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Restaurants & Bars 7

Charleston: Dispassionate Excellence

Joe H | Apr 19, 200809:15 PM

In 1993 my wife and I had just become friends. At least once a month we would explore and discover each other at a new restaurant on 15th street in downtown Washington called Georgia Brown's. At some point, several years later and having falling in love with the cooking of Georgia Brown's chef (as well as each other), we discovered Savannah off of Broadway in Baltimore. Later, when Savannah morphed into Charleston, we followed. Not a dispassionate statement since we followed from Reston where we then lived together.

Tonight we returned for the first time in five years to Charleston. It was not the homecoming we had anticipated.

Cindy Wolf has matured greatly from her days at Georgia Brown; in fact it would be fair to say that she has absolutely nothing in common with the developing excellence she once displayed in Washington. I would suggest that today much of what she plates is among the best of what can be found in America: she has become that accomplished. Several of her dishes are among the best I have had on either side of the Atlantic. In fact one dish, succulent, plump cornmeal fried oysters in a lemon cayenne mayonnaise, challenge the best fritto misto I have ever had. On Lancaster street off of Baltimore's Inner Harbor frying has become high art rivalling Milano's best at Al Porto. A salmon entree presented atop a poblano chili was as fine of a version of salmon as I have had in Seattle or Vancouver. Her Charleston shellfish bisque challenges Citronelle's and grilled Big Eye Tuna is reminsicent of Toronto's North 44's filet mignon of tuna-all Great dishes and more than worth the journey to Baltimore. A plate at Charleston is a mecca for this side of the Atlantic, allowing crawling traffic between Washington and Baltimore as little more than an inconvenience to a journey far closer and much less expensive than a 777 elsewhere.

I should mention here that I've decided to edit the balance of my comments about Charleston. The food, as noted, was excellent.

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