It’s not often I decide to make the trip to Uptown from south Charlotte just to go out for a meal, even though it’s 30 minutes away at most for most of us. However, in this case I will make the short drive time and again to visit this most worthy dining destination.
High atop the SKYE condominiums and the Hyatt Place Hotel, on the 21st floor, is the appropriately named Fahrenheit. This incredible establishment is Charlotte’s first and only rooftop restaurant; and yes, the 360-degree view of the Center City skyline and beyond is truly breathtaking.
Pull up to the entrance to the hotel and let the attendant valet park your vehicle. Take the elevator to the top and prepare to be amazed by the beautiful interior and spectacular views beyond the glass walls. Sit at the bar and feel like you’re outside as all the folding glass walls are slid away revealing the night air. Walk around the wrap-around roof top terrace and take in the panoramic vistas. From your table, you‘ll be mesmerized by the linear fire pits outside that create a wall of fire against the skyline backdrop. Owner Chef Rocco Whalen has taken aesthetically pleasing to a new level in Charlotte.
Speaking of Chef Whalen, it is obvious to any palate that he is a master of culinary creations. The chef worked with Wolfgang Puck for several years before he opened the first Fahrenheit in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, in 2002. He was named a James Beard Rising Star nominee in 2004 and has been widely acclaimed by several publications for his talent at creating absolutely delectable dishes.
Before we go into the menu, I have to mention the craft cocktails, the bartenders and the martinis. There are about a dozen highly tempting specialty cocktails and I highly recommend you read through them – unique, thirst-quenching combinations are a superb way to start the experience. The Carolina thyme lemonade is very tasty, concocted with Covington Yam Vodka made right here in North Carolina. It’s combined with fresh thyme, simple syrup and fresh lemons. The thyme probably came from Fahrenheit’s rooftop garden. The Grey Goose martini I ordered was one of the best I have tasted. The vodka was so completely chilled that micro crystals had formed throughout the ultra-cold liquid. On a return visit I ordered the same drink, to be once again as equally impressed. These bartenders are as good as it gets.
OK, let’s talk food. The dishes are a fascinating symphony of offerings, each one as yummy sounding as the next. A concise, one-page menu has small plates, salads and pizzas, along with a dozen signature entrées, allowing the open kitchen to concentrate on making each dish a masterpiece – just as Chef Whalen created them.
The real challenge is choosing from among so many tempting dishes, including the small plates, which are great for sharing. Be indulgent and start with the butter poached lobster rolls. Mini toasted brioche rolls are stuffed with delectable meat that melts in your mouth. The crispy calamari salad with miso-vinaigrette, kim chee and Thai sauce is outstanding and one of the best preparations of calamari I have enjoyed. Also delicious is the Ahi tuna wontons with pickled and candied Fresno peppers and peach – an extraordinarily scrumptious mix of textures and flavors. You can’t help but ask yourself, “How did the chef came up with these unique combinations resulting in such fantastic flavor profiles?” Thus, the James Beard nomination.
Other small plates include All Day Heritage Farms bacon; sweet potato biscuits with lobster and Neese’s sausage and gravy; and Charlotte nachos painted with pimento fondue, scallions and crispy bacon. As with the sharable offerings, the salads also are unique creations. When did you last have a salad with fried goat cheese, local pig vinaigrette, Serrano-cherry tapenade and pistachio brittle? Exactly! The Good (Morning) Charlotte is brioche and Manchego toast, fried egg, frisée with craft beer vinaigrette. One more enticing salad is the Korean BBQ beef with shaved cucumbers, rice noodles, carrot, peanuts and fish sauce vinaigrette. And then there are the pizzas: ultra-thin crust that works perfectly with the accompaniments. There are four delicious options. The first has wild mushroom, chèvre, caramelized onions and roasted garlic. Another flavor packed pie has pepperoni, fennel, parmesan and chilies with mozzarella. The Margherita utilizes roof-dried tomato, mozzarella and basil. Just as yummy is sausage, roasted chicken, béchamel, fennel, black pepper and mozzarella. Each ingredient is delectable, making for fantastic pizzas.
Fahrenheit’s signature entrées can only be described as downright decadent. Take the Kobe beef short ribs on a bed of lo mein with teriyaki, mushrooms, Napa cabbage and apple syrup. The tender beef has a rich, deeply infused flavor that is so nicely complimented. For a true smoky delight, order the smoked ribeye with salsa verde and barbecue carrots. If you’re a fan of lamb, you’ll love the wood-grilled lamb loin – lean and tender, it arrives with heirloom tomato, cucumber, feta, calamata olive and dill vinaigrette, along with frites. My personal favorite is the 45-day bone-in dry aged strip steak with chilies, pickled shallots, citrus, and fingerlings. The texture and quality of the beef combines with the nutty profile that only dry aging creates, for an outstanding steak.
For seafood, you can’t help but consider the butter poached lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. Yes, that’s an entrée! The king crab ramen incorporates pork belly, Hondashi broth, scallions, mushrooms and truffle. King salmon is another option, with wasabi mashed potatoes, blood orange, Saikyo miso and pickled cucumbers. Seared tuna is accompanied by Indonesian wok fried rice and green curry. The menu is as international as it is eclectic. You also can choose a griddled burger, seared scallops, Carolina pork shank, or coffee and mustard-crusted pork tenderloin. If you’re going to order a side, make it the Maine lobster mashed potatoes. If only my mom had made those: wow!
The dedication to precise preparation and attention to detail in the open kitchen streams through to the bar and permeates the dining room. The servers and staff, from your first greeting to the “thanks” as you exit, are personable, professional, and they know how to provide extraordinary service. They know the menu and they know their wines. On each visit I experienced the strong desire to offer the highest quality service and a strong sense of pride to be part of this exciting new Center City eatery, creating a superior guest experience. Expect to receive a couple of very cordial visits throughout your meal from either Christopher Danko, general manager, or one or more of his colleagues, to ensure your satisfaction. And don’t be too surprised to find Chef Whalen in the kitchen or perusing the dining room and checking for himself.
Fahrenheit is a wonderfully special addition to the culinary scene. Breathtaking views of the Uptown skyline, up close and personal like nowhere else in Charlotte. A beautifully appointed dining room, invitingly comfortable bar and a wrap-around terrace with the coolest fire pits. Exquisite food and drinks that complement the atmosphere are combined with a warm and welcoming staff. Yes, it is the perfect destination for a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation, a proposal or even a wedding rehearsal dinner in the private dining room for up to 60 with the latest technology. If, perhaps, you can’t think of an upcoming special occasion, make one up then make reservations. We are extremely fortunate to be the recipient of Chef Whalen’s decision to land in Charlotte. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, physicist and inventor, would be proud to know his moniker is attached to such an outstanding restaurant.