CRW Day 3: Gallery Crawl

Day 3:  Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne Resort Hotel

I’m really too full to write, but here goes. After our trek up to Huntersville Sunday, we chose Monday to keep it close to home. We’ve wanted to visit Gallery, the rebirthed fine dining restaurant at Ballantyne Resort, since it opened in March 2007, and just never quite got around to it. Having worked with the resort in a PR & marketing capacity a few years ago, we knew first-hand that this fabulous four-star resort with multiple impressive awards for its golf course, golf school, spa, and hotel desperately needed a restaurant that was on par with the other property components. Now they have it.

In 2006 Ballantyne recruited veteran world-class Food & Beverage Director Peter Grills (Morton’s of Chicago, Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, Compass Group/Bank of America Corporate Dining, W Hotels, and several others), and Executive Chef Kirk Gilbert (Bitter End Yacht Club B.V.I., Sea Island Company, Ritz Carlton, and more) to help establish and maintain elevated standards for the resort’s food and beverage operations, as well as develop a signature restaurant worthy of the resort. See where this is going?  

These two stalwarts helped redesign and expand an only five-year-old kitchen and restaurant space and put some serious effort (and dough) into establishing a four-star restaurant that merits its classy surroundings.

They did/do it right. Gallery describes its cuisine as contemporary American, appropriately highlighted by 100% USDA prime beef selections. The new adjoining bar is a comfortingly dark, manly spot at which to sample the extensive wine list or North Carolina's most celebrated single malt Scotch collection. But . . .  we were there for Charlotte Restaurant Week.

The Gallery management team, kitchen, and staff fully understand and embrace CRW and offer three meal options whose components are designed to complement one another and are therefore not interchangeable.

They start with the signature bread — a gougère popover developed by Chef Kirk. To claim these are unique and delicious seems inadequate. Made with egg and seasoned with black pepper, thyme and Gruyère, they’re rather like quiche you can eat out of-hand. I’d steal one from a starving man.  

On to dinner:

Jill had menu option #2: a generous portion of Bay Scallops "Rockafellar" in vermouth and Pernod with wilted spinach, smoked bacon, and Parmesan gratinée; salad wedge of baby iceberg lettuce with a sumptuous blue cheese dressing, crisp bacon (one can never have too much bacon), English cucumber, and diced tomato; flavorful and oh-so-tender braised beef short ribs with mushroom risotto and steamed broccoli; and a fudge-like flourless chocolate cake, a bonus course included in the CRW offering.

I chose option 3: Low Country shrimp with stone ground grits and andouille sausage cream; Hearts of Romaine lettuce with grain mustard Parmigiano-Reggiano dressing, focaccia croutons, and slow-roasted tomatoes; and a 6 oz. Filet Mignon with Boursin whipped Yukon gold potatoes and steamed shaved asparagus. My bonus was a nontraditional light cheesecake with a refreshing passion fruit compote.

We washed it down (every last crumb) with a mid-priced 2003 Twomey Merlot from Napa that complemented our beefy meals nicely. The overall dining experience was excellent with tasty, well-presented, and impressive portions and warmly professional service. Our total bill with tip came to $155, as we splurged a little on the wine (a CRW privilege!).

Gallery lives up to its name with wonderful and varying original artwork from the resort owners’ collection adorning the soft yellow walls — from several acrylic-on-canvas pieces by French Impressionist Yolande Ardissone to Old World tapestry. The dining crowd wasn’t overflowing (it was Monday), but the locals coming in for CRW were augmented by a bubbly in-house convention group only too happy to take advantage of the dining promotion.

We occasionally play “tourists in our own town,” and Gallery will pull us back to nearby Ballantyne Resort in short order. Cheers!

Bruce and Jill Hensley are partners in the firm Hensley/Fontana. They launched the first Charlotte Restaurant Week, which runs through July 18. They're dining out each night and will be blogging about their experiences for Charlottemagazine.com. Read past entries here.