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14 September 2011

Tonight's Episode: Cartoon sized pork and a side of AWESOME

           There is a restaurant you love. I mean LOVE. You love it so much that you never go there. Sounds stupid, but you know it's true. There is one restaurant that you have had incredible meals at, yet its been a year or two since you've been there. I, sadly, have two of those. The first one is The Charleston Grill at the Charleston Place Hotel.
         The Charleston Grill oozes casual elegance. Dark wood, high ceilings, and low lights set the scene for dinner at one of the most laid-back formal dining experiences you will ever have. A live jazz trio adds to the ambiance with renditions of the standards, everything from Miles to Mingus. If you want an extra level of elegance and comfort, request one of the booths. The open front layout gives it almost a cafe feel.
            The menu for Restaurant Week menu has a couple of strong contenders, but Chef Michelle Weaver's classic menu has a lot of punch. Divided into four styles, the wait staff encourages you to mix and match. Pure clean dishes, lush French preparations, updated Southern classics, and Cosmopolitan dishes with worldly influences serve to tempt you. We agonized over the menu before deciding. After handing over the menus we quickly received a choice of bread and an amuse. The amuse for the evening was a clean and crisp spicy tuna tartare served on a fresh cucumber slice. A beautiful one bite start.
         The Girl decided on what, in her own words, may be a perfect meal. Well, perfect for her anyway. This meal began with the Charleston Grill Crab Cake ($17) with creek shrimp and a lime tomato dill vinaigrette. This is a single jumbo crab cake served with heirloom tomatoes as a garnish. Unlike most "crab cakes" in Charleston, this one delivers the goods. As the girl sunk her fork into it, a lump of crab meat the size of my thumb broke off. The entire cake was like this, all thriller no filler. The tomato vinaigrette adds a sweet acidity that takes this dish to the next level. I'm sorry Maryland, this may be the best crab cake I have ever tasted!
     For my starter, I settled in on a classic, Beef Carpaccio ($15) with grilled mushrooms, arugula salad, and cheese straws. This is a straightforward dish, keeping with the Pure concept. The beef is paper thin and matches well with the arugula and shaved parmesan cheese. The cheese straw has a fun flavor and adds a great crunch element to the dish. If you are a carpaccio fan, this delivers.
     The entree course really gave me no trouble. When I see Pork and Beans ($29) on this kind of menu, I don't even need to read about the braised pork shank, red peas, white beans, collards and cornbread to know I'm ordering. Boy was I surprised when our waiter (One of the Fantastic Five Andrews) drops off a bowl with Hogzilla's pork shank. I kid you not, this thing could be used to bludgeon a Viking to death. Despite the size of the shank, it was fork tender and about as tasty as pork gets. The best part, it actually tasted like pork. One of my big complaints about American pigs is they don't taste like swine due to the nature of modern pig farming. This dish slaps you up side the head with the porkiness. The bean, pea, and collard mixture in the bowl with the thick dripping jus provides great moisture and would have made a great dish in and of itself. My only critique would be the bowl.  The massive shank settled into the steep sided bowl makes putting your knife down a little tricky.
      The Girl went a different route for her entree. She settled in on a side item. Yes, a side item. The Pimento Cheese Grits ($10) with applewood smoked bacon and crab. As my long time readers know, The Girl has a sick sad obsession with pimento cheese. I don't get it, but if it makes her happy, then I'm happy. This side turns out to be around 5 ounces of baked grits. To me, the grits almost taste like puff rice, and the light edge of spice is a wonderful touch. The crab meat is succulent and sweet, a perfect compliment to the cheese. While this may not be my cup of tea, The Girl happily tells me this is her new feeling yucky dish. Great. Now every time she has a cold we have to go to The Charleston Grill. Wait. That's a damn good thing. I wonder if it would be unethical to slip flu virus into her morning coffee?
       After a quick pre-dessert of ----------------(yea, not that memorable but it was free), we get to the good stuff. After the rich and heavy (and massive) pork shank, I went with the light Watermelon Soup ($8) with feta cream, parsley, and mint. This palate cleansing dish of chilled soup is given a delightful savory spin with the feta cream. My favorite part of the dish, though, was the parsley. Parsley and basil are two herbs I wish were in more desserts. They give an earthy bright flavor that makes for a far more memorable dish.
       The Girl's choice in dessert was a foregone conclusion, Graham Cracker Molten Cake ($11) with chocolate ganache, brown butter marshmallow, and smoked almond ice cream. This turns out to be a fairly large dessert. I would actually recommend sharing the plate. This very modern take on s'mores is decedent, rich, and according to The Girl the kind of dish to roll your eyes up into your head. I also recommend you order a carafe of French Pressed coffee to help cut through this super rich dessert.
      Sitting back, enjoying our coffee (decaf, I promise), it is hard not to undo my belt and and enjoy the afterglow of a truly well-crafted meal. Why is it that I don't dine here more often? I have yet to have any complaints on my trips to this powerhouse of a restaurant. The menu is full of dishes I would love to try. The way The Girl snuggles against me after her first dinner here says all I need to know. I must do better at fitting The Charleston Grill into my schedule.

The Scores:
Ambiance: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Food: 10/10
Value: 3/5
Overall: 23 out of 25, One of the most accomplished restaurants around continues to prove it's chops. Charleston Grill on Urbanspoon


  1. out of curiosity...

    how does:
    Ambiance: 5/5
    Service: 5/5
    Food: 10/10

    translate to 3/5 for value?

  2. For me, I judge value based more on the idea that most people don't have $150+ to spend on dinner. Our total tab with tip was $120, and that was without wine, and The Girl ordering a side item instead of a main. That would have easily taken this dinner north of $160. This was an incredible meal, absolutely stunning, but the price pushes it into the special occasion level for most people who follow my blog. I went back and forth on 3/5 vs 4/5, that was the only score that gave me any trouble, and settled on 3. Maybe that was a function of having spent WAY too much money the last few days, which would be an unfair bias, but I didn't think Chef Weaver would begrudge two points from a perfect review considering how glowing the post is. I don't know if this truly answered your question or just constituted me rambling on, but thank you for asking the question and giving me the opportunity to go through my convoluted thought process with you!



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