Want a great proposal spot? How about an anniversary dinner you'll never forget? The best new eatery in Albuquerque? RSVP at Charles Place. Before I indulge on this review, and I plan to, ready your Burqueño mindset for this wallet whopper: $75 per person. That doesn't include libations, which run high; the cheapest bottle of wine currently stands at $32, and beers (Marble, a few others) run $6. So prep for a $200 bill for two people, easy, without tip. Inane insofar as we locals typically spend, but consider the competition: a cut at Vernon's goes about $75, not to mention the mashed potato and salad that accompany the plate. Look, as I've previously pointed out, the cost of fine dining should be priceless; ambiance and service equally factor in the overall experience. At Charles Place, you're dining in the home of Charles himself. Here's why this is worth every cent. A little background on Charles. Born and raised in Israel, he landed in Boston in his twenties, ventured west, and eventually settled in ABQ. Ultimately he became the executive chef of the Albuquerque Country Club, and he ran the joint for about 20 years. Upon retirement, he bought a house downtown and envisioned running his own restaurant, in his living room. He spent a decade bringing the old place up to code, equipping it with a range, industrial dishwasher and all the rest, so it could function as an eatery. He moved his sleeping quarters to the garage. This narrative verges on fairy tale, and I love every ounce of it. He lives his passion. His dishes exude a discipline of a life spent waking, dreaming and crafting great cuisine. Which isn't to say his vision of culinary heaven will connect with everyone. A classically-trained French chef, his plates veer all over the place, but ultimately you should expect something the American palate isn't accustomed to: delicacy and nuance. Limited spicing, low sodium, and some hard-to-find proteins in this locale. Frog legs? I ate 'em, consistency like chicken, flavor reminded me of walleye for some reason. Quail. Prawn. Red snapper. Three courses that change every week, plus an appetizer and dessert, each plate quickly removed by two awesome locals who add color to the otherwise dainty ordeal. Lots of meat. Avoid, Vegans, avoid. I'll close with this: I've debated four stars vs. five. It's costly and the food is tough on local tongues. None of it blew me away. But upon reflection, I'm thrilled this place has a home in ABQ. You have to experience it to know it. Bring a lover, or someone who loves to eat. Charles Place will swoon you. Friday and Saturday only, and group dinners by appointment during the week. Seating is limited to about 20, so yeah, RSVP now.
Howie K. on Aug 26, 2014