(Excuse the iffy quality of the photographs. Camera acting up!)
Remember The Jeffersons and their theme song, “Movin’ on Up.” That’s what Charles Place is doing for our corner of this particular Albuquerque ‘hood. Charles Place is one of Albuquerque’s newest dinner spots. I’m not referring to this upscale neighborhood eatery as a restaurant because Charles (Benzaquen) is not interested in operating such an establishment with all that implies—serving more and more patrons, appealing to a broad range of tastes, advertising regularly and thinking more about business than the quality of the food.
Charles Place is open Friday and Saturday evenings only, seats 14 people and each meal is personally prepared from the best and freshest of local meats and produce available at markets the preceding week. Charles offers a prix fixe menu with both quality and cost at Albuquerque’s high end. But as the old saying goes ‘you get what you pay for.’
Charles Place, on the corner of 13th and Tijeras NW. First Atmosphere. You walk in the front door of a pleasant house surrounded by carefully groomed flower-filled greenery. The building now a warm welcoming art & color-filled setting where you will enjoy dinner in a home exactly like yours if only you had a better decorator, your own personal chef and your favorite foodies to serve you.
And Then the Food. Which is what you came for after all—you were just distracted for a brief time by how lovely it all is, the table so elegantly set, the candles casting that perfectly subdued glow, the soft quiet broken only by the clink of silverware and happy conversation. Yes. I said it. A place where you can eat personally prepared food while having an actual conversation. A rare experience indeed.
I forgot to bring Saturday’s night’s menu home so I will be less than specific. But the highlights included the filet mignon on a bed of grilled sweet tomatoes which is possibly the most tender flavorful rich gorgeous piece of meat I’ve ever eaten and swordfish (the only fish as good as walleye) soup with green chilies and red and green peppers. Of course to begin there were fresh light and very pretty appetizers, nice bread, a greens shrimp avocado caramelized-pecans salad and for dessert a diverse crunchy sugary fudgy fruity platter of decadence. Nice.
The wine and coffee were just right. A tour of the spotless cozy kitchen (you could imagine yourself making chocolate chip cookies there on a cold autumn morning) and pleasant chats with Charles and his partner and staff brought the evening to a close. Then the long 37 step walk to my front door. It’s almost a shame not to drink too much when home is that close, however that would spoil the pleasure of everything else.
This is a very special place. I recommend skipping a few mediocre meals, in which the town abounds, and treating yourselves to Charles Place once in awhile.