Holy City Hospitality

New Food Section: Sushi rolls on in Charleston, much to sophisticates’ chagrin

Flirting with sushi
Beyond big cities, sushi was slow to catch on. Corson recalls a bunch of fishermen in Maine, where he lived, hanging a “sushi restaurant” sign on their bait shed. “From their point of view, eating raw fish was a stupid, gross thing,” he says.

Yet when the owners of 39 Rue de Jean needed something more compatible with summer weather than braised rabbit and steak frites, they put sushi on the menu. Since the downtown restaurant opening in 2001, it’s offered rolls alongside French brasserie staples.

“We knew people were going to ask why,” says Holy City Hospitality operating partner Daren Wolfe, who previously served as Rue de Jean’s general manager. “We laughed, ‘You know, French Polynesia is not that far (from Japan).’ ”

Wolfe says the lobster roll, eel avocado roll and California roll are especially popular.

“We were extremely nervous about it,” Wolfe says of the sushi program’s introduction. “We knew it would be a complete failure or a tremendous success.”

It was the latter, Wolfe says. “A lot of our female clientele really love it. You’d be surprised by how many times I see someone with a bowl of mussels and a tuna roll.”

 

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