Well, I just didn't want to believe all the reviews I've heard so far. I really liked what I had heard this restaurant was SUPPOSED to be. I really wanted to like it. But it turns out the reviews have been right. customshop is decidedly mediocre.
First Impressions - The space was nice, nothing special and we got right in on a Wednesday night. Now, I can't remember where, but I'm pretty sure that before it opened I read that the idea was supposed to be neighborhood bistro, with entrees around $20 and under (just what Charlotte needs!). The menu they have on their website (http://www.customshopnc.com) only shows entrees $20 and under. But the first thing I noticed as I sat down was that there was only one item under $20. Most were in the $22-$28 range. The wine list, however, was very reasonable, I think everything under $40, though I heard the waiter tell another table they also had a reserve list.
Service - Passable at best. Our waiter was very friendly and helpful...when he showed up. It was 30 minutes(!) between the time they took away our app plates and the time they brought the entrees.
Food - To start, I had the yellowfin with caperberries from the crudo menu. I keep hearing about Pasternack and his crudo since his book came out, The Young Man and the Sea, so I wanted to try it. The dish was very tasty, but it was a very very small serving, even for a starter, which would've been okay, but it was $10. To me, it wasn't enough fish to justify a ten-spot unless the chef went out himself and wrestled the tuna into the boat with a pen knife. My husband had the butter lettuce with blue cheese. And that's all it was. Very lightly dressed besides the cheese; so that when I tried a bite, I asked, "Is it dressed?"
For an entree, I had the copper river salmon which came with 1.5 figs and some watercress and a bit of a reduction of some sort on the plate. The fish was tasty and made me homesick for the west coast, but it was under-seasoned and overcooked. My husband had the grouper with heirloom tomatoes and watercress. It was a really good piece of fish, but my husband wished for a condiment of some kind (relish, reduction, something). Overall the entrees were fine, but they weren't $20-something entrees. We also shared a side of broccolinni (sp?) which was useless. I can do much better myself.
We decided not to stay for dessert but to go next door to Starbucks for coffee.
If they would lower the prices so that apps were $6-7 and entrees were in the mid teens, then it would be fine and a nice weeknight out. I can't recommend customshop; I found myself wishing that, for the money, we'd just gone to Carpe Diem again, on the same block (which is outstanding by the way).
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