A Flavorful Fez

It took eight months for David Leboutillier, Craig Nelson, and crew to renovate the old Lulu’s Bistro space on Maybank Highway, but they finally finished, and Fez, their French Moroccan restaurant, opened to the public Friday last. Al di La’s John Marshall served as the consulting chef for the restaurant, traveling to Morocco and creating the menu in conjunction with Fez’s Chef Bryan Lindsay.

“My favorite dishes are the tagines, definitely,” says operating partner Nelson, who holds particular fondness for the Tagines de Bouef: beef short rib braised in red wine with tomatoes, golden raisins, and cinnamon and served with cous cous.

Fez is open for dinner nightly and closed on Sundays. The menu is rich with flavors, some probably unfamiliar to our Lowcountry palates: saffron, cumin, ginger, pepper, and turmeric and ingredients like olives and preserved lemons. Leboutillier seems hell bent on exposing our sheltered palates to the world of flavor out there. He’s brought us French (Rue de Jean), Spanish (Raval), Mexican (Taco Boy), and now Moroccan. All we can say is, get over there and try it. You might just like it. (843-406-2767) —Stephanie Barna

Sushi Haru rolls up
N. Myrtle Beach

When you order a sushi roll dubbed the North Myrtle Beach, what do you expect to get? Mullet and waffle? Gay dolphin and calabash shrimp? At the new Sushi Haru in Mt. Pleasant, you get tuna, salmon, asparagus, avocado, cream cheese, flying fish roe, peach yogurt sauce, and crushed walnuts (seriously), a combination that proves to be much more interesting than the land of pancake houses and all-you-can-eat seafood buffets.

Sushi Haru is the retooled offering from Tom Pham of Pho Bac. The little dining room has been renovated, although it still feels a little utilitarian. Patrons can easily watch the sushi masters at work from across the room, thanks to a large television screen mounted over the sushi bar that monitors their knife and rolling skills. A very cool feature.

The menu has some hibachi plates, regular choices like shumai and gyoza, and great seaweed salads. The Sunomono Salad ($8.99) came with thin slices of fresh tuna and salmon layered over cucumbers, avocado, and seaweed.

They’re open for weekday lunches and dinner from Mon.-Sat. Check it out next to A.C.’s in the same shopping center as La Hacienda at 1035 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. (843) 859-6743. And if you’re still itching for a big bowl of pho, you can hit the Pho Bac in North Charleston at 7671 Northwoods Blvd. —Stephanie Barna

John Mariani Has His Eye on Tarver King

John Mariani, the Virtual Gourmet himself, has released his Best New Restaurants of 2007 list in November’s Esquire. Topping the list of Chefs to Watch is our own Tarver King at Woodlands Resort & Inn. Mariani praises King’s way with pork belly: “Only a skilled chef should be allowed to alter pork belly, which really doesn’t need altering. King succeeds: He brines it for three days, braises it for another three, then spins it into a crispy pork-belly confit served with cumin-scented turtle beans and sweet-and-sour stewed radicchio with a dab of sour cream.”

King had some pretty big clogs to fill, taking the helm from Scott Crawford who himself had replaced Ken Vedrinski, the proprietor of Sienna on Daniel Island, a restaurant that Mariani singled out as one of the best new restaurants of 2004. —Stephanie Barna