For anyone who’s ever wondered how much a view can matter to a Charlotte restaurant, I have the answer: Fahrenheit.
The view is stunning: Fahrenheit wraps a bit of railing around an uptown perch atop a tower of hotel rooms and condos, embeds angularly modern firepits at hand height, then dares diners to resist walking out and snapping selfies – or asking other diners to snap them against that drop-dead city-skyline backdrop.
Views matter elsewhere, certainly. Bentley’s on 27 offers its in a luxe (and non-wind-swept) frame, while the Peculiar Rabbit’s view benefits from distance, giving you amazing, sweeping sunsets.
But this injects that frisson of being out there, uptown, and that’s a wonderful thing.
The most wonderful thing, as it turns out.
Chef Rocco Whalen’s first Fahrenheit opened in 2002 in Cleveland, and he’d cooked with Wolfgang Puck before then. He made a splash, including a Beard award nomination, and has seen success on TV (the Food Network) and in social media.
Here, the menu lays out appetizers and salads and entrees, plus a lineup of thin-crust pizzas and occasional nods to Southern-ness, from Charlotte “Nachos” (a plate as big as your head of potato chips with pimento cheese fondue, scallions and bacon) to North Carolina Shrimp Ramen. That bowl includes Heritage Farms pork belly, truffle butter and a soy-braised egg, and the broth is noteworthy.
It’s also worth noting that the most frequent influences are Asian here, from calamari fried with kimchee and drizzled with a sharp Thai-styled sauce, to Wagyu beef (mislabeled on the menu as Kobe, but identified properly by our server) short ribs with teriyaki lo mein and baby bok choy.
Execution troubles shadowed our visits: Short rib had great flavors but lacked the lush, melting quality that is that slow-braised cut’s most attractive aspect, while butter-poached Maine lobster rolls – described as sliders by our server – were light on lobster, and what there was proved watery, not buttery. But they employed beautiful mini-brioche versions of the proper New England-style roll (a vertically cut hot dog bun, basically) and a marvelous lemon aioli.
Best of our entrees was a nicely thought-out lamb plate: Thick slices of perfectly cooked merguez (lamb sausage) and wood-grilled lamb chops, with a wedge of polenta and goat cheese cake, and a puree of English pea and mint. Though the lamb chops were underdone, they showed balance and flair.
Two other winners: an utterly simple arugula salad with dried cherry tapenade and a fine “local pig vinaigrette” and a plate of local cheesemaker Zack Gadberry’s burrata with peaches and frisee.
Servers fare well on congeniality and knowledge, and the setting is sleek: segmented dining areas (and tables outside), plus a roomy bar/lounge area.
Roomy, dark, noisy and packed every time I’ve been there, from a Saturday night when we were seated 45 minutes after our reservation time, to a weeknight when Open Table showed a range of openings at 6:30 but we were told the place was booked when we arrived 20 minutes later.
The crowd’s wonderfully diverse in age and ethnicity, in a welcome way for Charlotte. (One server attributed that to the mix: lots of business and travel folks, plus locals, and a chunk of condo-owner regulars. Fahrenheit sits on the 21st floor, above a Hyatt Place hotel and Skye Condominiums.)
But when just two of a dozen entrees are less than $29, nine of 11 apps are in double digits and pizzas run $16 to $18, things need to be very, very good, very, very consistently.
So I’ll be back – but only to the bar, with wine and a salad, to drink in that remarkable view.