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Tapas Restaurant, Hilton Head Island

Valerie and I just finished dining at Tapas Restaurant on Hilton Head Island. As the name indicates, the menu consisted of small plates, but the flavors and preparations circled the culinary world (leaning heavily toward French Cuisine). Between the two of us we sampled 8 different dishes - sharing with each other, of course.

We started off with appetizers which may as well have been tapas items themselves. Valerie's Crab Rangoon with cherry-plum sauce was tasty (though not my preference), but the real star here was the Lobster Ravioli in lemon burre-blanc sauce. Now burre-blanc is one of the "mother sauces" of French cuisine, and arguably one of the more difficult to produce, but self-trained chef Ardis Matthews showed herself to be worthy of her kitchen with this entry. The only shame was that this was my first course and easily my best of the night. I wiped up as much of the remaining sauce as possible with the bread (which was fresh and delicious)...

Sticking with seafood, Valerie ordered the Shrimp Parthenon, which consisted of sauteed shrimp with feta and oregano in an amazing tomato bisque. There was even a little puff-pastry fish in the bowl! I, on the other hand, opted for the Shrimp and Scallops Ardis, deciding that if the chef was willing to put her name on the dish it must be worth a try. I wasn't disappointed - the shrimp were delicious, the scallops perfectly tender, and the lobster cream sauce poured over the top was subtle but spectacular. I went for another seafood round while Valerie digested a bit, choosing the Grilled Pesto Salmon. There's not much to explain, given the name of the dish, but the fish was grilled just right and went better with pesto than I'd have imagined.

My wife's next choice was the Grand Marnier Duck - a thin slice of duck breast sauteed with grapes and pears in a sauce which gave the dish its name. Very flavorful, very tender, and very creative. I went for the Tornado Vernoff - a slice of beef tenderloin sitting in a sauce consisting of Madeira and demi-glace - and what a sauce! My last dinner selection was the Venison au Poivre, a tasty rendition of the steak classic with the stronger flavor of deer.

Beyond belief, we still had dessert! Valerie's creme brulee was one of the lightest I've had, and they broiled brown sugar instead of granulated on top which added a nice change. My "chocolate decadence" (oh what a lousy name) was incredible. It was as dense as a brownie and layered with caramel and toffee bits.

We will return on Tuesday when Val's mom, accompanied by two friends, join us on the island. What a dining experience.