Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dinner at 5Church

5Church is the talk of the town when it comes to Uptown Charlotte restaurants.  Located at the corner of 5th and Church (hence the name), the exterior leaves much to the imagination.  You'd be unlikely to imagine the energy and contemporary vibe that fills the interior.  After hearing many people talk about their spectacular dining experiences, I knew a Labor Day weekend trip was in store with the parents.  I was a bit hesitant given the reputation of a loud atmosphere, but opted to take a chance on a less intimate dining experience in exchange for a first-class meal.

We were escorted to a table in the corner of the main dining room and introduced to our server, Hack.  Talk about stellar service - this guy has perfected the art of waitressing.  After a brief scan of the menu, we elected two appetizers to wet our palate.  

The cheese plate featured generous wedges of blue, white cheddar, and feta cheeses.  The blue was paired with a beet puree, the cheddar with a raisin chutney, and the feta with an olive tapenade.  The cheddar and raisin combo was to die for!  In addition to crostinis, the plate include many olives and a few peppers.

Artisan Cheese Selection $12
 Our second starter was the mixed greens salad, which Hack graciously offered to split three ways.  We were immediately impressed by the split portion size when it arrived.  The combination of the marinated mushrooms, slight bit of cheese, and tangy vinaigrette made for a well balanced crisp salad.  The only food-related negative comment I would give is that the "fresh" bread left much to be desired - flavorless and a bit too dry.

Local mixed greens, green beans, marinated mushrooms, bellavitano gold cheese,
grilled red onion, porcini thyme vinaigrette  $8
5Church's menu boasts a range of cuisines, from small plates to traditional "steaks and chops", burgers, seafood, and even tofu.  I was deciding between several fish options, but ultimately chose the North Carolina grouper entree.  The grouper had a nicely seared exterior, while maintaining a beautiful moist and flaky interior.  The popcorn shoots were unlike anything I had tasted before - sweet and crisp.  The succotash featured a mix of fresh vegetables served warm, yet not overly cooked.  The red pepper emulsion provided the key to unifying the dish.  I loved the large portion, yet thanks to the freshness of the ingredients, never felt overwhelmed by richness.

NC Grouper with corn and fava bean succotash, red pepper emulsion, popcorn shoots  $27
Dad was quick to make his entree selection - the lamb burger.  While ninety percent of his diet is vegan, he just simply could not pass up the enticing burger.  Fortunately, he was beyond happy with the juicy and incredibly flavorful lamb.  The fries were noted by our waiter to be dipped in duck confit prior to frying to preserve a soft interior while generating a crispy exterior.  Judging by the several fries that went uneaten and packaged in a to-go box, I'd say they were not terribly impressive or he was simply too full to keep eating.

5Church Lamb Burger with grilled red onion marmalade, gorgonzola cheese, arugula,
house-made sesame bun, and crispy confit potato  $13
Mom's choice for the entree was the salmon.  As far as flavor combinations were concerned, this was the winner of the evening.  The wasabi crust over the top of the salmon paired perfectly with the seaweed salad and flaky salmon.  The bok choy continued the Asian theme, and the miso emulsion was one of the best sauces I have ever tasted.  We all agreed that sauces are the secret to taking an otherwise basic meal and kicking it up to a culinary masterpiece.

Wasabi crusted salmon with sauteed bok choy, marinated seaweed salad, and miso emulsion  $19
After thoroughly enjoying our appetizers and entrees, we decided that it would be an injustice not to personally attest to the quality of the entire menu.  Hence, dessert became a necessity.  While many of the sweets sounded delicious, the s'mores trifle was the clear winner.  Imagine for a moment the mouthwatering goodness of layers of hot brownie chunks, crystalized fudge sauce, and homemade marshmallow.  Seriously, one of the best desserts I have tasted!

S'mores Trifle
Have I made my love for 5Church clear?  I would declare the evening an epic culinary experience.  Charlotte has an abundance of fantastic restaurants to choose from, but I would argue that 5Church would rank near the top when it comes to an evening of fine dining.  It does become a bit loud as the evening moves into night, but not so much so as to disrupt conversation within each table.  The impeccable service and variety of well executed entrees combine to make this a top-notch eatery.  Do yourself a favor and make a reservation to dine at 5Church in the very near future!  I'll definitely be back!

5Church on Urbanspoon

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