Four Moons  is the type of flashy, modern restaurant one would expect to find in New York’s trendy Meatpacking District, not some place like Orangeburg, S.C., a city of approximately 13,000 people located about an hour from Charleston.
“It’s like Alice falling down the rabbit hole,” said Dan Sweeney, Four Moons’ designer and owner of Stumphouse, a Charleston-based architecture and design firm. “Our client wanted it to be this kind of otherworldly, Las Vegas/New York-style experience. Upon walking into this building, you should feel completely transformed.”
The restaurant’s contemporary design is based on the four elements recognized by the ancient Greeks as making up the world: fire, water, earth and air. Each element is represented through a unique design feature intended to surprise guests, said Four Moons owner Mike Tourville.
“The place is designed so everywhere you look, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, look at that!’” he said.
Upon entering the restaurant, guests are put directly in line with the restaurant’s “fire wall,” a large wall of Plexiglas painted in yellows, oranges and reds to resemble a wall of flames.
The fire wall is balanced by an enormous blue and white blown-glass chandelier that looks a bit like a sea anemone and represents the element of water.
Sweeney represented the earth element by putting cork floors in the dining room. The cork not only fit the elemental theme, but it also helps keep the sound down in the restaurant, Sweeney said. Also, he noted, “it just feels really good under your feet.”
The air element is represented by what Tourville calls the “hanging ceiling.” The walls at Four Moons extend beyond the ceiling, which is lit from above, leaving the impression that it is floating freely between the walls.
Tourville and Sweeney did not shy away from color when it came to Four Moons’ 84-seat dining room, where the chairs are upholstered in vivid cerulean blue. The bright blue banquettes circling the room are separated by hanging sheets of chain mail, which allow the space to be customized to suit parties of different sizes.
“We used a chain mail used to make shark suits,” Sweeney said, “and they can be opened or closed to adjust the openness of the dining room.”
Tourville added: “The tables can all be two-tops, or you can change them into a six-top, or a four-top. You can have two people sitting right next to you, but the chain mail gives you your little area of privacy.”
In the middle of the dining room’s floating ceiling is a grand dome approximately 20 feet in diameter, Tourville said.
The size and drama of the dome demanded something appropriate for the space, Sweeney noted.
“We had the big dome in the center of the dining room, and that required a really great piece to be under that,” he said.
The original plan was to take the restaurant’s moon theme literally and install a large, red, moon-shaped spherical chandelier. But once they had the chandelier in hand, they decided it wasn’t going to work, Tourville said. So they brought in the restaurant’s showpiece chandelier.
The custom-made chandelier is 6 feet wide and 5 feet long. When it arrived, it was in 360 individual pieces shaped like pods, horns and gourds.
“The first thing the instructions say is, ‘There’s no wrong way of doing this,’” Tourville said. “So we just sat there one Sunday for about five hours putting it together.”
Smaller, matching chandeliers hang above the banquettes.
Four Moons’ attention to design detail even continues into the restaurant’s bathrooms.
“I wanted the bathrooms to be cool,” Tourville said. “Because I travel all over the world and eat at the finest restaurants, and I always took note when I went in those places of how unique and different the bathrooms are.”
The doors to Four Moons’ bathrooms are purple metal for the ladies’ room, and red metal for the men’s room. Both were custom-painted at an auto-body shop. When the doors are opened, patrons hear the sound of crickets, which is piped into the bathrooms so guests feel like they are in the woods, Tourville said.
“I’m not going to say it’s a neat place to hang out, because it’s a bathroom,” Tourville said. “But it’s definitely a must-see.”
The ultra-contemporary decor matches the spirit of Four Moons’ cuisine, said chef Charles Zeran, who describes his food as “serious food that doesn’t take itself seriously.”
“The food on the plate and the dining room are both very contemporary,” Zeran said. “So when you see them together, it just makes sense.”
Zeran, a self-taught chef who says that he never worked under any other chefs before running his first kitchen, says his nontraditional background allowed him to develop his own style of cuisine.
Signature items on the menu include a dish called “Macaroni and Cheese,” which is a roasted garlic and mascarpone orzo pasta with lobster, caviar and truffle oil. Another popular item is what he calls “Peaches and Cream,” a seared scallop with fresh chanterelle mushrooms, applewood-smoked bacon, fresh peaches and a peach Schnapps cream sauce.
“We kind of cook what strikes our fancy at the time,” Zeran said.
His wife, Colleen Zeran, is Four Moons’ pastry chef and private-events planner.
Between the innovative food and modern design, Tourville says he has succeeded in bringing modern fine dining to a town where it was previously lacking.
“Orangeburg is a very small town, but it has a big community and business,” he said. “People want to entertain and have special events, but there wasn’t any place here like that. You’d have to go to Columbus or Charleston. You didn’t have that classic, fine-dining atmosphere, so we created it. Now people can stay here and not drive to Charleston.
“My goal was to feel that you weren’t in Orangeburg, but that you’re in New York or Paris or Los Angeles,” Tourville continued, “and that’s what our customers have been saying.”— [email protected]