Well we had a gift certificate burning a hole in our bellies, so, and especially given the animated debate here recently, we absconded to Charleston for a well earned meal alone.....
I have to say that my humble opinion, namely that Charleston does fine dining better than anyone within a 45 mile radius, is unchanged. The food is not pretentious, it does not favor flash and fashion over content and taste, and still has a better wine list than 90% of the places in DC.
Kirsten started with chilled peach soup laced with Gosling's Black Rum; it was a perfect balance between sweet fruitiness and tangy appetite whetting lightness. This with a glass of rose champagene. I too had a glass of the pink bubbly, but with the seared fois gras, which was served with a savory buerre noir and sauteed nectarine. ot the best food/wine match, but I was in the mood for bubbly, so the hell with it. :-)
On to salads- black beet for me and 5 herb for Kirsten. Both light, delicious, and with flavors thoughtfully chosen to marry well with each other. Vinaigrettes were expertly balanced between viscosity and acidity.
We both fell for the soft shell crab main course. These whale sized beauties were lightly dusted in cornmeal, then flash satueed over high heat. Slightly crispy on the outside, the cornmeal provided a neutral vehicle for crisping without doing anything to mask or obscure the heavenly sweet crab itself. Served with watercress, crunchy plump snowpeas, and a clarified lemon butter drizzle. Outstanding with high end bottle of German Riesling from Dr. Burklin-Wolff.
Lastly, we ponied up for the cheese cart, choosing a selection of Pierre Robert triple cream, Cashel blue, Alsatian Muenster, and a sharp yellow cheese whose name I cannot recall, but which resembled a cantaloupe melon. This with a bottle 1998 Beau Sejor Becot St.-Emilion, which we slurped down gratefully.
I watched the kitchen for quite a while, too. No one is allowed to speak without permission, and all work with the efficiency of a Special Forces platoon. Chef inspects every plate before it leaves the line, and hte whole operation was fascinating to watch.
Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Hell yes. Service was, as it has been every single time I have ever been there, first rate. They put every one else to shame. I am dismayed at the negative reviews, but must recognize that different people have different tastes. That said, the few restauranteurs I know all agree that this is the place to go for a great meal.