Sunday, January 3, 2016

Charleston Grill - Charleston, SC - December 24, 2015

We’re new to town, so you can imagine the hundreds of times I’ve googled, “Best Restaurants in Charleston,” and poured through the plethora of places that my search revealed.   I have to admit that hearing Charleston is some kind of foodie destination, had me both excited, but yet a little bit doubtful.  On our house hunting trip, I wasn’t terribly impressed with any restaurant, so I wasn’t just dying to go anywhere except maybe the Waffle House (scattered, smothered, and covered, ya’ll).

Enter Charleston Grill. 

Christmas Eve, and I do like to go all out.  I called them up on the Saturday before the big day.  The host a little bit laughed at me for trying to get a reservation so late.   He says there is a waitlist forty deep.  I mentioned I was new to town, and he graciously said he’d take my name as a symbol of Charleston hospitality.  Thank goodness for that Charleston hospitality because guess who called me the next day with a table? My good friends at The Charleston Grill, that’s who!

We arrived in plenty of time to enjoy the Christmas pomp at the Belmond Hotel, and the Babe was able to admire the fabulous train set.   Truly worth a visit this time of year!

Once at our table, we were promptly greeted by one of two wait staff assigned to us.  He was both casual and professional, which really is the perfect personality combination as a server.  He was friendly toward for the Babe and patience as he thought of the words, “Chocolate Milk.”  

The dinner was a three-course menu for $95, and it included your choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert, but did not include tax and 20% gratuity. There was a standard children’s menu, though children were welcome to dine from the adult menu at half the price (I do, SO, love that!).  The Babe, though a rather adventurous eater at the age of five with his favorite foods being Mac 'N Cheese and Ahi Tuna, chose the pasta with butter and Parmesan. 

First Course:
Dear Ben chose the Ace of Spades Oysters from the East Coast.  He just can’t get enough oysters.  Served on a bed of rock salt and peppercorns with a Yuzo-Ginger Mignonette, he said he was pleasantly surprised.  He’s a northwest oyster snob, but he said these were mild and tasty.  No oyster was spared from his plate.

I ordered the Charleston crab cake.  After just one bite, I knew I would like living here.  Perhaps I am in a food Mecca?  Served with sweet, little Creek Shrimp, gorgeous cherry tomatoes, and a lime-tomato-dill vinaigrette; the combination was out of control.  Even the Babe requested multiple bites. After breaking the initial breading, it had me wondering how the chef kept these babies together. The crab cake was indeed made of crab, crab, and more crab. 

Second Course:
Dear Ben picked a choice that I don’t make a home, the Grilled Domestic Lack Rack.  His grandmother used to make lamb every time he would visit, so not only did have a culinary interest, but a sentimental one as well.  He enjoyed that the chops were both a bit fatty and perfectly cooked rare, and he had only love for the mint chimichurri.  I have to admit that I was a little bit wide-eyed that this perfectly dressed man was chewing on the bone.  Then I remembered why we are such a good pair, so I smiled inside and kept on eating my own plate.

I had serious trouble deciding what to order for my main course, but I went with the Seared Snapper.  I wanted something a little bit light, but my server assured me that my choice was far from that.  The fregola, very similar to a couscous, was cooked in cream, in addition to the sherry and red wine reduction.  The server couldn’t quite get this description out before I could say, “That’s what I want.”  The sherry flavor was quite prominent, and thankfully, that was A-Ok with me.  The dish was perfection with the crispy seared skin, creamy balls of pasta with the tang of sherry and bits of wild mushrooms.  Shear happiness.

I’m actually too full, but I manage to push forward. 

Dear Ben goes with yet another dish I don’t make a home, the Spiced Yogurt and Pear Panna Cotta.   This plate was a beauty though with the poached Forelle Pear, walnut baklava, and the honey whiskey drizzle.  He would order it again.

I don’t always go chocolate, but Chocolate Pate had a certain ring that I couldn’t refuse.  So very glad that I went with this intuition.  The rich, decadent chocolate was dense and had a marshmallow mousse surprise inside, a la Ding Dong -- though much, much better, with a tangy cherry compote and a pair of homemade graham cracker cookies.  I knew I had a friend in our server when he offered to fill my dessert wine on multiple occasions.  What a finale!

As we walked out, the Babe stopped to shake the hand of the head of table next to ours.  He had been dying to say hello after he got a he’s-a-cute-kid comment from them earlier in the meal.   Saying hello proved to be the cherry on top of the night.  Perhaps an indicator of the people of the South, his college-aged daughters took selfies with the Babe and the Mother said she would love to take him home.  This friendliness made us all feel warm inside, and though we miss our Seattle friends like crazy, we feel a little bit better about moving across the country.

This meal was a turning point in our attitude about the City of Charleston.  The food surpassed my expectations, the service was a delight, and equally important, the hospitable charm had me feeling a little bit more at "Home." 

So, what’s next, Charleston?  Can’t wait to dig into everything you have to offer.  

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