Fusion and fortitude with all hands on deck
Restaurants come and restaurants go, but Shine, celebrating its first anniversary in January, seems grounded in longevity. This may be due to the forty steel beams that anchor the 100-year-old building, rising from the 5,000-square-foot basement up through the lately opened rooftop bar.
Owners Robert “Bobby” Rogers and his wife Layla sunk six years into their dream venture, an impressive task even by the standards of historic renovation. “We literally took the building apart brick by brick, wood plank by wood plank,” says Rogers. The antique heart pine was repurposed all throughout the spacious interior, and the salvaged, artistically re-installed brick was accessorized with chic industrial appointments such as Edison-bulb pendants. Shine was an architectural achievement before it became a popular restaurant, and despite being replete with contemporary details — down to the black undermounted sinks in the restrooms — the overall vibe is warm, as is the hospitality. Service is enthusiastic but authentic.
The back-of-house staff under Rogers currently numbers Chef de Cuisine Max Kopshina, Sous Chef Michael Martin, Chef de Tournant Carlos Hernandez, Chefs de Partie Juan Montoya and Jessica Brown, GM Rob Moore, and, new to the fold, the Rogers’ son Greyson, 21.
It’s a lot of cooks, says Rogers, because it’s a lot of work. “A restaurant that does the amount of covers [entrées] we do requires multiple chefs — because we cook. We don’t take things out of a box from a food purveyor and pop them into a fryer. It’s all made from scratch, every single thing. We hand cut all our protein.” (House-aged liquor for specialty cocktails is a notable innovation, and a new banquet room this winter will require even more hands on deck.)
Both Bobby and Layla grew up in Hendersonville and paid plenty of dues working in the regional restaurant industry. Maybe even more importantly, says Rogers, “we’ve been consumers for 20 years — serious foodies who ate out four or five nights a week. We saw what we loved and what we didn’t like.”
Being natives, “we had a real ability to see the changes [to downtown Hendersonville] as they were coming,” he adds. “We could have opened a restaurant in Atlanta or Savannah. But we didn’t want to. Being here fit our desires and our needs.”
So far, their big risk is paying off. Shine is nothing if not a feat of fusion. The metaphor starts with the couple’s fusing of the three floors of the building, extends via the combination of old/new decor, and acquits itself best where it counts most: on the menu. It’s safe to say that the Rogerses try to, well, shine in a lot of areas.
Southern staples? Of course: Check out the hunk of fried chicken on the sandwich menu. And, along with cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and other classics on the dessert list is a seven-layer coconut cake that fell out of heaven. (All sweets can be credited to house “Patissier” Mary Mujica.)
Coastal delicacies? Yup. Shrimp shows up on every part of the menu, and the “Big Ass Bowl of Mussels” entrée not only confirms the trendy return of this bivalve, it checks the cheeky-language box, too, which translates like this: We may be a bistro, but we’re not a pretentious bistro. (Rogers says he once considered the motto “fine dining for those in flip-flops” to try to nail down Shine’s oeuvre.)
The sandwiches, salads, and starters — even the Duck Fat Fries drizzled with aioli, heaped high enough for a family to share — are casual enough, and while dinner is priced more on a special-occasion level, it, too, is generously portioned.
In every dish, big or small, there’s a simpatico meeting of tastes and textures. The stuffed Shiitake mushroom appetizer, garlicky with a goat-cheese tang, is savory enough to spark joy (but to further please Marie Kondo, it also disappears fast). A crusty baguette comes with the novel accompaniment of radish butter; the taste isn’t at all sharp, but rather earthy to the point of primal.
One of the seafood specials that night, a respectably sized filet of Trigger Fish, chewed like butter; the delicacy of the meat was complemented with a light, zesty corn relish and grounded by creamy cheese grits. Deep fusion wins again in the sweet-potato ravioli, a menu regular. The pasta is filled with house-smoked minced chicken thighs and arrayed with crayfish tails in a brandy-chipotle-cream sauce. Sublime.
“We like to shock and soothe the palate at the same time,” jokes Rogers.
Shine, 202 North Main St., Hendersonville. Open seven days a week, 11am-11pm. For more information, call 828-692-0062 or see shinehvl.com.