Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

November 19, 2011 11:55 AM

Restaurant: Charleston


1000 Lancaster Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
I had occasion to take Carly and Emily out to dinner in Baltimore. Being unfamiliar with Baltimore restaurants, I started casting about for suggestions. Two people who live in or near Baltimore, and the owners of two of my favorite D.C. restaurants, all put the Charleston at the top of their lists.

I turned to Open Table to make a reservation the day before we wanted to dine. There was nothing available until 9:30 p.m. Remembering that Chris Ricchi told me many restaurants hold back tables from Open Table, as well as from their own websites, to be reserved only by calling the restaurant, I gave it a whirl.

The regular dining areas of the restaurant were, in fact filled at 7 p.m. when we wanted to have dinner, but the person handling the phone said there was a table available in the lounge at 7 and that the whole menu was available there as well. I took that table.

The restaurant is situated right on the harbor and you enter five separate areas or rooms wrap around the central foyer in a semi-circle. The first area, on the right, is the lounge. On the left, there is bar that seats 13 on tall stools. Also on the right is a seating area with tables for folks who are having a drink. At the end of the lounge there are 3 tables, 1 four-top and 2 deuces. It was at the 4-top table that we were seated. The other four rooms are of varying sizes, and seat about 120 people. Notably, all of the tables are a reasonable distance from each other.

The menu sets out the cost of 3, 4, 5, and 6 course meals with an additional charge for wines. Dessert is included as an additional course as part of the single cost. There is an additional charge for multiple wines with the various courses, but wine can be purchased by the glass.

Emily selected 3 courses plus dessert. First, she had “Rich Lobster Soup with Curry.” She followed that with “Sauteed Hudson Valley Foie Gras” and “Grilled Gunpowder Farm Buffalo Tenderloin.” For dessert she selected “Local Bosc Pear and Almond Tart.”

Carly started with “Butternut Squash Andouille Sausage & White Bean Soup.” She then turned to “Big-Eye Tuna Tartare” and “Grilled Lamb Tenderloin.” Her chosen dessert was “Fairytale Pumpkin Ice Cream”.

I selected four courses. The first two courses were “Roasted Beet Salad” and “Baby Arugula Salad.” These were followed by “Pan-Roasted Turbot” and “Pan-Roasted Magret Duck Breast.” Dessert was an excellent “Apple Sorbet” that was not on the menu. The portions are relatively small. For example, the Turbot and Duck servings were around two ounces each.

Each of us thoroughly enjoyed each course and the overall meal.

The menu is interesting and appetizing. The serving person told us that the menu is changed daily. That seems to be the case, but there is not necessarily a great deal of change from day to day. I pulled up a menu on the restaurant’s website from November 3rd. The menu for the 5th, the night we were there, had only 2 items that were not on the menu for the 3rd. And, conversely, there were 2 items from the 3rd that were not presented on the 5th.

The men’s room is of adequate size. The walls are a dark brown wall covering except for the walls behind the commode and the sink, which are covered by large white tiles. The floor is covered by small white tiles.

On the left, after entering the men’s room, there is a large white-grey marble counter with a single washbasin and a large mirror on the wall. There is a stack of white cloth towels. Just past the counter there is a glass partition that reaches up from the end of the counter to the right of which is a single white marble commode.

Across from the urinal is a commode room with a single white marble commode with extra toilet paper rolls in a wooden box on the commode tank along with a box of Kleenex.

During the evening when Carly went to the women’s room she mentioned that there were no clean towels in that room. When I made a visit to the men’s room a bit later there were no fresh towels there either. I reported both to one of the hosts.

Our server was forth coming and gracious. The service was very good, but a bit deliberate. We were there for three hours, during which there was fairly long time before the menus were presented, and a long period between the time we ordered and the presentation of the first course. Once the courses began to arrive they were delivered at a nice pace. The meal was worth the time that it took.

There is valet parking.

The Charleston is worth an excursion from D.C. just for the evening.

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