The stand-alone island community, once spearheaded by Bishop England, the Family Circle Cup stadium, and a few widely scattered homes, has morphed into a bustling Mayberry-esque town, filled with working professionals and young families. It now has all the trademarks of a real town, complete with its own grocery store, ice cream shop and nail salon, but what it doesn't have is a mid-range priced restaurant that beckons with I've-got-a-must-have-craving-to-go-eat-at-XYZ-restaurant-tonight-honey allure.
Arlaana's probably the closest, but with prices approaching some of downtown's best (and closest DI competitor, Sienna), it needs to come up with more compelling food preparations, more even service, and perhaps tone down its deep purple and orange Alice-on-Acid color scheme and flickering Christmas tree-hued, fiber optically programmed wall sconces. Once accomplished, Arlaana's would be transformed into it a restaurant tour de force that beckons the DI masses, and those from elsewhere, with irresistible charm.
Still, despite its occasional flawed moment, Arlaana offers a most pleasant dining experience, peppered with a surprise pop of excellence in some dishes, a grown-up wine list, and sincere, friendly service. Somehow it all comes together with the exuberant warmth and maternal energy of owner (along with her husband Chuck) Aarlana Black, who floated about the mid-size dining room and through its gossamer curtain panels the evening we visited like an inviting, polished hostess at a private dinner party.
The exhaustive menu, comprised for the most part of "large" and "small plates" ($4.95-$24.95) and house made flat bread pizzas, soups and salads ($5.50-$9.50), literally traverses the cuisines of the globe, with an emphasis on France, Italy, Asia, American and Southern classics. The cheese tour ($17), a plate of Saint Nectaire, Gorgonzola, and Cambozola cheeses with assorted garnishes, was representative of the best and worst of Arlaana.
While the plate was attractive, there was too much going on visually (like the space itself), and while the creamy, tangy Cambozola paired with luscious honey and an edible bowl of preserved lemon was ultimate perfection, the cloying blackberry-balsamic "jelly" (really more of a sauce) paired with the mild, musty Saint Nectaire was a miss. The Gorgonzola paired with toasted pine nuts and basil and a pile of bland, pickled garlic fell somewhere in between. Kudos to the server, however, for selecting a snappy, well-chilled Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc ($36, bottle - wine is half-price on all bottles on Tuesday evenings) that was served with professional aplomb.
He was accompanied all evening by a friendly factotum in-training. Though she bumbled her one solo service gig (she delivered the wrong entree orders to the wrong guests), it was the gaping time gap (approximately 40 minutes) between the appetizer course and entrees that was the most problematic and the most curious, since there were only 8 diners in the entire restaurant. When they finally did arrive, the Pan Seared Filet Mignon ($16) and Duck Confit ($10) were both lovely. They shone brightest in the sauce department, with spot-on reduction sauce renditions of a an earthy, shallot confit demi-glace and a Grand Marnier demi-glace, respectively. Too bad the "pommes frittes" (oops - that should have read "frites" on the menu) were limp, half-cooked, and thus, not worthy of consumption.
Inconsistencies and an underlying sense of rushed sloppiness that likely led to the multiple typos on the menu and the occasional flaws in the overall dining experience at Arlaana, bring it down from a potentially huge DI restaurant high. Because of the palpable love and passion emitted by the owner and her staff for their work and their customers and because of the locals' desire for all that Arlaana could be, I have a feeling it will get there and I, for one, hope it does.
259 Seven Farms Drive, Daniel Island
Tues.-Fri., 11:30 am.-2 p.m.
Tues. - Sat., 5 p.m.-until
Sun. Brunch, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.