Gallery is culinary artistry

When was the last time you had an elegant dining experience? I don’t mean just white tablecloths. I’m talking about fine dining with highly trained, professional wait staff and exquisitely prepared dishes where you were treated to tremendous attention to detail and felt pampered.

The Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge has a unique menu and a new look - both are things our culinary expert said are worth checking out.

The Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge has a unique menu and a new look – both are things our culinary expert said are worth checking out.

If it’s been too long, or you can’t recall, then I suggest you consider the Gallery Restaurant in the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. If you want the full effect of walking through the luxurious lobby, use the main entrance facing Johnston Road. The other option is the entrance facing Ballantyne Commons Parkway. The dining room is located next to the plush and richly appointed Gallery Bar.

Exuding a “quiet elegance,” Gallery Restaurant’s new space affords you room for your larger party as well as intimate booths for some privacy. The dining room has undergone a complete renovation. It’s sleek and contemporary, while maintaining a feel that’s warm and inviting. They have added some tall cozy booths for a more dramatic look. A distinguished art collection serves as the fitting backdrop for the Gallery dining experience. The works of art, the establishment’s namesake, are an ever-changing landscape. Very visually appealing, even a sense of excitement, like the current painting of NASCAR cars coming at you around the track. The restaurant incorporates artistic details, fine furnishings and tasteful architectural features all complimented with soothing earth tones. Signature elements of the redesign include handmade marble Gallery signage, a statement onyx table, a mirrored glass hostess stand, textured leaded glass windows and an ornate frieze. Gallery now also features multiple seating options, including the stylish booths and a new chef’s table.

Gallery’s upscale decor continues into the private dining room with a lighter color scheme. The room offers flexible seating and serves as a venue for many special occasions. An exclusive display from Shain Gallery, one of the finest contemporary art providers in Charlotte, highlights a variety of styles, materials and subject matters while authenticating a true collection of genuine art. Paintings include several references to Charlotte, and the exhibit features nationally renowned and local artists. The art is available for purchase and will rotate regularly. From floor to ceiling, the entire interior has been transformed. New colors and new, very comfortable chairs are both pleasing. The place has a great feel to it, accentuated by the food and the service.

If you want to experience a passion for executing dishes that could be served at a James Beard dinner, you’re in the right place. Every item that comes out of the kitchen exemplifies the meaning of made-from-scratch with the best premium ingredients and culinary imagination. Gallery is a restaurant that churns its own butter, creates in-house jams, preserves and charcuterie; and they do it every day. Ultra fresh and extremely well executed translates into delectable bites that dance across the palate with sheer delight. The menu has a nice array of appetizers and entrées to suit most any desire, without being overwhelming. The menu is very seasonal and changes, with seafood and meat specials each evening.

The selections of appetizers and entrées take advantage of seasonal and locally produced ingredients as much as possible; from local fruit and veggies to North Carolina seafood and meat products. Here are a few personal favorites: the crab cake utilizes jumbo lump meat, roasted mango and grilled corn with a lime crab salad. Beef Carpaccio is succulent and thinly sliced, arriving with whipped horseradish, smoked olive oil, grilled baguette and fresh greens. Very rich in deep flavors is what you’ll appreciate in the braised K-style short rib with sweet soy, pickled local vegetables. The Caesar salad is always superb, created with grain mustard Parmigiano-Reggiano dressing, focaccia croutons and Kalamata olives. Spinach frisée contains baked Johnston County ham, crispy mango, ricotta salata, peach, spiced pecan and white balsamic vinaigrette. French onion soup, mussels and yellow tail crudo also were on the recent menu. Entrees include a choice of seafood, poultry, beef and pork. Scallops are seared with brown butter, baby braising greens, honeyed kohlrabi. Seared flounder has olive oil-roasted purple sweet potato, caramelized onion purée. The chef offers a daily selection of hand-cut steaks that are always tender and cooked to perfection. The filet mignon with béarnaise sauce is always exquisite. On my last visit I had to order the special, a double cut cowboy rib eye – one of the best bone-in cuts I’ve had. Veal bucco, Niman ranch pork and maple leaf duck also were
recently featured. All of the desserts are created in house and are delectable ways to finish off the dinner, even if it means sharing.

David Moore is the Chef de Cuisine of Gallery, with 17 years of gastronomic accomplishments. David has held numerous positions in restaurants ranging from oyster bars to fine dining, beginning his cooking career at a very young age. In this role, he oversees the daily culinary operations of Gallery, as well as all a la carte food service operations throughout The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. The chef works with the culinary team to ensure the highest level of quality and consistency and provides creative ideas for seasonal menus. Moore also represented Gallery in the competition dining series Fire in the City, where he made it to the quarterfinals. Moore most recently served as sous chef at Gallery, playing an integral role in opening the restaurant, which earned a Forbes Four-Star rating in its first year of operation. During this time, Gallery also won the Best Dish in North Carolina Award presented by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. These are very high accolades indeed!

A close colleague of Moore is Chef Joseph Kelly Morrow. With more than 15 years of culinary experience, Morrow brings a wealth of knowledge and creativity as the executive sous chef at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. Morrow assists in overseeing the hotel’s banquet and pastry kitchens as well as Gallery. Morrow most recently served as chef de cuisine at Gallery. Morrow held saucier chef and poissonier chef roles at the number one Zagat-rated restaurant in Philadelphia, Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons. In these capacities, Morrow learned from all the chefs at the Four Seasons and gained extensive experience with diverse seafood dishes and sauces. As a result of such high-caliber training, during his time in Ballantyne, Morrow has hosted two dinners at the legendary James Beard House in New York City. Although Moore and his team are now responsible for the Gallery excellence, the combined culinary expertise of Moore and Morrow results in truly delightful and often extraordinary dishes for our enjoyment.

Let’s talk about service. By now you know I have a passion for superlative service. The feel of the entire dining experience often starts and ends with the primary individual serving you. What I desire for any dining experience is professionalism, personality, an attitude of gratitude, a strong knowledge base, precision timing and a good sense of humor. Am I asking for too much? I think not. I have enjoyed and appreciated the service of many a wait staff that fit this description. And it can be anything from a road-side stand to the finest of fine dining. I have had the pleasure of experiencing several wonderful dinners at Gallery, be it for friends or personal celebrations, wine dinners or restaurant week. Each time, including most recently, the service has been impeccable. Barbara was our server and she was outstanding. Above and beyond being highly professional and delightfully personable, she was very proud to be working at Gallery, and it showed. She knew the menu and the wines. Timing and attention was impeccable. Barbara is a major part of our overall pleasurable experience at Gallery. I’ve experienced Gallery on numerous occasions over the last several years, and I have always enjoyed the entire experience. It’s a gem in the heart of Ballantyne and we are most fortunate to have a fine dining restaurant of this caliber so conveniently located; and with your reservation, you know when you’ll be dining. If you close your eyes at the table and listen closely, you can hear Tony Bennett singing “The Good Life.”

Questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, email culinary@thecharlotteweekly.com.

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