Dignified and elegant, The Peninsula Grill brings together tradition and modernity both in atmosphere and food. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of dining with Chas* at this lovely restaurant located in the Planters Inn in Charleston's City Market area. Wallpapered in dark crushed velvet, tables covered in white, the Peninsula Grill is an establishment dedicated to and based on total class. Upon arrival, we waited in the bar area which has ten to twelve bar stools and 4 booths, the seats covered in tasteful tapestry. An oriental rug adorns the dark hardwood floor. We were seated and the exceptional service began. Read more here www.peninsulagrill.com/pdf/PENINSULAFACT.pdf
The Chef's sampling of the night was pork pate, which I cannot stomach, so Chas* is my judge on this course and said it was delicious and while he does not typically eat pate, he would now order an appetizer of this should it be offered. A bit of a challenge due to the enticing choices, we selected the feature starter of Grilled Scallops with Wild Mushroom Ravioli and the Loster '3 Way' - Ravioli, Tempura and Sautéed with Warm Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette. Scallops are tricky and I have had my share of those creatures that were not prepared well, but of course this would not happen at the Peninsula and my anxieties did not even whisper in my ear. Grilled to perfection, the scallops were delightful as was the wild mushroom accompaniment. The Lobster 3 Way was also delectable, the Tempura light and the Ravioli so good you wanted an entire meal of that one part of the trio. Other tempting appetizers include a Trio of Soups which is a sampling of the Creamy Wild Rice Soup, the Onion, the Leak and Potato soup and the Lobster and Corn Chowder, as well as Low Country Oyster Stew, the still-popular iceberg wedge salad (which I will never order or understand) and veal sweetbreads. There are also Oysters, other variations of Lobster, Caviar, Steak Tartar and Foie Gras from the Champagne Bar Menu. The bread also won praise, as did the butter, served at the appropriate temperature (no frozen block here). A crusty outside and a soft inside, it arrived hot in a Sweetgrass Basket, a traditional item in the Gullah culture found in the Low Country region of South Carolina and Georgia. One can be purchased for a not small sum on the City Market before you reach the Peninsula Grill.
Whether you are in the mood for the Chef what will join your meat, chicken or fish or should you want to decide yourself, the Peninsula will deliver. Duck, Pork Chops and Trout are some choices, all arriving with wonderful sides of a starch and vegetables. From the al la carte side, Angus Beef Filet, Angus NY Strip, Prime Ribeye, Live Maine Lobster, Natural Salmon and Black Grouper are grilled and can be paired with one of the sinful sauces. For meat, the blue cheese-balsamic glaze grabbed my attention as did the toasted pecan-rosemary butter. Sides include Wild Mushroom Grits, Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes and Caper-Brown Butter Roasted Cauliflower to name a few. Next time! For this visit, I chose the Grilled Peach Glazed Jumbo Gulf Shrimp with Sweet Corn Risotto, Brandied Peach Butter and Green Onion Horseradish Hushpuppies. I must admit, the hushpuppies were the deal breaker and I was overjoyed at the taste. The six large (they were dead serious about jumbo, thankfully) shrimp were impeccable, as was the risotto with a few sautéed asparagus beneath. I was happier in this dining experience since...Bobbywood! I never thought I would recover from that closing. Chas* ordered the Benne Crusted Rack of New Zealand Lamb with Wild Mushroom Potatoes and Coconut-Mint Pesto. I did not taste the lamb, but the wild mushroom mashed potatoes were splendid. The pesto was very minty, hence their only giving you a dollop. A little went a very long way. The appetizers were not large, even small in some standards but all in good meaning as the entrees contained more than enough food, but we both polished off our meals.
Not to be outdone is the Peninsula Grill's dessert menu, namely The Ultimate Coconut Cake. Five inches high, twelve layers and complete excellence. It is a popular wedding cake choice, especially for Charlestonians and I can certainly see why. It is the best coconut cake I have ever had and apparently others agree. Read the fact sheet www.peninsulagrill.com/pdf/CoconutCakes.pdf and either head to the restaurant and order a slice or what the hell, order a whole cake. For a mere $200 (includes overnight shipping), you can have twelve pounds of excitement. That is an order, not a suggestion. Chas* and I each ordered our own piece, no sharing, if that helps heighten the importance of the situation.
The Peninsula Grill's staff and level of service is flawless, not to be matched. Servers skillfully touching all parties' plates down simultaneously and maintaining the ideal level of communication. No chatty-Cathy's here, thankfully. Tip better than well, this staff more than deserves it.
I enjoyed myself to the infinite degree. The company, the atmosphere, the meal and the service. It is not often that I can take all of those things from a dining experience and feel completely satisfied, but when it does happen, what an adventure.
I highly recommend a trip to Charleston's Peninsula Grill, located at 112 North Market Street, Charleston, SC 29401. Dress is business casual (a coat is recommended for the gents and ladies should be smart enough to determine their attire based on that note). I thoroughly revel in the fact that cell phones are forbidden in the dining area. Read here www.peninsulagrill.com/contactus.asp should you forget that there are very few people so important they need to take a call during a meal...or, truthfully, at any other time. Call (843) 723-0700 for a reservation. Prices reflect the four-star, four-diamond rating. Remember, you get what you pay for and dining is no exception.
(Photo Credit: Southern Living Magazine)