- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Almost everyone who walked by the open floor-to-ceiling folding doors at 201 Capitol St. paused to gaze inside.

They oohed and ahhed at the improvements to the building, which had been vacant more than five years after the former Cafe de Paris closed down. Now, it’s home to The Block, a new restaurant and wine cellar by Desislav and Galina Baklarov, who also own The Wine Valley in Putnam County.

The restaurant, which specializes in light, elegant fare, held a soft opening on May 2 and opened for its first full day of business May 5.

With more than 500 varieties of wine and a knowledgeable staff, The Block offers an exciting new option for Charleston food and wine lovers.

Desislav, who goes by Des, said he’s eager to provide customers with something new.

“It gives people another option,” he said. “That is the main reason The Block is there. To add to downtown and enhance and better the capital city of the state, to make it more alive and to promote more foot traffic downtown.”

Nearly every inch of the restaurant, both inside and out, has been renovated. Des said the work done by Hayes Brothers Construction is second to none.

Inside, the space feels immense. It seats more than 100 people, featuring three separate seating areas on the main floor, a wine library behind giant glass doors and an old-world style “cheese cave” behind a glass wall where guests can watch servers carve up samples.

“The cheese cave was my idea,” said Des, whose grandparents made wine in Bulgaria. “It adds entertainment to dining. There’s not really anything like it anywhere.”

Wine flights, samples of any three wines, will appeal to non-experts.

Des said wine flights are the most popular menu item at The Wine Valley.

Appetizers include steak tartare dressed with Dijon, capers and fresh thyme sprigs served with grilled bread, trio meatballs of beef, pork and chicken served with accompanying sauces, spicy olives with fava beans and charcuterie from around the world.

A sample cheese platter is served with grapes, crackers and membrillo, a delicious jelly made from the quince fruit. Guests may choose three cheeses - Manchego, maple leaf-smoked Gouda, Stilton mango, Mobay, tete de Moines, Benedictine, queso de Valdeon, podda classico, Chimay a la biere and several others.

Soups like locro (corn, white beans and chorizo) and cashew cauliflower, and salads like goat cheese brulee and The Block (arugula, almonds and onion dressed with a blend of Parmigiano-Reggiano and white truffle oil) round out the top half of the menu.

Gran tapas range in cost from $17 for tapas Valencia (shrimp and chorizo in a white wine sauce with fresh garlic and onions) to $47 for certified prime filet served with choice of two sides.

Other main course items include sea scallops served over Brussels sprout hash with fennel agrodolce, mussels with chorizo in white wine sauce, Sriracha-maple encrusted chicken, truffle pasta and French pork chops.

The dessert menu features tres leches cake with Disaronno whipped cream, Ellen’s Homemade Sambuca gelato, assortments of chocolate truffles and Bailey’s cake.

All menu items include a BIN number that references The Block’s massive wine list to suggest a wine that will pair with each dish.

Future plans call for outdoor seating (Des said he is simply waiting on the fencing to be installed) and completion of the downstairs portion of the restaurant. He also plans to feature regional European cuisines on certain nights of the week.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.

The Block is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

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Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, https://www.charlestondailymail.com

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