Grilled Caribbean salmon arrived, perfectly moist and aggressively spiced, atop a bed of terrific al dente three-cheese macaroni. The "tropical sugar snap peas" on the menu were actually string beans -- the skinny French kind. While those are my preferred string beans, the substitution for peas should have been mentioned. The fish fillet was topped with what looked like shoestring potatoes but turned out to be fried noodle dough. Packaged and mass-marketed, this delicacy could become a national addiction.
Crispy, flash-fried yard bird, Woods's take on Southern fried chicken, had a greaseless dark brown coating so airy it didn't look breaded so much as exploded. The texture was crackling but the coating didn't adhere to the bird's skin. And the chicken's meat was not merely a touch underdone but vivid pink. This is something I far prefer to overdone breasts. My more bacteria-conscious companions, however, turned as white as they'd have liked the poultry to be. Accompanying circuit hash (or succotash) was predominantly corn, a mix of fresh kernels, carrot disks, red peppers, scallions, and very moist Thanksgiving-type bread stuffing that had just enough cayenne heat to leave the inside of your mouth pleasantly warm. The grits were not the side dish we'd expected, but rather dumplings, lumps of hand-molded grits mixed into the hash.
M. Woods's Low Country cuisine gets high marks
305-895-9962. Open Tuesday through Thursday 5:00 to 10:30p.m.; till 11:00p.m. Friday through Sunday.
For dessert Woods's seven-layer red velvet cake has to be the universe's best. As traditionally made, the chief ingredient in Elvis's favorite sweet treat is the better part of a bottle of red food coloring. Woods got the same eye-popping red color -- and a helluva lot more flavor -- with raspberry juice.
On a second visit for just a snack, a wilted green salad was not so much a salad as the greens of my dreams. Curly purple kale and collards were rendered tender but still crisp by a tangy, spicy-sweet warm dressing that had just enough applewood bacon to be smoky without overwhelming all other flavors. Sitting at the bar overlooking the kitchen was fun, but you needn't sit by the stove to interact with the chef. Woods circulates as well as cooks. With my table, he discussed his newborn daughter's weaning plans. "I'm playing with the idea of a poached pear/sweet potato purée," he mused. Lucky baby.