Kovach has partnered with Charleston’s John Coleman, Bearcat’s Chef-De-Cuisine. Coleman is a former line cook-turned sous chef with a resume that includes restaurants like Parcel 32, Chubby Fish, and Edmund’s Oast.
Extra Chill attended the soft opening of Bearcat, located at 25 Magnolia Road, on Saturday, October 21st. We had a chance to sample the diverse menu of food and cocktails in advance of their long-awaited grand opening to the public on October 31st, 2023. The bar is open as of today, October 27th.
The Vibe at Bearcat
Stepping into Bearcat, guests are transported to a futuristic forest terrarium, with plants and driftwood on the walls but a ceiling of suspended pallets and exposed joists. Modern and rustic, Bearcat dances along the lines between experimentation and tradition, inviting diners on a journey guided by the unique vision of Chef George Kovach.
For the soft opening, the menu was hand-selected by the chef and served in a curated order to create an experience from start to finish. It was a formal introduction to what is likely to become one of Charleston’s hottest date night spots in the coming months.
At least, for those brave enough to toss aside the long-established culinary standards of Southern cooking in favor of something much more abstract and diverse.
Start At The Bar
Upon entering we were seated at the bar, where we had our first look at the cocktail menu. While not as meticulously crafted as the food that we would soon indulge ourselves in, there was still a lot to like about it, including the fact that they carry Coors Banquet (we call it high-brow, low-brow). Chris Huber went with that, while Gardner started with the White Manhattan.
Then we were served the first of two “bar snacks” of the evening: a bao bun made with crab and Foie Gras. Delicious and just filling enough to pique your curiosity, a simple bun elevated to the highest tier, it becomes clear that the Bearcat has already thrown you off its trail.
With a sharp turn towards a more hearty protein, the staff brought out yakitori chicken skewers, charred over the open hearth, wood-fired grill centrally located in the barroom. With these two opposite dishes served back-to-back, Bearcat strikes a balance between rustic carnivorous desires, and refined Michelin Star pastry artistry.
And we’re just getting started.
Inside The Dining Room
Inside the dining room, the chef’s vision truly had room to shine. The meal was a five-course selection of a wide variety of different flavors, each unique and creative in its own right, with special care given to making the most of every ingredient. At Bearcat, each plate is a study in outside-the-box thinking.
First up was a yellowfin tuna crudo, topped with apple ice and made with avocado and vinegar. Bright acidity, with a bite from the horse radish. One of the most fundamental delicacies of the sea, transformed into a culinary work of art.
More transformation arrives with the second course, a personal favorite of both Chrises: the wagyu beef tartare on an eggnog brioche french toast bite. If it sounds insane, that’s because it is. Imagine the classic flavor of the McDonalds McGriddle, elevated to the quality of a top shelf dining experience with artisan wagyu beef.
The main course was a pork loin dish with a side of cauliflower in various forms, a fitting pair with the spiced apple pie Manhattan. This highlighting of one simple ingredient — cauliflower, in this case — in as many as three different forms within the the same dish showcases not only the chef’s skills, but also the versatility of the ingredient.
Bearcat strives to present the dining experience in a way that you would never have considered. Making cauliflower taste distinctly different, three separate times on one plate without overwhelming the diner, is quite an impressive feat.
Dessert: Not Just Sweets
Following the pork loin were two dessert courses that continue the theme of shattering expectations, while also managing to neatly place a bow on top of the experience.
When you’ve just been dazzled by something as simple as cauliflower, you’ll be open to trying anything. The first dessert is one that requires this openness to enjoy: a creamy after dinner cheese with figs, also prepared in various forms, that had the essence of melted brie ice cream. Our team was split in opinions on this one.
Tying things together was Bearcat’s unique take on a classic dessert: a terrarium of chocolate mousse, with sponge cake matcha. This dish captures the philosophy that drives Bearcat — breaking rules and shattering expectations, without being afraid to lean into tried-and-true options.
Bearcat is wooden rollercoaster, requiring the faith of the rider to hold tight and trust the process from start to finish. Each bite is thought-provoking, leaving the diner uncertain what’s around the corner, aside from a guaranteed thrill.
It’s an exciting new restaurant to have in the Charleston landscape, broadening the horizons of the Holy City food scene in a way that can only be called, shall we say, Extra Chill?