Sunday, January 15, 2012

Circa 1886 - Restaurant Week Day 2 - Charleston, SC

This is a tough review to write.  I want to detail what went right and what went wrong without seeming like I'm slamming this restaurant.  We had extremely high hopes for the night, and had a decent, but not great time.  There were lots of little issues and all of the dishes except one were good to great.

On the positive side, the menu is extensive, the atmosphere excellent, the pre-appetizer soup was a surprise and really good and most of the food quite enjoyable.  On the negative side, the coffee was lukewarm, our waitress was not very knowledgeable (despite the focus on this on their website) and the salmon was very mediocre.

I'll hit the Salmon first because it was our least favorite.  The salmon was extra fishy and the waitress had to check where it was from when asked.  She told us it was Loch Duart salmon from Scotland and, when asked wild or farm raised, she said wild (50/50/90 - it was farmed.)  The next table to us had a waiter who was doing an excellent job with the food descriptions.  The rest of the dish was quite good, barely salvaging a 3.0.

The soup was a Lentil Soup that was delicious and spicy.  We gave it a 4.0.

My appetizer was the Apple Braised Pork Ton Toro (jowl meat.)  This was the best dish of the night - the homemade pickle relish was amazing.  I gave it a 4.5

Kari had the Smoked Trout with Neufchatel and Caper Ice Cream.  The ice cream was phenomenal and, overall, the dish got a good 4.0

B had the Bibb Lettuce Salad, which she said was exactly what you want in a salad, with a great Bleu Cheese Dressing.  3.75

My dinner was the Cinnamon Rubbed Antelope Loin.  That's right, antelope - and it was excellent.  Not at all gamy like you might expect.  Tender and perfectly cooked.  The Maple Vinegar Reduction was just right with it.  I gave it a 4.25 (I was the real winner here with my orders.)

Kari had the Chicken fried Catfish and really liked it.  I didn't get a great description from her, but I tasted it and enjoyed it.  We gave it a 3.5.

B had the Buttermilk Praline Panna Cotta, and, while I couldn't taste the buttermilk tang I expected, we all thought it was a great desert and beautifully presented.  4.0

Kari had the Cheese Plate that included a Cabot Cheddar, a Bleu Cheese, a Goat's Milk Cheese, all allowed to come to room temperature before serving and all great with the variety of crackers and breads.  4.25

I had the Lemon Sorbet which was wonderfully presented and quite delicious, but not quite as smooth as it could be.  3.5

Final thing that really bothers me but is not a fault of the cooks, wait staff or bartenders.  Adding a 20% gratuity automatically to small parties is not acceptable.  I understand why they do it for large parties, but I consider it my privilege to determine what the waiter or waitress deserves.  Not sure why they do this.

So, in conclusion, we had high hopes and were a bit disappointed.  For perspective, I am still recommending Circa 1886 on tripadvisor and urban spoon.  There is some room for improvement, or it could have been an off night - I understand how tough it is to hit high notes on everything, every time.  We will probably come back for another try.

Circa 1886 on Urbanspoon

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