October 2008

Seaside Sophistication: HH Prime and XO Lounge

Author: Ann DeMart | Photographer: photography by anne

From time to time, we Hilton Head locals take our home’s natural beauty and bountiful cuisine for granted. An evening at Palmetto Dunes’ new HH Prime restaurant and XO Lounge is a terrific way to experience the island’s coastal charm and culinary talent and remember why Hilton Head is such a popular vacation destination.

The outstanding design of the new restaurant and lounge, located in the Hilton Oceanfront Resort, is so surprisingly different from the location’s previous establishments that you might feel the need to step back to make sure you’re in the right place. This is one gorgeous restaurant—cool, sophisticated and cozy all at the same time. Dark-toned metal stairs and appointments create an elegant framework for the two-story walls covered with a sleek wood veneer. The soft lighting and terra cotta-colored ceiling reflect a warm glow. There’s also outdoor seating surrounded by palms and the sounds of the music and the ocean. The fireplaces, both indoors and outside, will make this a very popular destination in cooler seasons as well.

On a recent, very warm late-summer evening, a friend and I sat indoors and admired the décor, as we debated whether it was more difficult to decide on food or beverages. There’s a fine choice of unique martinis and cocktails, and the extensive wine list represents one of the largest collections on the island. It was also hard to resist filling up on the three different tasty breads and herb butter.

As you might guess from its name, HH Prime is a steakhouse that features aged USDA prime graded meats. Big juicy strip steaks, filets, rib eyes and prime rib are prepared in a variety of ways. Duck, lamb and chicken dishes are also tempting. The side dishes are diverse and scrumptious. And, the seafood is exceptional. Whole lobster, ahi tuna, salmon and daily fresh catch, such as mahi-mahi, are carefully prepared to highlight each item’s fresh flavor and texture. If you’re undecided, you might just want to try the lobster and shrimp ravioli: sweet lobster meat in little half-moons of pasta and jumbo shrimp served with a saffron cream sauce and bits of snow peas. Chef Erik Malzahn and his staff certainly know what they’re doing!

We decided to go for lighter fare, which does not mean we had a small meal. The appetizer choices were all so appealing: baked escargot with garlic and fontina cheese, lamb lollipops, seared tuna, beef carpaccio. We finally went with several seafood appetizers and some salads. The huge scallops were cooked to perfection and lightly topped with an airy dollop of delicious corn puree and just a taste of pimiento. The calamari appetizer, accompanied by a mild wasabi dipping sauce, was also tender and yummy. Slices of beefsteak tomatoes and grilled red onion were stacked in a cylinder and served with a squiggle of rich balsamic vinegar and the creamiest freshest mozzarella either of us have ever had. A spinach salad with warm dressing was exquisitely presented, as were all of the dishes we ordered. In fact, even the restaurant’s rectangular plates, curvy cups and unique flatware are so stylish that they are as much artwork as dinnerware.

Everyone around us seemed to be having as great a time as we were. Next to us, a twosome snuggled in a booth and smiled nonstop at each other. At another table, a group with some well-behaved kids looked like they were having a family reunion. Outside, near the tables, a couple danced to the music coming from the gazebo. There were some beautiful young couples, all dressed up for night on the island. Some women in one group wore little black dresses; other guests sported more casual resort wear. All in all, it was a good looking and happy crowd.

Desserts are decadent and tempting, so go ahead and indulge. But save some room for drinks at the XO Lounge, where the sophisticated interior of warm-toned metal, gold colors and black accents are reminiscent of the background of a Gustav Klimt painting. The lounge is just steps away. So is the ocean. On most evenings, XO features live entertainment, indoors and outdoors at the gazebo, by such favorites such as The Simpson Brothers, Bobby Ryder, The Headliners, Deas Guyz and John Wasem.

XO is known for its premium liquors, champagnes and cognac, as well as for its cocktails and wines. The bar menu features a great selection of items, including tuna wraps to mini-Kobe burgers. XO (and HH Prime) offer flights of champagne and wine.

After our dinner, the heat of the day had finally given way to the evening ocean breeze, so we opted for the outdoor ambiance at XO. We sat back in the cushy chairs, toasted each other with some fine wine, listened to a little night music and basked in the balmy seaside setting. For a moment, we almost forgot that we live here. Then we remembered why we do.

HH Prime and the XO Lounge are located at 23 Ocean Way at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort in Palmetto Dunes. HH Prime is open seven days a week and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. XO is open from 5:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. Call (843) 341-8058 or visit xohhi.com for reservations and more info.

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