Located at the Belmond, Charleston Place, between King and Meeting Streets, Charleston Grill is more than a restaurant; it's a dining experience. And although we expected our evening to be rather stiff and formal, it was not. The adjectives that more effectively describe Charleston Grill are friendly, comfortable, lively, and above all, welcoming.
We were served by a skilled team of wait staff, led by our waitress, Nika. From the moment the hostess cheerfully greeted us, our every need was met. Charleston Grill's manager, Mickey Bakst, made it a point to greet each guest tableside as well, and clearly oversaw every detail of the evening, right down to the volume level of the live jazz trio playing in the dining room.
The seating at Charleston Grill is varied and comfortable, a mix of round tables with creamy, leather chairs and rectangular tables with banquettes. There is a small bar area as you enter the restaurant where guests may order appetizers and drinks, as well.
The restaurant's menu is divided into four categories: Pure, Lush, Cosmopolitan and Southern.
Each category offers three appetizers, three entrees and one side dish. As all of these catagories and the choices within them looked tempting to us, we decided to let the culinary experts in the Grill's kitchen decide our choices for us, opting for Chef Michelle Weaver's Six Course Tasting Menu. Our server explained that we would be served five savory courses and one sweet course, (excluding the caviar) then asked us if there was anything on the menu that we did not want included. As octopus is not our favorite food, we excluded it but agreed to enjoy whatever else the chef wished to prepare. The six choices came from all four catagories of the menu and you can also add wine pairings to enhance your dining experience (but we did not).
Our first course was Maroma Aguachile, a chilled Ahi tuna filet garnished with avocado chunks, yellow and purple tomatoes, cilantro and paper-thin sliced radishes. This was an excellent first course as its' taste was light and clean.
The tuna course was followed by a Charleston Grill Crab Cake, a delectable grilled cake loaded with lump crabmeat and surrounded by chunks of creek shrimp swimming in lime, tomato and dill vinaigrette. Not only was the crab cake delicious but the dill vinaigrette was good enough to swirl the whole grain bread, ciabatta and corn muffins in. Not a bit of the second course was left on our plates.
My favorite offering was next, Pan Seared Foie Gras. Served over a hearty, sherry bourbon reduction sauce, with a slice of baked apple and a crispy apple hand pie, my dining partner and I agreed that the sweet and robust flavors were perfectly matched. The crowning touch of the dish was a dollop of marscapone cream, which, when added to each forkful of foie gras, gave a smooth, sweet finish to every bite.
The fourth course, Seared Flounder, was served with lump crabmeat, field peas, zipper beans and yellow corn in a light, tomato vinaigrette sauce. This was another table favorite. The fish was flakey and buttery, the beans and peas had just the right amount of crunch, and the tomato vinaigrette added a tangy zing.
By now, I was slowing down a bit (although each course served was medium in size, large in taste), but my dining partner was more than ready for our fifth course, a perfectly prepared, medium- rare, Prime Beef Tenderloin. Accompanied by a lovely, little baked potato topped with truffled creme fraiche and roasted, local carrots and pearl onions, the tenderloin lived up to it's name. It was a rich tasting cut of meat, tender enough to cut with your fork. The bourguignon sauce enhanced the flavor of both the beef and the vegetables and the crumbled, fresh horseradish sprinkled over the tenderloin was a real treat.
We decided to take a break between our fifth and sixth courses. We savored the myriad flavors and textures we had sampled so far while we sipped our coffee. When we agreed that we were ready for our sweet course, the servers brought out two plates of Carrot Cake Fritters.
These small, sweet doughnut holes were served with a scoop of cream cheese ice cream, crunchy carrot granola, and a garnish of slivered, candied carrot. It must have been funny for the staff to see our delighted faces when the plates of fritters were placed on our table- after two hours and five courses we still had room, and enthusiasm, for doughnuts!
Although we could barely eat another bite, our serving team brought us another treat, a small plate of Lowcountry sweets, along with our meal's check. We "forced ourselves" to try a chocolate peanutbutter truflle and a praline; they were very good.
Satiated and happy, we trotted to our car with the gift of mini blueberry muffins for the next morning's breakfast tucked snugly in my purse. Thank you Charleston Grill for a memorable evening. I hope there will be many more like it!