Monday, June 09, 2008

Ratcliffe on The Green (Charlotte, NC)

Ratcliffe on The Green
435 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202
Thu 06/09/2008, 08:30p-12:05a

After being underwhelmed by Mimosa Grill the night earlier, I was counting on Ratcliffe on The Green to raise the bar. The Green, by the way, is a small park-like area in Uptown Charlotte.

Ratcliffe prides itself on being a follower of the "farm to fork" concept, using local, sustainable ingredients as much as possible and presenting them at the peak of their flavor and freshness. The Executive Chef/Owner is Mark Hibbs, who unfortunately wasn't in on this particular night. Sous Chef Greg Balch was at the helm, and after dinner, he even came out and spoke with us. The Pastry Chef is Gwendolyn Fodse-Hibbs (Mark's wife I assume) and the General Manager Erik Carpenter.

Ratcliffe is housed in the space of a former flower shop, hence the sign. The entrance, however, is not under the neon, but actually off to the side of the building, facing The Green.

Comprised of several unique rooms, Ratcliffe was quite a bit larger than I thought it'd be. We were seated in the lovely main dining room.

Grouped into appetizers and mains, with a trio of sides, Ratcliffe's menu is simple enough. We had the 7-course Chef's Tasting Menu [$75] with "First Tier" wine pairings [$35], and also added on the Black Truffle Mac & Cheese (one member of my party just had to try it!). Click for larger versions.

For the most part, our wine pairings would be taken from the wines by the glass list. As such, we didn't feel going for the "Second Tier" pairings was quite worth it. On the right, we were provided with a brief listing of the night's dishes. Click for larger versions.

The bread here consisted of biscuits, which I thought tasted like those from KFC! They were delicious though.

Amuse Bouche: Potato Soup
Caramelized Onion, Pepper Cheese, Beer. A very nice soup, the rich creaminess of the potato base contrasted beautifully with the sharpness of the pepper cheese. I could've had a big bowl of this. I didn't detect much of the beer though.

Supplement: Black Truffle Mac & Cheese [$7.00]
Though the shape of the pasta didn't look like your typically macaroni, this dish definitely tasted like a fancier version of the classic mac & cheese. Although a pleasure to eat, I would've preferred a stronger truffle flavor.

1: Fried Bosky Acres Chèvre Salad
Beaucanon Estate 2007 High Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, California
Panko crusted Goat Cheese, Bull's Blood Beet Leaves. Panko is a type of breadcrumb often used in Japanese cuisine to create fried foods such as tonkatsu. As such, the use of the panko here gave this dish a decidedly Asian flavor. The chèvre, or goat cheese, was extremely mild and very creamy, a nice contrast to the crust.

2: North Carolina Coastal Shrimp and Anson Mills Grits
Martin Codax 2006 Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain
Fresh Shrimp tossed with Andouille Sausage, Bermuda Onion and Sweet Pepper, Deglazed with Sherry served over White Cheddar Cheese Anson Mills Grits. Perfectly cooked, the shrimp by itself would've been superb, but the addition of the sausage and "salsa" elevated the dish to another level. The sausage added a smoky, salty tang while the pepper and onion provided a hint of acidity; in contrast, the grits pretty much stood out of the way flavor-wise, but added an interesting texture play. Truly, this was one of the best pieces of shrimp I've ever tasted.

3: Seared North Carolina Grouper
Raptor Ridge 2006 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
With Pea Risotto. I don't get to have grouper too often (the last one was at Kevin Taylor I believe), but when I do, it's almost always excellent, and this was no exception, with a perfect texture and immensely flavorful. I think everyone at the table was impressed with this one. I loved the addition of the peas to the risotto, which was very good, though not as strong as I've had at Patina or Valentino.

4: Rabbit Roulade
Tete a Tete 2005 Syrah Blend, Sierra Foothills, California
Fresh T&B Farm Rabbit Saddle stuffed with Whistle Pig acres Shiitake Mushroom and Roasted Red Pepper Duxelles and wrapped with Ratcliffe on The Green Smoked Bacon. The rabbit here was cooked quite well, tender, juicy, and paired wonderfully with the duxelles (a finely minced mushroom mixture commonly used in beef Wellington). In some ways, the meat was almost like chicken. I did feel the bacon was a bit strong though, and tended to draw attention away from the rabbit.

5: Braised Grateful Growers Pork Belly
Truchard 2002 Carneros, Napa Valley, California
Stewed Poplar Ridge Farm Collard Greens, Kale. This was the weakest course of the night for me, as I felt the pork was rather tough and dry in consistency. Also, the collard greens were a bit bitter for me, and tended to focus my attention away from the meat.

6: North Carolina Charcuterie and Cheese Plate
Grahams Six Grapes NV Port
Unfortunately I don't remember exactly what the spread here was. The item in the lower-left corner was duck prosciutto (I didn't even know you could make prosciutto out of duck!). Also, the cheese on the right was Morbier, a semi-soft cows' milk cheese from France. Morbier is immediately recognizable by the layer of ashes in the middle; the bottom layer consists of the morning milk and the upper layer the evening milk. The other cheese was quite creamy, like a Camembert almost. And of course, there were pieces of garlic and pickles. I believe the provided crackers were Carr's Table Water Crackers.

7: Soufflé
Kir Royale
With Crème Anglaise. The soufflé came as shown in the photo on the left, before our server punched a hole through the top and poured in the crème anglaise, which of course is a light custard made from a mix of sugar, egg yolks and hot milk, often flavored with vanilla. A solid soufflé, but nothing to write home about.

Ratcliffe's emphasis on using local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients really presented itself on the plate and on my palate. I thought the flavors were pure, genuine, and well harmonized with each other. Without a doubt, in my opinion Ratcliffe proved to me that world-class dining in Charlotte is indeed a reality.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the north carolina grouper with risotto looks good!

Monday, July 07, 2008 1:07:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Yes it was indeed!

Monday, July 07, 2008 1:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great meal. I was curious - do you travel for fun or for business? I wish I could do more travelling (and more frequent dining) but now our vacation time is limited to spring breaks and summer with our daughter being in school.

Friday, January 23, 2009 6:56:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

This particular trip was for business, but I do travel for food only as well (e.g. my last visit to New York).

Friday, January 23, 2009 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gfron1 said...

Nice meal - that chevre looks fantastic.

Friday, January 23, 2009 4:34:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Yeah it was. The whole meal in fact was surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting much from Charlotte, but Ratcliffe delivered.

Friday, January 23, 2009 5:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey kevin, love your blog! i'm a north carolinian, from charlotte, and i know of Ratcliffe. i also am a chef and noticed the pork right away. you mentioned it was dry and tough, and that is probably because it is not belly, i can tell right from the picture that it is not. looks more like a chop that belly. probably could have been a mistake, but who knows. i love braised belly, especially grateful growers.

Friday, September 11, 2009 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Yep, that's what I suspected. It didn't seem nearly fatty enough to be belly. A mistake on the menu perhaps? Despite that, the meal overall was still quite good.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 1:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed there's no way that's pork belly.

Friday, May 06, 2011 4:03:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Looks more like a tenderloin to me.

Saturday, May 07, 2011 4:59:00 PM  

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