CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Noah Miller's culinary career path was set at age 13. That's when he started working in the kitchens at the Governor's Mansion, learning at the side of renowned chef Otis Laury. During high school, he left the classrooms of Capitol High School at 1 p.m. every day to work at the Tarragon Room.
"Tarragon Room was the best in Charleston. My philosophy was that I wanted to work in the best places I could," he said.
After a steady climb through the kitchens of fine restaurants in New York and Florida, he returned home to pursue his dream. Miller opened Noah's Eclectic Bistro on McFarland Street in March where he's preparing and serving the intriguing fusion dishes he loves to create.
"I probably wouldn't have this restaurant now if it wasn't for my time at the Tarragon Room. I experienced everything there, from costing to creating specials to running the kitchen on some Mondays," Miller said. "The wait staff really sold me. People were really interested that they were getting great food made by a 17-year-old.
Miller hesitates to claim any label for his cuisine.
"I just want to cook my food, which is world fusion, and not have limits on what I do," he said. What he's been doing recently for dinner are entrees such as Shrimp and Grits, an offering of seared gulf shrimp, fried green tomato, aged cheddar grits, green beans and tomato jam for $27. Patrons of the Tarragon Room might experience a perceived blast from the past in Seared Beef Tenderloin in mushroom Marsala sauce, Dauphinoise potatoes and grilled asparagus for $30, based on the former restaurant's signature dish.
He makes everything he serves from scratch, right down to the tomato jam on the shrimp and grits. He doesn't offer bread before the meals, both because he wants diners to fully enjoy the food and because he doesn't have time to make it himself.
The bistro's six-entrée menu changes as Miller rotates favorites with seasonal offerings. Honey Roasted Duck Breast, Wild Striped Sea Bass, Moroccan Braised Lamb and Portabella Tower were also featured last week.
If a dish isn't on the menu, but the ingredients are listed in other dishes, Miller welcomes the challenge to create special requests. For example, he'll whip up a specific vegetarian dish as requested, unless the diner asks to be surprised.
A lunch menu features three soups, sandwiches and salads. The shaved turkey, bacon, avocado aioli, arugula and roasted tomatoes on the club sandwich exceeds the capacity of the toasted wheatberry bread on which it's made and comes with a mixed green salad for $11. Other sandwiches are Cubano Panino and The Italian, crammed with ham, salami and capicola and a grilled portabella panini.
Salads include a Roasted Chicken, Apple and Endive, Grilled New York Strip, Herb Seared Atlantic Salmon and Grilled Shrimp Romaine, ranging from $10 to $14. The three soups offered daily feature a seasonal variety, hearty and chef's choice.
Soup and salad or half-sandwich combinations are popular with customers.