Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Best. Meal. Ever. The Charleston Grill.

Friday evening. It was the very end of our honeymoon. We were planning to leave early Saturday to drive the 10.5 hours home, and then on Sunday it would be back to chores and cooking and the usual routine of life, with work starting on Monday. So we decided to splurge. It was so worth it.

My 'Best Meal Ever at a Restaurant?' This meal.

The Charleston Grill. It's located in Charleston Place hotel. This is not just going out to dinner. This is going out to a dinner event - a leisurely, pampering, delicious, nearly 3 hours long dinner event.

The attire is listed as 'casual elegant/business casual.' I'm not sure SP and I met the attire standard - ! When we arrived around 6:20 pm (yes, a wee bit late for our 6:15 pm reservation because we couldn't find the place!), we were the only couple not in a jacket & tie/dress. SP wore khakis and a polo shirt and I wore a linen blouse with cotton pants and my new sandals. They didn't even blink when we entered, seated us right away, and wished us an enjoyable evening. We felt a little odd, but we had checked the web site and a jacket & tie were not required. To our relief, shortly after we were seated, the hostess seated a guy in jeans and tennis shoes. We felt much better!!!

A lot of words come to mind to describe the interior. Calming, pampering, soothing, elegant. Beautiful dark wood, white linens - and a single peach rose in a vase on each table!First decision: beverages. There is a 39 page wine bottle list!!! We could never drink an entire bottle, especially when we are driving! So we looked at the glass options. I decided to celebrate with a glass of champagne while SP chose a glass of Malbec. What happened next was a first for me:

In my experience, when I am at a restaurant and a bottle of wine is ordered, the server brings the bottle, opens it at the table, pours a bit out for tasting, and waits for approval of the bottle from the taster. I have never before been asked to approve of the glass of wine I select! Our server poured each of us a small taste of our wine/champagne and asked us to taste it and make sure it was OK. After we gave our approvals, he filled the glasses. This was the first sign that we were about to have an amazing evening.We toasted each other, lamenting the end of our vacation, and settled in to closely examine the menu. The menu is divided into 4 categories and guests are encouraged to mix & match:

Pure - impressively simple dishes inspired by the clean, light flavors of the ingredients
Lush - lavish, substantial, and satisfying dishes from the French tradition of extravagance
Contemporary - exotic and imaginative dishes inspired by flavors found traveling the globe
Southern - contemporary interpretations of regional favorites

I'll get to what we ordered in a bit.

After ordering, the bread server came over with a tray of 3 kinds of breads. I chose a ciabatta:

SP chose a multigrain (not pictured) and later chose corn muffins:The bread was very good. I was trying to not eat too much of it because I didn't want to fill up on bread! Shortly after buttering our breads, one of our servers served us each an amuse-bouche of pickled vegetables with feta cheese and a chili sauce: Normally I shy away from chili sauces, but I tried a bit of this sauce with the chunk of feta and pickled veggies. Delicious! Not too spicy, rather light.

For my appetizer I chose Charleston Grill Crab Cake served with Creek Shrimp and Lime Tomato Dill Vinaigrette:Oh my goodness. The crab cake was all crab - I could not see/taste any filler. Neither could SP. We were wondering how the heck they got it to stay together! The dill & lime were so tasty with the crab cake and the tomatoes and shrimp added terrific extra flavors.

SP chose Creamy Polenta and White Truffle Fondue with Wild Mushrooms, Asparagus, & Grilled Radicchio:This, too was delicious, a nice mound of mushrooms and a very earthy taste, but I liked my crab cake better. He liked his polenta & mushrooms better, so it worked out nicely!

In between courses, there was just the right amount of time. Longer than at most places, but not so long as to be annoying, horrible service (think Buca di Beppo for our rehearsal dinner!). The bread server came around several times to offer more bread, our iced teas and waters were refilled discreetly and promptly.

One of my favorite foods is lamb. This is a tough one for me because lamb is so much tastier when it's rarer, but my sensitive stomach doesn't like rare meats and I am always afraid to tempt fate when I dine out. No one wants to dash off to the ladies room 20 minutes after eating.

But when I saw this on the menu, I knew right away what I was going to have: Braised Lamb Shank & Feta Polenta with Lucque Olives, Capers, & Orange Fennel Gremolata:I had no idea what kind of olive a Lucque Olive is, but now I know: darn tasty! A google search tells me they are meaty & sweet green olives originally from Italy but now most closely associated with France. I mentioned my garlic sensitivity so they served the gremolata on the side. This was so good. Braised means the lamb was well done but it was still so deliciously tender and moist - it just fell off the bone. No need to use a knife. The sauce and polenta were amazing - I ate everything on the plate. OK, I shared a few bites with SP, but I scooped up every last bit of this meal.

