February 2013

Sublime Prime

Author: Michael Paskevich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

It’s been a lifetime of experiencing grand gourmet rooms from all angles for Karyn Goldberg, owner of Sublime Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Bluffton. She recalls her early days growing up in Charleston, S.C. and wandering around wide-eyed in her family’s vintage Embassy Supper Club that seated more than 200 diners who feasted on upscale fare while watching lavish floor shows. “I wasn’t even old enough when they started me busing tables and working my way up through the ranks and learning everything I could,” she said. “So being in an upscale environment is really in the blood.”

Goldberg later forged a fitting career as a junket director and casino host for gaming giant Harrah’s Corp. and subsequently spent time dining with fellow hotel execs and high-rollers in stately gourmet rooms from Las Vegas to Atlantic City and beyond. Those classic experiences, emphasizing premium foods, preparation and service in special settings, were deeply ingrained in Goldberg when she settled in Bluffton about 10 years ago—a time when finding impressive dining usually meant making a trip to Hilton Head.

“When people asked me where I wanted to go and eat, the only place off-island that I could recommend then was Claude and Uli’s, which I think is a fabulous brasserie,” Goldberg said. “I think chef-owners care more about what comes out of their kitchens; they oversee things more closely. Having just one place to dine, I thought, ‘well, there’s not a great steak house’ and came up with a concept modeled on casino gourmet rooms.”

It took some time, but her Sublime Prime Steakhouse made its debut about 20 months ago and adheres to many hotel-casino culinary traditions, although Goldberg eschewed the genre’s sometimes garish red-velvet trappings in favor of more modern, sedate décor that features warm earth-tones and wainscoting in a cozy, single-room 62-seater. Likewise, after opening with a casino-styled a la carte menu and price points to match, Goldberg is revamping the menu to better cater to a recession-weary marketplace without dropping her essential commitment to giving customers a memorable fine-dining experience.

“We’re adding a New York strip steak and filets, lamb chops, pastas and salad entrées,” said Goldberg, “plus new small plates such as spicy Moroccan shrimp wraps, crab cake BLTs and a tuna tartare. We’ll also have a fresh catch of the day that’s flown in daily during the off-season; during the season, we have a couple of boats that we buy from, and we are big supporters of the local farm-to-table movement.”

A fresh soup of the day now joins a classic French onion on a menu that still offers select side dishes for sharing along with entrées now served with inclusive sides. The collective changes are geared at lowering dining prices by about $6 per person to between $26 and $42. There’s also a newly added program of rotating weekly specials such as three-course early bird dining ($22.95 per person), prime rib nights ($23.95) and evenings that highlight a special tapas menu. First-time luncheon hours and menus are also in the works.

One thing that definitely won’t change is Sublime Prime’s commitment to serving only trademark Certified Angus Beef®, grade prime meats that have absolutely nothing in common with commercial Angus burgers and such that have materialized at even fast-food joints these days. “That just means it came from a black cow,” laughed Chef Jennifer Clow, explaining that “only one percent of the beef in the world is Certified Prime Angus,” through a stringent process that features special feed, precise aging and marbling and expert monitoring to achieve the most flavorful and juicy cuts. Nine more quality standards apply to Certified Angus than its closest competitor, USDA Prime.

Chef Jennifer Clow with owner Karyn Goldberg

Clow brings 18 years of fine dining experience to Sublime Prime where a small kitchen staff gets ongoing assists from Goldberg when the owner is not out working the front-of-the-house—hosting patrons and overseeing a black-clad staff of servers. Slow-roasted seasoned prime rib and sizzling steaks are prepared-to-order on a closed gas grill to avoid charring and maintain tenderness and flavor. Olive oil takes precedence over butter for a healthier take on many of the carnivorous classics.

Sublime’s already extensive wine list is being bolstered by newly added and lower-priced American domestics offered at nightly happy hours (4:30-7 p.m.), starting at about $5 per glass and served at a secluded bar at the rear of the restaurant. And in keeping with her roots watching live entertainment at her parents’ place in Charleston, Goldberg is enlisting talent such as popular standards singer Bobby Ryder to drop in on occasion to enhance the overall dining experience.

“We are making some changes to accommodate everybody, but we are still about the whole fine dining experience,” Goldberg said. “We are very polished and quiet… its candlelight, fresh flowers and the whole nine yards. I think everybody wants to be pampered when they’re here without us being stuffy or intrusive. We’re a friendly place, and we want to build relationships and be known as a place where you can go for a special dining experience.”

The restaurant’s recent updates should further position Sublime Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in an emerging Bluffton fine dining market. And Goldberg is rightfully encouraged, citing the May River Grill and Sigler’s Rotisserie and Seafood, not as competitors, but as “both bringing something new to the table that is uplifting the whole area.”

As for her own niche, Goldberg remains confident that a classy steakhouse that offers great food and ambience never goes out of fashion.

Sublime Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar is located at 163 Bluffton Road, Suite F, Bluffton. Hours: 4:30-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For reservations, call (843) 815-6900 or visit sublimeprimebluffton.com for more information.

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