CRW Meal 7: Copper, the Last Supper

Day 7:  Copper

Of all the restaurants at which we dined during this eventful week, I was most excited about visiting Copper  We had been a few times, usually ordering more on the traditional side of its marvelous Indian cuisine. I got a tempting preview last week of the restaurant’s more contemporary CRW menu while shooting a promotional TV feature with Fox News Edge about the event. We sampled most of the restaurant’s upcoming offerings, and I was blown away. 

I couldn’t wait to return and dive in to the anticipated gastronomical delight in this quaint historic house on East Boulevard that has been home to numerous restaurants over the years and is most famous as the temporary residence of author Carson McCullers in the 1930s whilst she wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Copper stands out for many reasons beyond the food — the intimate setting; the comfortable bar; the low mood lighting (which I’m fanatical about) augmented by dozens of candles, transforming this traditional house into a romantically exotic space; the wonderful pungent smell that wafts to the front door and beyond, immediately capturing and enthralling your olfactory senses; and the very patient, pleasant, and well-trained staff.

Since this was the final night of what apparently has been a very successful CRW (which called for a little celebration), and we were using hired and public transportation, we began our evening with a couple of martinis at the great little bar just off one of the dining rooms at Copper. On duty was Mary, just the kind of bartender that every seasoned barstool inhabitant wants to encounter. She’s bright, witty, confident, conversant in numerous topics, knows her food and beverage, and can shake, rattle and roll dozens of drink concoctions all the while, never spilling a drop or missing a beat. Alas, having just discovered her, we found it was Mary’s last night there, as she is headed to UNC to earn her Masters in social work. Best of luck to her, and too bad for Charlotte.

For dinner, we splurged further.  For starters, I ordered the Coriander-Coconut Shrimp with a mustard-black pepper glaze, masala acorn squash and ginger-beet puree. Jill had the fiery, flavorful Sheekh Kabab Meat Balls with Karavali masala, eggplant-poblano chutney, crispy leeks and mango avocado salad. All that translates to quite spicy lamb meat balls that were out-of-this-world delicious. Okay, she out-ordered me on this one, although my more delicately flavored shrimp were excellent as well. We augmented these dishes with two different, perfectly recommended glasses of white wine.

While we were still in the first-course category, we also tried the Curry Leaf Scented Vichyssoise, a chilled potato-leek soup with curry leaf oil and fresh herbs.

“It’ll probably be cold by the time it gets here,” I lamented to Jill. After all these years, she still laughs at my stupid quips . . . even the ones she’s heard a few hundred times. The silky Vichyssoise was heavenly, and I could have died happy right then.  “But wait,” I thought, “don’t die yet, there’s more food to come!”

Our main courses, which we shared (as was the case all week), were the Garam Masala Roasted Salmon, a brilliantly orange wild sockeye with shalgam-gajar (turnip-carrot) mash and a velvety parsnip-olive crème, ordered by Jill. I craved an entire plate of the fantastic Masala Duck Leg Confit with Kundapur spices, chopped seasonal vegetables, and pomegranate-syrah jus that I had sampled at the video shoot the previous week. It was all that I remembered, only more!

We paired this feast with a bottle of French Pinot Noir from Sancerre. I found it too light (especially compared to the Oregonian Pinots we’d been quaffing all week), but Jill proclaimed it perfectly suited to our cuisine, and me palette-less.

Our self-indulgence continued into dessert. We had one of each CRW menu offering –- the Mango-Gajrela Puff, a perfectly sweet (but not too) mango-carrot pudding encased in puff pastry, this augmented by Bailey’s ice cream and Bourbon-soaked cherries; and the deliciously dense Pistachio-Date Halwa, with white pepper-vanilla jhaag (froth), sweet poori (flatbread), and berry paint.  Both were fantastic . . . so we found room for one more dish — a heart-melting gooey chocolate cake with rabdi ice cream, which Jill dubbed “sex in a bowl” while successfully fending off my encroaching spoon.

I can’t pronounce most of what we ate, but I damn sure loved every bite of every dish. We’re already anticipating future visits to Copper to continue this culinary exploration.

We saw a few familiar faces, including the affable and perpetually suspendered Bill Evans from Scott Jaguar; as well as some neighbors who had ventured in from the hinterlands of way-south Charlotte. We chose to stay the night in Center City, taking a taxi from our hotel to Copper and then hopping the light rail from the East/West Boulevard station just a few hundred yards from the restaurant for a return trip Uptown.  After dinner, we paid our first visit to the new Howl at the Moon dueling piano bar in the smokin’ new Epicentre, where my presence instantly raised the average patron age by a couple of decades. But that’s another story.

We want to thank all of our Charlotte Restaurant Week participants — restaurants, sponsors, media partners and especially you, the diner — for your support of and involvement in this inaugural event. We hope to do another most certainly next summer and perhaps a second “course” in the winter as well. We don’t yet know the number of people who partook of CRW dinners, but it was easily in the tens of thousands.

To a wildly successful first event, and to you who made it so . . . until next time, we say . . .

Bruce & Jill Hensley

Bruce and Jill Hensley are partners in the firm Hensley/Fontana. They launched the first Charlotte Restaurant Week, which runs through July 18. They dined out each night and blogged about their experiences for Read past entries here.

Categories: The Buzz, Trade & Tryon