peas, charred Geechie Boy spring onion, baby artichokes, morels, and Parmigiano-Reggiano completed the exceedingly delicious course.
A luscious creation from pastry chef Erin Cross combined bête noire—molten flourless chocolate cake fit for the gods—with bourbon ice cream, bourbon caramel sauce, and cocoa nibb crumble. And to prepare us for the journey back to reality, strawberry pâte de fruit and lemon madeleines were sweet parting gifts.
Relaxed and comfortable, The Ocean Room is family-friendly and approachable for all, as confirmed by the troupe of young explorers who happily paraded their vacation spirits in and out of the room during our visit. In addition to standard menu options, guests can choose from a three-course “Dining at Dusk” menu including locally inspired dishes representative of the seasonal menu for $49.