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September 2011

The Review:
Charleston Grill
Written By: 
Patricia Agnew
Photography By: 
Christopher Shane

Classic comfort, impeccable service, and the gracious cuisine of Charleston Grill executive chef Michelle Weaver make the ultimate reward at the end of the day.


Known for its elegant intimacy, this restaurant tucked inside Charleston Place Hotel is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. In the beautifully designed space, polished mahogany lightened by natural fabrics anchor cozy banquettes and interior tables, and garden-side seats overlook dramatic tropicals in the atrium.

 

Inspired by nature and traditional influences from her culinary past, Weaver recently created an unpretentious yet celebratory bill of fare reflecting her delicate hand and sumptuous spirit like never before. From clean and light to lavish and exotic, the menu is divided into four formats—pure, lush, cosmopolitan, and Southern—to fulfill any level of desire and taste with dishes that feature the splendor of each season with clarity and integrity.

On a sizzling Sunday evening, we arrived to a relatively quiet dining room and were offered a coveted table by the garden. Our server Dustin’s engaging description of the menu was followed by a delicious amuse of ramp butter-basted crostini topped with pickled ramps and delicate young sorrel. Standard fresh bread service here is noteworthy, with rustic, crusty ciabatta and phenomenal multigrain sunflower seed rolls that are completely irresistible. Following menu selections, Dustin made excellent wine recommendations from the Wine Spectator-awarded list developed by sommelier Rick Rubel, including 2009 Domaine Huet Vouvray and 2009 Sean Minor Pinot Noir.  

At first bite, Weaver’s vichyssoise was the coolest of antidotes, the intense flavor of roasted potato balanced with puréed cauliflower and finished with crème fraîche, a splash of scallion oil, and a garnish of crispy potatoes and bacon. Heirloom tomato salad—an artfully displayed quintet of John’s Island tomatoes interspersed with slivered Vidalia onions, fresh roasted corn, and basil—was splendid with vibrant creole mustard vinaigrette and lightly fried okra croutons.

Moving on to the entrées, the pièce de résistance, whole Maine lobster, was butter-poached and shelled, consisting of the tail and two claws accompanied by a sauté of wild chanterelles, porcinis, roasted baby fava beans, and parsnips buoyed in a pool of sweet corn purée. Completed with fresh chives and a sprinkling of sea salt, it was perfection. With crispy skin on, pink snapper—also known as red porgy locally—proved a worthy rival, served with three jumbo shrimp seasoned with ancho and cumin. With southern Louisiana-style sweet corn maque choux spiced with poblanos and andouille sausage—mon dieu! It was good! As a side, pimiento cheese grits made with Anson Mills stone-ground white grits, apple-smoked bacon, and crab blanketed in potato and fontina gratin crust achieved stand-alone star status.

Pastry chef Emily Cookson really hit the mark with two desserts: the delicate semi-parfait cream graham cracker pie with roasted strawberry sorbet and tiny rhubarb dice and the poached baby pear with subtle pineapple custard, brown butter mousse, crystal champagne gelée, and slender tuile cookies. Both were works of art for the eye and the palate, pleasantly served with Marenco Moscato d’Asti “Strevi” from Piemonte, Italy.

A beautiful balance of food, wine, and service, the Charleston Grill experience on this evening, as always, was directed by tour de force and host extraordinaire Mickey Bakst, who was everywhere at once, recognizing each guest with his own special style and invisibly supporting the staff throughout the evening. Already huge fans of the world-class music of the Quentin Baxter Trio, on this visit we were also delighted to enjoy the pleasant sound of father-son players, the Bob Williams Duo.




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