The New & Old South play nicely together at the recently renovated Charleston Grill, Charleston Place Hotel’s fine dining restaurant. Mom, sis and I were a little early for our reservation so we decided to check out the welcoming bar, wanting to listen to the mellow jazz trio over a drink (our bartender suggested some very unusual wines by the glass that were all winners) to go with our addictive bar snack… Truffle-Parmesan Popcorn.
From her bar stool perch, Sis said maybe she’d just tuck into another humongous bowl of the stuff and forego dinner. But our Mom-Knows-Best, preferring to opt for some healthier, non-fried stuff… fish, veggies… maybe hopefully, something green that had not been simmered until every last vitamin had gone missing.
All of which could be found on the Grill’s innovative menu that categorizes food under the headings of: Pure, Lush, Cosmopolitan and Southern. Executive Chef, Bob Waggoner, weaves a tasty tapestry of starters, entrees and sides inspired by organic ingredients, and featuring his favorite Southern recipes executed with a French flair. Thankfully, for little ol’ troublemaker me, creative mixing and matching is not frowned upon.
The high heat of the day (99 humid degrees) dictated us concentrating on food choices that sounded light & tasty. And our first choice was sheer perfection: Chilled Maine Lobster with micro greens lightly dressed in a Meyer lemon, chervil vinaigrette. Little did we know that our beautifully trained waitperson would come bearing a HUGE lobster that would not have been embarrassed to be weighed in at The Palm. (Note: All our appetizers were EXTREMELY generously-sized.)
The roasted Baby Beet salad with “young” lettuces and citrus-y blood orange dressing was a welcome tangle of colors and textures. On the other hand, the delicate flavor of the sunchoke raviolis, topped with seared quail and wild mushrooms in a reduced-port sauce, was completely lost — the result of a major salt O.D. The silky richness of the sautéed Duck Livers with roasted garlic grits and hazelnuts in a cider reduction, again suffered from over-salting. The mosaic of Tuna and Hamachi sashimi was a visual masterpiece. The creative use of pomegranate molasses and lemon grass oil for dipping, provided a delicious change from wasabi and soy. The sauteed Red Snapper, the single entree we ordered was a weirdly skimpy little portion -only about half the size of our scrumptious Grilled Crab Cake appetizer, and was served with a gravy boat of Jumbo Lump Crab tomato gravy that would have been a top contender-except for…yup-that dreaded salt shaker!
Desserts at the Charleston Grill are not to be missed and are made to be shared, possible by a small army. Our choice, Total Chocolate, was a rectangular white platter laden with numerous chocolate tortes, truffles and other taste sensations. It was impossible to agree on a favorite but we did agree that the beautifully presented still life was (almost) too pretty to eat. After dinner, we had a good (full) belly laugh as we tried to position our three well-fed behinds into a pedi-cab meant for two. We took a final ride around the pretty streets of downtown Charleston before retiring for a night of sweet chocolate dreams!
***After sneaking a peek into one of the lovely rooms, I’d suggest not only eating here but spending the night at Charleston Place, since this lovely hotel is perfectly located smack-dab in the downtown historical district. Besides enjoying the potentially succulent food (I’m just going to tell Chef that I’m on a low-sodium diet next time), the southern hospitality of the professionally trained wait staff can turn a wonderful meal into a totally, memorable evening.
By Vagablond’s Token Redhead.