SP opted for Grilled Venison Tenderloin with Black Truffles, Madeira Jus, & Fresh Herb Coulis:I didn't try the venison. I didn't want to taste anything but that braised lamb! SP said it was very, very good. He ordered it medium rare and he's still gushing about how delicious it was. He ate it all.

We knew the entrees would be enough to satisfy us but could not resist ordering a side dish to share: Serpentini Carbonara with Lobster, Iberian Ham, & Peas:This is probably not the best accompaniment for venison and lamb, but it was so good. Creamy sauce, chunks of buttery lobster, the salty Iberian ham - yum!

I ordered decaf coffee after dinner. It came in a small silver coffee pot which was left on the table so that I could refill my cup whenever I wanted.Our server next brought us each a small dessert compliments of the chef - a mini, deconstructed, strawberry shortcake:It was so darn cute! And tasty. Mmmm. I was full enough that I would have been satisfied stopping after the complimentary dessert, but I didn't. Not when I saw the dessert menu.

SP chose the sorbet sampler - 5 flavors!!! From left to right: blackberry, coconut, raspberry, mango-lime, and apricot. We both thought the mango-lime was the best.As soon as we saw this on the dessert menu, we both knew it was what I would order: Tiramisu Crepes with Mascarpone Mousse, Espresso Anglaise, Chocolate Ganache, & Cocoa Nib Streusel:Oh my goodness. The crepes were chocolate. The square chocolate shotglass in the upper right hand corner of the photo held a yummy coffee sauce I dumped all over the dessert. So good, so decadent without being too rich & heavy, and just the right size, although it was so good that after I almost literally licked the plate I was sort of hoping more would magically appear on my plate!!!

Along with our desserts, we were given complimentary glasses of ice wine to sip:I really liked this ice wine. Sometimes they are just too sweet for my taste, but this one really paired nicely with my dessert and was not too sweet.

Just when we thought the meal was over, our server brought us a small plate of candies:I can't clearly remember each one; I think, from left to right, it was a small shortbread with poppy seed, a chocolate filled with chocolate, a pate de fruit, and a brittle plus the slab of white chocolate that says 'congratulations.' When we were first seated, our server asked if we had ever dined there before and where were we from, etc. It turned out that the couple next to us was from Pittsburgh, too. In the course of the mini conversation about oh, are you on vacation, have you been here before, etc., we mentioned we were on our honeymoon - thus, our white chocolate said congratulations (instead of, presumably, thank you). The white chocolate was also smooth and creamy, not at all chalky, which is how I find most white chocolates to taste.

We were there almost 3 hours but it didn't seem that long. There was no rushing, just savoring and taking your time to enjoy amazing food. There were several servers who attended to our needs; all were excellent. Our main server was very friendly, made suggestions, did not get annoyed at my no garlic request. It was the best meal out we have ever had - both the amazing quality of food and service. The evening will not be forgotten.

However, it is a splurge. Our food, drinks, and tax came to $163. We left a slightly more than 20% tip, making it a nice, round $200 meal - so unless you have a money tree in your back yard, it's a special occasion place, not frequent place, to dine! But for a special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary, it's more than worth it. We are still 'mmmm-ing' over the food!


  1. That looks. so. amazing! I'm so hungry now! Nice that you ended your trip with a bang.

  2. Oh man all of these meals are making me want to go on my honeymoon RIGHT NOW! I hope you're having a great time!

  3. I'm pleased to hear that you and your husband had the perfect evening to finish off your honeymoon in Charleston. I manage PR and Digital Media at Charleston Place (I'm also a native Pittsburgher) and wanted to thanks for dining with us and for posting this great review. I plan to share the review with the team at Charleston Grill and was also wondering if you would mind if I post a link to the review on our Facebook Fan Page. Thanks again and come back to see us on your next visit to Charleston.

  4. To Jeff: I don't mind if you post a link to the review on the Charleston Grill Facebook Fan Page - we truly did have a wonderful evening and an excellent end to our honeymoon! Thank you!

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  6. Jeff -- thank you, and please be sure to send our compliments on to the entire staff at Charleston Grill. It really was the perfect end to our honeymoon.

  7. I read your blog post from the link Charleston Grill posted on Facebook. My husband and I are local Charlestonians and, though we have an abundance of fabulous restaurants in town, Charleston Grill is by far our favorite. Mickey Baskt and his entire team exceed our expectations every time we dine there. And we always recommend Charleston Grill to visitors. I'm so glad you had a great experience and hope you'll be back to visit soon and often. Congratulations on your wedding. I hope your life together is as wonderful and memorable as your meal at Charleston Grill.

  8. Everything looks really good, but WOW, a 39-page wine list?! I'd feel lost at that point.
    Sounds like you two had a great time! Welcome back (belatedly)!