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September 2009

The Review:
Halls Chophouse
Written By: 
Patricia Agnew
Photographs By: 
Christopher Shane


Every night is a special occasion at Halls Chophouse, where guests are showered with personal attention from the moment they arrive to the time they depart. Downstairs, the décor shimmers with the refinement of rich mahogany and leather, yet the comfortable atmosphere is jovial and relaxed. The central community table poised between the handsome bar and intimate banquettes is a tempting option, but the stairway also begs a trip upstairs, where tables are set within another beautiful dining room and a private space offers glassed views and quiet conversation. Chef Matthew Niessner is responsible for the elegant cuisine, and though beef is the house specialty, other American favorites are offered as well. Maine lobster, pan-roasted grouper, scallops, and a daily fresh catch comprise the surf options while veal and lamb chops round out the turf selections. À la carte sides such as creamed spinach, asparagus with hollandaise, and onion rings may be preceded by flavorful soups, oysters on the half shell, and a variety of salads, including Halls’ wondrous chopped masterpiece of bacon, peppers, celery, tomatoes, feta, and black-eyed peas with peppercorn buttermilk dressing. Our recent evening began with a choice upstairs table beside an open window overlooking the stairway—the perfect vantage point for enjoying the well-orchestrated theater of the dining room, where soft tunes were being played on the piano. Members of the Hall family were nearby at all times, and those who hadn’t greeted us downstairs made their way to our table intermittently throughout the evening. After considerable deliberation, our selections were classic all the way, beginning with jumbo lump crab cakes and oysters Rockefeller. The first was delicious, consisting of well-seasoned pure crab finished with a light crumb crust and served with creole remoulade. The oysters Rockefeller that had been described as “the best you’ll ever have” were, indeed, an extraordinary combination of ethereal herbed topping baked with Blue Point oysters and lightly finished with bread crumbs and a hint of Pernod. Upon requesting the recipe, we were told that the chef’s secret is carefully guarded. A fan of a good iceberg wedge, I was not disappointed with the fresh, cold lettuce served with avocado fans, red and green heirloom tomatoes, two slices of crisp bacon, and pleasantly light blue-cheese dressing. My dining partner enjoyed chopped Caesar with the perfect amount of garlic, white anchovies, sourdough croutons, and dressing with a touch of walnut. Though there were a number of evening specials offered, we decided to go with the beef. Halls features prime Allen Brothers Chicago beef as well as T-bone from local Legare Farms. I savored every bite of Red’s Prime Cut sirloin, which was tender, aged to perfection, and served with maître d’ butter and luxurious fries splashed with truffle oil and Parmesan. My friend tried the prime filet of richly marbled rib eye with grilled portobello mushrooms as a side. We could have added sauces including béarnaise, peppercorn brandy, and red-wine bordelaise but chose instead to enjoy the excellent beef in its expertly seasoned, pure state. For dessert, we chose Valrhona molten chocolate lava cake with pineapple sauce, chocolate ice cream and raspberries, and Maker’s Mark pecan tart. These quickly disappeared with the last of the wines, including MacMurray and Morgan pinot noirs and Girard cabernet chosen from the generous list. We enjoyed warm, capable service throughout the evening from the Halls and the rest of the team. Patrons were diverse, including families and large parties, all of whom seemed to relax in the unhurried environment. The recession isn’t in evidence here, as tables turned regularly in spite of pricey entrées. Upon departure, we were reminded that in addition to dinner, prime burgers are now being served as a bar special from 5 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. That and the lovely private dining room are irresistible opportunities for the next visit. Halls Chophouse 434 King St., (843) 727-0090, www.hallschophouse.com Dinner: Nightly, 5-10 p.m. Bar: Nightly, 4 p.m. until Average entrée: $32




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