843- Fine Culinary Musings
Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography
There is something comfortable and charming about 843, the fine dining restaurant situated in the southern most corner of the Fresh Market Shoppes on Hilton Head Island. It looks like the kind of place where you can dawdle over your meal and no one is going to hurry you along; and you are absolutely right. The white linen covered tables are crisply set, the surfaces sparkle under twinkling chandeliers, sconces and lamps, the booths and patio look so very cozy, and the walls are lined with white painted book shelves filled with the writings and recipes of chefs and gastronomy aficionados. Take your seat; the scene has been set, and all you must do is prepare yourself for a special culinary ride.
Purchasing the restaurant in January of 2015, owner Kathy Watson took her time getting to know 843 and has carefully crafted the path to putting her stamp on what has become an epicenter for creative, delicious food, a stellar wine story, and the place to go for an exceptional dining experience. “I believe in being very inclusive, rather than exclusive,” Watson said. “I want to hear everybody’s ideas because, in the end, you’re going to have a better product. I like to talk to everybody on the team. I like to hear what they say, because they are the eyes and ears for us.”
Several months into her endeavor, Watson brought Chef Bill DeRoche in to lead the kitchen, and DeRoche and Watson have been cooking up a storm. “Kathy is one of the most supportive people I know,” DeRoche said. “We’re a great team, and the more we work together, we see it’s a natural fit. We kind of complement each other.”
A Signature Dessert: Limoncello cake, grilled with lacerated berries.
Once greetings have been shared, seats have been taken, and menus and specials are considered, guests realize the team at 843 take their food mission very seriously, while managing to not take themselves too seriously in the process. “We think of our menu as worldwide eclectic,” Watson said, meaning no parameters are set on ingredients or style. In the hands of DeRoche, worldwide eclectic translates into world-class meals.
Listening to DeRoche talk about ingredients and dishes in his repertoire is transformative. “We got some mixed greens the other day that were grown on Rawl Farm up near Anderson. When you ate a piece of lettuce, it was like tasting lettuce for the first time. It was lemony; it was herbaceous; it was gorgeous. To get product like that to work with, it doesn’t need a lot of stuff on it. I put brown butter radishes and buttermilk dressing on that salad, and it was like hearing the Beatles for the first time.”
Ingredients are carefully sourced from purveyors who also take their work seriously, growing and raising products worthy of the care and attention given them at 843. Produce is gathered daily from markets in Columbia and Charleston: microgreens come from Silo in Beaufort; beef is purchased from Ashley Farms on the North Carolina-South Carolina border; and pork comes from Heritage Farms in North Carolina. Fish is primarily caught in local waters, where smaller quantities are sometimes the trade-off for the many benefits of working with local businesses and putting the freshest possible seafood on the plate. On a mission to work with the finest ingredients, and whenever possible to support local business, 843 uses oils and balsamic vinegars from the Oilerie in the Village at Wexford on Hilton Head Island. Behind the bar, 843 offers Bull Rush Gin, a crafted spirit inspired by the Lowcountry, along with whiskies that come out of Savannah, a constantly rotating craft beer selection, and many of their own house-infused liquors.
DeRoche’s musings about the menu at 843 will inspire you to dial for a reservation; and if you don’t, you’re truly missing out. “When we do specials, I don’t hold anything back. It’s out there; it’s wacky; it’s brand new original stuff that you’ve never seen or tasted before. I love mussels; I could eat them every day of my life. I want mussels that are not sitting in broth and that are not done the same way they’ve been done for the past 40 years. So we did a dish that was celery root and bacon puree on the bottom. Mussels still in the shell were smoked and pickled, paired with champagne braised fennel, champagne soaked gold raisins, and then a salad on top of very nice wild arugula and fennel fronds. It looked like a simple dish, but then you tasted it, it blew your mind about how much flavor you can get.”
A flavorful pasta dish paired with a Sauvignon Blanc.
843’s wine list has garnered accolades for its breadth and creativity, Watson said. “I think that we have one of the best, if not the best wine list on the island. Regulars are saying that we’ve set ourselves apart from every other restaurant on the island that has a wine list. They’re seeing a nice variety.” Comments about their Bordeaux selection, higher-end cabernets and pinot noirs, along with their selection from Hall Winery, a small boutique winery out of California are winning fans.
Desserts at 843 are created by Watson herself. “Limoncello cake, grilled, with macerated berries is probably our signature dessert,” Watson said. Key Lime cheesecake and chocolate turtle brownies are also amazing. “We also have Pr%f ice cream out of Columbia. They’ve figured out how to freeze liquor.” Watson and DeRoche have collaborated on a 21-and-over ice cream sandwich, combining her homemade cookies and J.B.’s Pr%f Alcohol Ice Cream. The ice cream can also be packed in pints or quarts to take home.
The Dining room at 843, located in the Fresh Market Shoppes.
Since taking the helm, Watson has hosted several amusing, themed events (James Bond Night, Polar Express Night, Happy Days Night…) to benefit charities in the local community. Other events to be on the lookout for are special pairings dinners where 843’s wines, beers and liquors will be carefully matched with memorable menus.
“We’ve evolved into doing really awesome food, really progressive menus, and keeping that train all the way through our bar, our wait staff, the music we play,” DeRoche said. “It’s just a laid back different place that’s still serving very high end fine dining, but where you don’t need to feel stuffy.” Prepare yourself for a special culinary ride.
843 is located at 890 William Hilton Parkway in the Fresh Market Shoppes, Hilton Head Island. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, dinner only on Monday, and brunch on Sunday, Happy Hour Monday-Saturday 4-6 p.m. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit 843therestaurant.com or call (843) 686-8843.