Friday, May 25, 2012

Charleston disappoints

I almost never write two blog entries in a day, but I felt this one deserved its own place separate from the discussion of my Balticon activities that I just posted.  

Long-time readers of this blog will know that for many years I have been a big fan of Chef Cindy Wolf's Charleston Restaurant.  For that entire time, I've been telling people that if you're seeking a great meal in Baltimore, the one certain winner was Charleston.  I've also made sure to eat there each time I was in town.  For the last couple of years, I felt the place was sliding a tiny bit, but I was willing to chalk up the less than perfect experiences to off nights.

After tonight's experiences, though, I won't be going back next year. 

Before I get into the details, let me note that our meal was good.  It was not exceptional, however, nor did it live up to its cost. 

A big part of the problem was the service.  Our main server, who might well have been the captain tonight, was wonderful.  Everyone else, however, messed up and failed to live up to the restaurant's past standards.  The people who presented each dish were mush-mouthed and unclear.  The man who brought the cheese cart--a pale shadow of what was once one of the more magnificent cheese offerings I've seen--was nearly inarticulate and knew little about cheese.  When I asked him to tell us what he had on offer, he replied, "What do you want?"  For one cheese, all he knew was that it was a triple cream; for another, he shrugged when I asked its origin.  Sad. 

The worst service moment, however, came courtesy of the woman supplying water and bread.  Clearly out of her depth and either overtaxed or under-trained--or both--at one point this server stepped in front of one of our party as she was returning from the rest room.  The woman had to swerve to avoid the server, fell, twisted her ankle, and rug-burned her knee.  The server never noticed or offered to help her up, nor did any of the four other servers within five yards of the accident. 

The kitchen was also not on its game, even though Chef Wolf was present.  My foie dish came cold in the middle, for example.  The dishes were all tasty enough, but none was exceptional, and Wolf's past inventiveness was barely evident.

It saddens me to watch a restaurant take this dip, but it happens.  Maybe in a while, I'll read stories of how Charleston returned to its former glory.  I certainly hope so.  For now, though, I'll give it a pass on future Baltimore visits, and I have to recommend you do the same. 

No comments:


Blog Archive