By Candace Nelson - 11:53 AM

On Sunday, May 16, I graduated from the West Virginia University Perley Issac Reed School of Journalism with a bachelor's degree in journalism, summa cum laude. I'll also receive another diploma in the mail soon - a bachelor's of arts in English. Obviously, this called for a celebration.

My boyfriend took me to Sargasso, a place I've been dying to try and needed just that perfect occasion to justify spending $100 on a meal. I actually had to book reservations way in advance because it was graduation weekend, but I didn't mind. I knew I wanted to go there, and there wasn't much that would stop me. I had heard great things. I visited their website on April 30 and used their handy web reservation tool to reserve a table for 2 at 7 p.m. I may have been more excited about this dinner than graduation.

After the ceremony and pictures, I mingled with my parents, but at 6:30 p.m. on the dot, we were on our way. Sargasso is located on Don Knotts Boulevard, near Meineke. It's located in a building with a few other businesses, but its chic lettering of "Sargasso" on the outside definitely sets it apart. When we walked inside, it wasn't dark and stuffy. Instead, it was brightly lit, and the restaurant staff seemed friendly. This is a big switch from Stefano's, and welcome one at that. We did have to sit for a few minutes as they cleared a table, but I loved taking in the scenery.

In a State Journal article, the bar manager talks about how they got the name "Sargasso": "'The name Sargasso comes from the Mediterranean sea, its the place where the most ships have sunk so its supposed to be an unburied treasure. So that's why we're called Sargasso, we're supposed to be an unburied treasure,' revealed Curtis Gravis, the bar manager"

A very nice bar is directly to the right of the entrance, and another waiting area is to the left, where patrons can enjoy some beverages. The main dining area rests behind that portion and off to the left, as well. We were sat at a small table nearly directly in the center of the dining room. The oversized chairs were comfortable but classy at the same time, and the table decorations were modern and minimal, complete with a candle. Chris was elated over the salt/pepper combination.

As soon as we were seated, we were handed large menus and our water glasses were filled. Excellent service, to say the least.We were rushed a basket of warm, fresh-basked french bread with a small dish of sun dried tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil from Italy. I dug right in - the tomatoes were sweet and flavorful. The tiny diced veggie and the vibrant olive oil/herb/pesto sparked. It was Sargasso's version of an olive tapenade, and it was light, fresh and had me wanting more. I was excited to see what else the chef had up his sleeve.

The menu valued quality over quantity, as there were only a handful of options for each meal. However, all of the options looked mouth-watering, and sitting near the chefs as plate after plate of gorgeous, elegant cuisine was served didn't help matters. As I perused the appetizers portion, I looked for something Chris and I would both enjoy - something that wouldn't scare him off too much. I ordered the "Original Polish Pierogies" at $10. The two pierogies were stuffed with sharp cheddar spread out on a chive sour cream sauce and garnished with red onion compote and caramelized onions. As soon as I bit into the pierogi, my mouth was overwhelmed with warm, savory cheese. Combined with the cool sour cream sauce, it was a modern form of a strong dish that was better than any traditional Polish pierogi I've ever tasted. The outside was slightly crunchy, and the mouthful was bursting with flavor. The onions on the side were sweet and pickled, but I used them sparingly. It was presented like a masterpiece, and I said a few times, "It looks like it's from Top Chef!" as Chris shook his head in disapproval. Sargasso's signature "fusion" style was making an impression on me -- first bread with a modern tomato spread and now pierogis with a new twist.

For my entree, I chose "The Perfect Salmon." What an understatement. From the menu: "Baked Loch Duart salmon with an olive oil mousseline sauce and sauteed green beans and chanterelle mushrooms over three-cheese and pea risotto. This fine dish costs $26, and it is oh so worth every last dime. The large piece of salmon was just so tender, it fell apart by the forkful. It was tasty and the white sauce complemented the flavor. The flaky fish was fresh, cooked perfectly and the sauce had a hint of sweetness that made it taste amazing. The risotto was fantastic. Cheesy, thick and filling. The peas were a perfect fit, and there's simply no describing it until you taste it.

Chris got the ribs, which were tender, though I tend to stray from red meat. And, he had asparagus and mashed potatoes. He was thrilled with his dinner, as well. I had a bite, and if you're a fan of red meat, this would be right down your alley. 

Our waiter was fantastic, too, as he came over frequently enough to where we could have our glasses refilled, but not so frequent that I felt he was a third dinner mate. He was very knowledgeable, and he gave his recommendations when solicited. His friendly tone made the stark fine dining atmosphere comfortable and not stuck up. He placed two dessert menus before us, instead of slapping down a check and saying they could add more to it. I decided on a creme brulee, and Chris reluctantly got a chocolate mousse with fresh fruit. His chocolate mousse was dark chocolate, not my favorite, but the berries were sweet and succulent. My creme brulee was fantastic. Two fresh strawberries garnished the top, which was a sugary hardened layer of caramel. The custard beneath was lemony and smooth. A perfect, refreshing ending to a fantastic dinner. I can't wait to celebrate something again so I can come back.

Definitely save this one for a special occasion, though. We had an appetizer, two entrees and two desserts, and our bill was right around $100.

Grade: A

More: Here's a cool promo they did when they opened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_eUWw2mL60

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