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LOVE AT FIRST BITE: PinPoint nails New American cuisine with a Lowcountry twist

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PinPoint will serve up a dose of Lowcountry fare that’s taking Wilmington diners by storm.

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Let’s get the awkwardness out of the way. No, PinPoint did not pay me under the (dining room) table to write this five-star review. Their stellar food just happened to sweep me off my feet, and it’s my job to spread the love. And the beef tartare—which, by the way, OMFG!

BEAUTY AND THE BITES: PinPoint makes food that’s gorgeous to look at and to eat, including their magnificent beef tartare. Photos by Holland Dotts Photography

BEAUTY AND THE BITES: PinPoint makes food that’s gorgeous to look at and to eat, including their magnificent beef tartare. Photos by Holland Dotts Photography

PinPoint swung open their doors several months back, and they’ve been the talk of the downtown since. Word of good (and bad) food sweeps Wilmington streets pretty quickly. It wasn’t long before their impressive contemporary American fare hit chatter circles everywhere.

Almost smack dab at the intersection of Market and Front streets, downtown, PinPoint supersedes not-so-promising Perkeo, and the formerly fine-dining establishment that was Deluxe. It may be a bit early to call the game, but I’d say partners Jeff Duckworth and Dean Neff are

off to a hell of a start. Duckworth mans the thoughtfully renovated front of the house: modernized light fixtures, elegant bar scene, eclectic art. Neff makes magic in the kitchen with pickled butternut squash meets charred broccolini. All senses are in for a treat.

In my pre-dinner research, I discovered PinPoint’s name represents a rural community in Neff’s hometown of Savannah where Lowcountry cuisine is king. This Georgia boy did not leave his roots behind, and for that I thank him.

BEAUTY AND THE BITES: PinPoint makes food that’s gorgeous to look at and to eat, including their Key Lime pie. Photos by Holland Dotts Photography

DECADENCE ON A PLATE: PinPoint’s beautifully tempting and tasty Key Lime pie. Photos by Holland Dotts Photography

The menu is laced with local ingredients and undertones of the Lowcountry. New American cuisine typically signifies elegant twists on familiar flavors. That being said, the prices match the sophisticated quality of the dishes. But, wait, there’s more! Arrive between 5:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m., and diners can maximize their food bucks with a $25 prix fixe (plus $10 for optional wine pairings). It’s a three-course dinner steal! By offering refined fare at an affordable price, it’s clear PinPoint values customers as much as the exquisite food on their plates.

So, one Friday evening I strolled in with reservations at 6 o’ clock. One look at the welcoming, oversized mahogany bar—impeccably clean and brimming with bottles, taps and crafts—I decided to set up shop. (I like front-row seats to the cocktail-shaking show.) The opening act: Holy Muscadine Sour—a balanced blend of local muscadine grapes, fragrant holy basil and Bulleit bourbon. Holy, yes, please. A quick cameo from a Green Man IPA, hop forward with hints of caramel, and I was ready for something to chew on.

Enter: Oysters on the half-shell. The WiAnno from Cape Cod came with a gentle sweetness and a tinge of brine. The Beausoleil from Canada, a recommendation from the bartender, had an after-slurp with a sweet finish. A drop of cocktail sauce, a splash of housemade mignonette—characterized by a citrusy hint of yuzu—and I had to refrain from ordering 65 more.

Though meant for sharing, I had a hard time handing over bites of the tartare to my beau. I almost scooped up the drops that fell onto the table. Neff spins the Parisian-style starter into a frenzy with tangy caper aioli and soy-pickled beech mushrooms. Delicate woven potato crisps come served alongside for smearing.

BEAUTY AND THE BITES: PinPoint makes food that’s gorgeous to look at and to eat, including their catfish. Photos by Holland Dotts Photography

SOUTHERN STEADFAST: PinPoint serves Lowcountry fare with a twist, including cornmeal-dusted catfish. Photos by Holland Dotts Photography

In addition to a few bonus bites, I opted for the prix fixe. For my first course, I chose tuna ricotta fritters. These lightly golden, crunchy fried nuggets came stuffed with bright lemon, grassy herbs and marinated turnips. To balance out the meaty flavor of the tuna: simple mixed greens garnished with crunchy shaved fennel.

For my main course, out came the catfish, blaring with regional pride. Dusted in a buttery coating of cornmeal, the flaky filet swam in a stream of creamy, dreamy leek-infused grits. A nutty, lemon brown butter surrounded the plate, alongside several strands of perfectly crisped okra. I’m not originally from the South, but holy fish, y’all.

I was intrigued by the unique array of the shared vegetable plate and decided to take it for a test drive. The playful fusion of flavors, textures and colors was, by far, one of the highlights of the night. A vibrant green, intensely bitter, silky puree swept its way across the bottom of the plate. It was dotted with nutty, bronzed chickpeas, flash fried to a salty crisp. Layered over top: several strands of smoky, caramelized broccoli and bite-sized cubes of tangy pickled butternut squash. Each component on its own cast a bold voice and expert seasoning. When wound together in one forkful, it  became a harmonious bite.

Since I wanted the full scoop on dessert, I ordered two. First up was the savory selection from the prix fixe. This mini cheese board featured Green Hill: a soft-ripened, double cream, Camembert-style cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. Also on board: tiny toasts, tart cherry jam, creamy cashew butter, and a sticky piece of local honeycomb. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: adult-style PB&J. As a chef, Neff knows the power of food and memories, so he took this opportunity and ran with it. Just as with the nostalgic sandwich from my childhood, “I made all gone.”

The sweet finale came in a slice of one epic Key Lime pie, straight from the fingertips of PinPoint’s pastry chef—and Neff’s wife—Lydia Clopton. Inside the buttery homemade crust—nutty and dark blonde—was a tangy, velvety filling, spiked with effervescent zips of tart Key Lime.

Despite the otherworldly meal, I didn’t leave dinner in need of a cosmic nap. No dish was exceptionally heavy, as each ingredient was thoughtfully blended to craft a perfectly balanced bite. Don’t be surprised if PinPoint’s popularity continues to skyrocket—or if you find yourself doodling their name in your notebook. It’s love at first bite

DETAILS:
PinPoint Restaurant
114 Market St. • (910) 769-2972
Sat.-Sun. brunch, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Open for dinner, daily at 5:30
Closed Tues.
PinPointrestaurant.com

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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