New late-summer tasting menu is 5+ courses of locavore love.
By Hope S. Philbrick
When invited to taste the new late summer menu at The Asbury, I opted to make a beeline for Charlotte, North Carolina.
You’d be advised to do the same.
Executive Chef Chris Coleman, a native Southerner, favors seasonal ingredients and a contemporary approach. He sources 90 percent of ingredients for his menu at The Asbury from about 40 local farmers, fishermen, and food artisans. To the extent possible, these local ingredients are heirloom, native ingredients. The overall emphasis is quality. So eat at The Asbury and you’re getting an accurate taste of Charlotte.
Coleman’s five course Chef’s Tasting menu is, in true Southern style, more than five courses. But frankly, you really won’t give a damn about the number, because each artful dish begins with inviting aromas and lands on the tongue in flavor combinations that make taste buds do a happy dance.
On the night of my visit, the amuse bouche was chicken liver pâté. Rich and velvety, it was comforting as a hug.
The first course was Olde Salt Oysters. Drizzled with blackberry sabayon, celery relish and Szechuan peppercorn, they looked as gorgeous as an oyster possibly can. But I’m no fan of the bivalve, so asked if it was possible to get an alternative. “Of course!” said Coleman. And I may have won the dining lottery that night, because the corn and crab casserole topped with onion rings and curry snow—a curry sauce is frozen and then scraped into flakes atop the dish, the server explained—was one of the best things I’ve ever put into my mouth. I wish I was eating some right now.
The second course celebrated tomatoes, the earth’s best ingredient. Basil ice cream gave an innovative twist to caprese salad and peaches (rather than mozzarella) proved an inspired mate.
Next up was Benton’s Bacon Hoppin’ John, served with a sunny side up egg, peach and peanut salsa, and chiles for a zip of spice. If there’s a better version of Hoppin’ John, I’ve yet to discover it.
The Krenz Ranch prime rib was served with a potato confit, fig salad, beets, mushrooms and mustard. Krenz Ranch slaughters just two cows a month, and The Asbury is the lucky recipient of a good portion of the resulting beef. “We use every part of the animal,” said Coleman. The prime rib tasted as clear as a sunny day and every element in Coleman’s preparation complemented and deepened its inherent earthy and sweet notes.
An intermezzo sorbet readied the palate for dessert of “caramel and nuts,” with salted caramel ice cream, caramel popcorn, peanut butter, peanut financier and apricot. Whether you prefer sweet or salty desserts, this one satisfies.
An assortment of sweet candies concludes the meal. You may need to take it to-go, depending on the capacity of your stomach.
Trust the wine pairings to ramp up the harmonic zing of perfection in each course. If you prefer a cocktail, try the Moonshine Mule, which bartender Pete Lodino says is a mix of Troy & Sons platinum, ginger ale, fresh lime juice and a dash of simple syrup. The sipper is clean, smooth, crisp and refreshing.
The Asbury is where to taste the seasonal best in Charlotte.
Also Of Note…
Coleman’s Sticky Biscuits with Benton Country Ham and feta look like little cinnamon rolls but pack a satisfying, addictive, savory bite. Gobble them up in the dining room or at the bar.
The five-course Chef’s Tasting menu is $65 per person; add $30 for wine pairings.
Odds of Encountering Children: Very slim.
The Dunhill Hotel
237 North Tryon Street
Charlotte, North Carolina 28202
– Food photos © HSP Media LLC; Chef Coleman courtesy The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel
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