520 Folly Road
Angelfish was a James Island staple for a long time before becoming Bistro V. The owners of downtown’s Fulton Five remodeled and gave the bistro concept a chance, but have now shifted gears with Twizt in the same space. The transformation is a good one, with the beautiful room intact if not improved, and a new menu offering dishes that vary from fair to sublime.
Bistro V was a good-looking room — dark woods and booth fabrics, a classy-looking and expensive-feeling bar, all that — and Twizt maintains this feel. Candles balance darker surfaces, black columns and white fabric separate the bar and dining room, white tablecloths set off the dark booth faces. The staff is eager to please, just formal enough,and refreshingly earnest without driving one nuts.
Food was a mixed bag. The menu is intelligently divided amongst several classifications of dishes: soups, salads, starters, “cutting boards,” Moroccan skewers, steamers, and “stews and entrees.” Some dishes fell flat, while others prompted squabbles over last bites. The cream of roast garlic and Parmesan soup (cup, $4), straight out of Fulton Five, was unsurprisingly delicious, and the Catalan tomato bisque (also $4) was playfully spicy and set off perfectly by the light corn and cod fritter floating on top. Field green salad ($8) boasted thin pear slices amongst the prosecco vinaigrette, grape halves, and gorgonzola, and the candied walnuts set it off nicely, although both diners wondered if $8 wasn’t a bit steep. Beef carpaccio ($10) was very good, with a flavorful side of properly dressed baby spinach and pickled onions on the side, although I might have preferred a bit less “horseradish aioli” on it — no matter; the meat was paper thin, very tender, and delicious.
Out of two sampled “cutting boards,” only one was a success: country pork, chicken pâté, and grilled chorizo ($11) was a clear winner, while “Spreads and Breads” ($10) was not so much. The pâtés were nice, although I think not housemade, the chorizo spicy and grilled right, and the red pepper chutney was a nice accompaniment. I wasn’t thrilled by the skinny, tough, and heavy cracker-thingies served with it, but cheerfully used the pleasant, lightly buttered bread from the basket in their stead. So, too, with the spreads — three piping-bag-piped cones of red pepper hummus; mushroom, truffle and goat cheese; and smoked salmon, and those same cracker-oids. Not much like the promised “mixed Mediterranean flat breads,” eh? The hummus was good, ripe with red pepper flavor, the truffle and mushroom faintly present in the goat, the smoked salmon unremarkable — for our $10, we found ourselves wishing we’d ordered the antipasto instead.
Both the Moroccan skewers and steamers are served with a side dish and a sauce option. On one visit, I ordered up a lamb skewer ($17) with tarragon mustard aioli and Rustico Risotto on the side; the accomplice went for the baked clams steamer ($18), heedless of the fact that baking is not, in fact, steaming at all. Our server placed our plates on our table and departed, leaving me to extract the skewer from my dinner. She neglected to mention that the steel skewer was hovering at, oh, I don’t know, 400 or 500 degrees Fahrenheit. But I digress.
The skewer seemed a bit smallish for my $17, but the lamb was tender and lean, cooked to a pleasant medium. Chunks were alternated with veggies, cooked yet crisp — squash, zucchini, potato, peppers — and the whole thing was Morocco-ized with curry powder, maybe a bit too much of it. The side of risotto bore its bacon and corn, although no detectable shrimp, and was flavorful, but is another example of why I feel risotto is best made to order, not prepped ahead and held on the line. Not smooth, not creamy, but good. I found the tarragon mustard aioli indistinguishable from the spicy horseradish aioli on the carpaccio as well as on the pâté cutting board.
The accomplice’s baked clams were a big disappointment. Where we expected clams, topped with the sausage, shrimp, and crab in the description, what landed on the table were six or seven clam shells filled with a crisped breadcrumb mixture that resembled deviled crab. Resembled, that is, except for the lack of seafood flavors in it. She gave up after sampling two of them. Thankfully, her Mediterranean slaw side dish was there for her — mostly vinegar with a bit of mayo, with lots of shreds of three or four cabbages.
On another visit, my paella ($21) was an excellent, uh, “Twizt” on the traditional. A mound of rice, ringed by mussels, was studded with small dice of chicken and sausage, with a few shrimp on top. The shrimp were cooked properly and fresh-tasting, and the small dice of the meats played very nicely with the peas and rice. Delicious.
Over the two visits, I sampled only two desserts: cinnamon gelato for me, cappuccino cake for her, both $6. The cake seemed to please her, not really “waking up” until tasted with a bit of the crème anglaise on the plate. I found the cake to be halfway to a tiramisu — thick layers of ganache-like chocolate between thin layers of cake — good, but just short of great. The cinnamon gelato was outstanding. Not made in-house (I asked, and was surprised), but really, really tasty, with an understated garnish of simple candied walnuts.
One more hats off to the front-of-house staff — the servers and bartenders are good. My soda water was replaced without asking three times in one meal. The accomplice’s beer was poured from bottle to glass before being served (at the table). Silverware was replaced promptly and correctly every single time. Management stopped by our table both nights to ask how things were going. My bartender was just chatty enough. Maybe good hiring, maybe good training, or probably both; regardless, it shows in the dining room.
On our second visit, the accomplice looked at her ($8) salad, glanced around the room, and said confessionally to me, “This place is sort of expensive…” And so it is, in places. But it’s a beautiful room, and most of the food delivers on the promise. The staff is earnest, professional, and well-trained, and should continue to improve as time goes by. I’m hoping there are a few changes made on the menu, but overall, these folks are doing good work. James Island has an attractive, innovative new upscale restaurant where presently few are to be found.