Sunday, September 15, 2013

Circa 1886 Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, SC

Why Didn't We Come Here Sooner?

I haven't written a blog in quite some time.  Between commuting to a job in Boston and many other, "life adventures", it completely fell off my radar.  What a better way to 'get back on the horse' than Restaurant Week.  

I love restaurant week in Charleston.  The city is full of energy, restaurants are busy and many people who wouldn't necessarily try a restaurant get a chance to experience one for 3 items for $20.00, 3 for $30.00, or 3 for $40.00.  Our visit this week was to Circa 1886 in the Wentworth Mansion. If you haven't been, Circa 1886 should be on one of your 'must visit' lists.  Located in the courtyard of the Mansion it is simply exquisite.  

Before we arrived I sleuthed around the various websites to see what the 3 for $40 and the regular menu had to offer.  Although I am fond of the Restaurant Week options, sometimes I just don't want that much to eat!  I landed on what I thought to be a first -  Circa 1886 ONLY offered a Restaurant Week menu.  

Our friends had been to Circa 1886 and spoke of its' somewhat formal atmosphere and "hushed tones". I had practiced whispering all week, but it wasn't needed. The restaurant is warm and welcoming.

Upon arriving we were quickly seated by a very stoic hostess, who didn't exude hospitality by a long shot.  Nevertheless, where we were seated was just perfect. We landed one of the few, very private booths in this surprisingly, small restaurant.

Our server approached the table and explained the Restaurant Week offerings. He also mentioned that there was a "pairing option".  For $65.00 per person you could add perfect paired wine selections to each course ($25 on top of the $40, not an additional $65.00).  One of our friends decided to give this a try.

A menu that we originally thought might be limited, quickly proved us wrong. There were 4 appetizer, 5 entree and 4 dessert options to choose from.  When I asked if Restaurant Week was a popular 10 days for the restaurant, he replied that it was and that Circa 1886 'extends' the menu offerings to the following week for those who can't secure a reservation during Restaurant Week. Another welcomed twist.

After we ordered we were quickly served a complimentary sample of Lobster/Mushroom bisque from the chef.  It was topped with a small dab of olive oil, and a bit more 'mushroom' than 'lobster' but quite a treat and very unexpected.

If you decide to go to Circa 1886, know that it is a well-oiled machine.  Our appetizers arrived in no time and were served by a number of servers, as we would be for the rest of our meal.  

By chance we each ordered one of the 4 appetizers. We described each one of the appetizers as "Food Art". The plates, bar none, were as beautiful as they were delicious. It would take me too long to describe each of the items - Duck & Foie Gras Polpette, John's Island Tomatoes, Scallop Ceviche and Romaine Heart Salad, so I hope the pictures can help to tell the story.  I should mention though, that the wine paring was an ample pour of a crisp, white wine from Spain, 2011 that complimented the appetizers superbly.
Duck & Foie Gras Polpette

Johns Island Tomatoes

Scallop Ceviche

Romain Heart Salad
For the entree, I tried something different on this visit.  I'm not a big steak lover, but I thought I would give it a try as it sounded so good.  It was one of the few times that I've ever ordered steak at a restaurant and my fingers were crossed.  Also ordered was the Achiote Rubbed Antelope Loin ('couldn't wait to see this), and Roasted Salmon.

Again perfectly timed, our entrees arrived.  The Roasted Salmon with Golden Raisin Risotto, Baby Shiitake Mushrooms, Lardons, Arugula, and Blood Orange Sauce received incredible reviews.  My "Montreal" Brined Strip Steak was also very good.  The accompanying items, Smoked Mashed Potatoes, Baby Carrots, Asparagus Coulis and the Pecan Vinegar Demi seemed to wait a bit for the steak to be cooked and were a tad tepid, but the flavors, especially the mashed potatoes, were incredible. This course was nicely paired with a "suggestion" (very small sampling), of Pinot Noir.
Roasted Salmon

Montreal Strip Steak
And then there was the Antelope.  The Achiote Rubbed Antelope Loin with Sour Cream n' Lime Grits, Crispy Avocado (who thinks to batter and deep fry and avocado??), Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto and Roasted Pimento Coulis was the dish to sample! Some of us had never tasted antelope which was, based on the servers' recommendation served medium rare.  It was nestled on a small pillow of Sour Cream n' Lime Grits that quickly made some at the table newly established grits fans. The antelope was tender, full of flavor, and something not to be missed. 
Anchiote Rubbed Antelope Loin
A lovely 10 year old Tawny Port arrived signaling that our dessert was not far behind.  It's sweet depth was again a very nice compliment to dessert.

Let me say just a few things about the desserts.  We ordered all four options - Peanut Butter "Pluff Mudd", Kettle Corn Creme Brulee, Peaches 'n Cream Souffle and the Trio of Artisinal Cheeses, and just like the entrees, they were perfect.  I might add also, not a lot of sharing going on during this course. :0)
Peanut Butter "Pluff Mudd"

Kettle Corn Creme Brulee

Peaches 'n Cream Souffle

3 Cheese Plate

Celebrated Chef Mark Collins without question, delivered on this late summer menu.  By far this could be one of the best dining experiences I've had in the Low Country, if not the best.  Put this on your list of musts!

We gave Circa 1886 5 out of a possible 5 plates.

Circa 1886 on Urbanspoon


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