Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Our friends wanted to celebrate a business success and asked if we wanted to join them at the McNinch House for the celebration. McNinch House is rated the best restaurant in Charlotte by Zagat (subscription required). When I made the reservation, I was told I would receive a menu approximately a week prior to our reservation so that we could pre-order our meal at least a day in advance. In addition, were were to tell the restaurant about any dislikes or allergies prior to our arrival. (I was asked multiple times via email and phone whether we had dislike or allergies.)
On the Monday before the Saturday reservation, I received another email with a menu, offering three different pre fixe meals, ranging from four to seven courses each, and priced from $60 to $90 per person. Or we could choose the Chef's Table, with 10 to 12 courses chosen by the chef, for $109 per person. We threw caution to the wind and asked for the Chef's Table. I hate having to choose on a menu and the best restaurant experiences that I have ever had usually resulted from telling the chef to just "bring your best."
The restaurant is in a late 1800s Queen Anne home near Uptown Charlotte. We were greeted at the front door and told to take a look around while we waited. However, looking around was awkward--the entry room had a love seat and two chairs that were already occupied. We awkwardly looked at some paintings on the wall while we stood waiting. When our friends arrived, we were encouraged to admire the dining room, where other parties were enjoying their dinners. Again, were awkwardly looked at a few paintings on the wall in the dining room, then retreated to the entry hall to chat while we waited to be seated. When the party seated on the love seat was shown to their table, we are invited to sit on the love seat and offered cocktails.
After we had finished cocktails, were were ushered into the butler's pantry where we were to be served dinner. The butler's pantry was a room just off of the kitchen that was about 12"x15" in size, surrounded by counters filled with wine and liquor bottles, and cabinets filled with plates and glassware. The room was interesting and intimate, and a nice setting for the chef to visit us during our meal.
A table in the center of the room was set and each plate had a menu set out:
As we were being seated, we were asked if we wanted to order wine by the bottle, or we could allow the sommelier to choose wines for us. We had already started down the path, and we were happy to be served what they thought was best.
I did not write down the names of any of the wines, but, although they generally were good parings for the food, none were special. Some of the white wines we were served were good, but at least one red wine was not very good quality. At no point did the sommelier make a point of telling us what wines we were getting, and I think for a reason. Although the wine list says that a by-the-glass wine pairing with a dinner is $75, we found out after we got the check that they do not include the Chef's Table with this, which instead was $85 per person extra.
The meal was very well cooked and as described in the menu, but nothing stood out. The chef brought out most of the courses personally and did a nice job of projecting his enthusiasm for the food and for working at the restaurant. After the meal, the chef offered to show us around the kitchen, which was very small for the quality of the work.
What does stand out was the final ticket: over $1,000 for four. It may have been the best meal I have eaten in a Charlotte restaurant, but it still was not as good as many meals I have had at half the price in New York or Las Vegas.
511 N. Church St.
Charlotte, NC 28202