I had a lovely weekend visit and wanted to report on my dining experiences. It was my first visit and all in all I was pleased.
Lunch on Sat at Jestine's. Crabcake was blah. Cornbread was dry. Green beans, as expected, were cooked to death. The fried green tomatoes were soggy and greasy. The mac & cheese was tasty, but not any better than any other m & c. The fried chicken nearly made up for everything else. It was wonderful. The service was pretty decent, too.
Dinner on Sat at McCrady's. A charming space. We were seated near the roaring fireplace. The service was friendly, but perhaps a bit too enthusiastic. The 2001 pinot from Merry Edwards, which was recommended by the server, went well with everything. The pekeetoe crab appetizer was wonderful - crisp, with well-balanced flazors. The butter-poached lobster was also delicious. It reminded me of a raw scallop in consistency. For entrees, we had the lamb and a fish special (fluke, I believe). The lamb (rare) was incredibly tasty, albeit a bit too fatty. The fish didn't quite work. It had a crunchy crab and green mango salad on top and was partnered with a lobster emulsion. That said, the fish was delicious and properly cooked. For desert we had an apple galette with ice cream. Tasty, but not memorable.
Brunch on Sun at Hominy Grill. Banana bread was wonderful. Strawberry pancakes were okay. Shrimp and grits were quite tasty. VERY different from the version I had up here in D.C. at Vidalia, but equally good. The half dozen shrimp were surrounded by bits of crispy bacon, mushrooms and scallions. Yum. The biscuit that I had with it was okay. A bit dry and not as flaky as I like them. Coffee was decent. Service was, too. Definitely worth the roundtrip taxi ride.
Dinner on Sun at Peninsula Grill. While not any more expensive than McCrady's, it felt like a different world. Where McC was warm and cozy, PG was formal. The service was fabulous - almost too polite. The server kept apologizing for interrupting when he'd approach the table. For apps, we had the jumbo lump crab with fried green tomatoes. This is how fgt should be prepared - crisp and hot. The lump crab was fresh and tasty. We also had the argentine steak tartare. Quite good, but not in the league of what I ate in Paris last summer. Entrees were the lamb and the seared tuna. Because I'd had lamb the night before, I asked the chef for a fish or seafood recommendation. He immediately suggested the tuna (on the a la carte menu - you pick the sauces) rather than one of their prepared dishes or either of the fish specials. As he promised, the tuna was of incredible quality. I tried two of the sauces - the tapenade (which sounded best to me) and the horseradish cream (which the server suggested). Both were okay, but I would have preferred an asian preparation (honestly, a bit of soy sauce was all the quality cut of fish needed). So, not a unique dish. I could have made it at home. The lamb, on the other hand, was wonderful. Less fatty than the night before. It was accompanied by asparagus and mashed potatoes. Really special. For dessert, we went with the coconut cake - supposed to be out of this world (do a quick google search of "peninsula grill" and "cocunut cake" and you'll see what I'm talking about). It was good - for coconut cake. Problem is, I'm not a big fan of coconut. We agreed - we should have trusted our instincts and ordered something chocolate! For chocolate lovers, even mediocre chocolate is better than the best coconut in the world.
As you can see, I spent very little time in Charleston, but tried to maximize the quality dining. I'd definitely recommend all the restaurants we went to. There was at least one standout dish at each place:
Chicken at Jestine's, Shrimp & Grits at Hominy, Pekeetoe Crab at McCrady's, and the jumbo lump crab & fried green tomatoes at Pen Grill.
I honestly don't know if I'll rush back to Charleston as there are so many other cities I'd like to see. But if fate ever calls me back, you won't have to twist my arm to get me to go.
Anyway, I hope this helps future diners.