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With culinary skill developed at an early age in family restaurants and beyond, chef Graham Dailey was a natural as an opening team leader for Charleston’s highly acclaimed Peninsula Grill at the Planters Inn. After eight years at the Relais & Châteaux property, Dailey now commands the stage as the executive chef and is pleasing loyal guests.
The premier restaurant is a worthy setting for his culinary artistry. Under the guidance of well-known interior designer Amelia Handegan, the classically elegant property reflects both Charleston tradition and contemporary appeal created by textured walls, subtle copper-hued lighting, exquisite florals, and handsomely set tables that are cozy, yet not lacking in privacy. Décor and demeanor suggest refinement, but the knowledgeable staff brings a relaxed balance with their seamless, personable service and invisible transitions. Impressive wine offerings are managed by respected sommelier Dennis Perry, while general manager Ryan Groeschel and restaurant manager Erich Rauber complete the talented team.
Summer dining is uniquely special given the wealth of the season, as we discovered with the first sip of chilled peach and melon soup on a recent visit. With a dash of crème fraîche and a whisper of heat to balance, it was a splendid welcome on a warm night. The delicate gnocchi that followed blended fresh crab, diced tomato, flavorful basil pesto, and a parmesan crouton with tender pasta in a single delectable bite.
A celebration of summer produce continued with silken, jade-green split-pea soup so pure in flavor that we asked for a description of ingredients—fresh mint, parsley, shallots, and garlic in addition to the peas. A finish of smooth lemon goat cheese crema and fresh warm bread and butter completed the perfection of this remarkable soup. The well-seasoned lobster skillet cake and crab cake were delicious with an accompanying salad of baby arugula, corn, diced red pepper, and spicy Creole mustard vinaigrette that also complemented the seafood duo.
With an eye on the “sinfully grilled” certified Angus beef, a debate ensued on whether to enjoy one of the appealing salads—made with Kurios Farms Bibb lettuce and cherry tomatoes or local field greens with beets—before or after the entrée. The irresistible aroma of grilled beef was in the air, however, and at server Tiffany’s excellent suggestion, we opted to share the generous rib-eye, which we found to be succulently sinful indeed. Grilled to perfection, it was served with horseradish cream and a ripe roasted tomato. A Russian River Valley Hook & Ladder zinfandel proved a worthy companion. Featured side dishes for the evening included local black-eyed pea and bean succotash, unusually good with tomato and green pepper, along with Edisto Island Geechie Boy Grits that were equally outstanding with wild mushrooms, cream, and asiago.
Thoughts of salad vanished with a glimpse of the famous 12-layer coconut cake—which we enjoyed with sublime strawberries—though a few bites were all we needed after the evening’s other indulgences. Fresh fruit sorbets including grapefruit, mango, and strawberry were also offered, along with banana panna cotta and other exquisite creations from pastry chef Claire Chapman.
Thankfully, time has not changed the luxurious dining experience at Peninsula Grill. In addition to superb cuisine, guests may also enjoy classic cocktails and a champagne menu in the intimate bar as well as courtyard dining under the stars.