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My Ongoing Vegas Trip

I just realized that since joining CH last year, I've never actually written a review. I'm in Vegas for 4-days now so I figure I'll start now. The dining schedule for this trip is:
LOS (last pm)
CUT (tonight)
Rosemary's (tomorrow night)
Final night is yet undetermined. That night is my bday. We have a reservation at Aureole Swan Court which where we have had great meals on multiple occasions. We always do the Celebration (tasting) menu with wine pairings. The Swan Court area is secluded, quiet and romantic with comfortable booth seating where we can sit next to each other which is very important to us.
The reason we are still undetermined is that I am very intrigued by reviews and descriptions I have read about Bar Charlie. The 14-course menu looks amazing. I have never experienced Charlie Trotter's food and am excited to try it. Seems like a great opportunity for a bday event.
The problem comes in that my wife is pregnant (7-weeks). We are both in our late 30s and consider ourselves very fortunate to be having our first child together. We've been real by the book as far as what not to eat. For some reason, raw fish is strongly discouraged during pregnancy while fish in general is recommended to be limited to around 12 oz/week because of its mercury content. Seems unlikely that Japanese women forgo sushi during pregnancy but hey, we are staying by the book.
She is as excited to try it as me. The online menu says something about tayloring the menu to the diner's preferences. Our plan is to stop by Bar Charlie tonight and tell them our situation. If they could put together a menu that she would be happy with and not feel "left out", then I could have my dream (hopefully) multi-course Charlie Trotter seafood initiation. If not, we'll just put it off until next year and have a great meal at Aureole.

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  1. So LOS.
    To preface this I have been there once before in 2006. I did not have a memorable experience that first trip and had pretty much written it off. We basically took the advice of the server on all our selections that night. If anyone remembers from a previous thread, I'm the guy who does not do deepfried food. Every dish we got that night except for one was deepfried so the meal never really had a chance for me. It may have been very good, but not for me. I figured with the number of good Thai places it really was not a great loss until I got on CH and read through the repeated glowing reviews it gets. I also got some nondeepfried recs from a recent thread and consequently put LOS on my list for this current trip.
    The evening got off to an inauspicious start. Shortly after arriving in our room at the Palazzo we realized that we neglected to pack the garmet bag with my wife's dresses for the week. This was distressing for her since she had nothing but casual clothes in her suitcase. It was also disappointing since Vegas is her chance to wear her nice clothes (not much opportunity in Flagstaff to dress up). Good thing we are going to a casual place tonight. We'd deal with the rest later.
    After the short cab ride from the Palazzo with a cabbie who was amped up, hostile to every vehicle around us and seemingly confabulating (typical Vegas cabbie?) we arrived at LOS. I had asked the concierge to make all our reservations about a month ago. Unfortunately, when we arrived there was no record of our reservation despite the fact that the concierge actually had the date and time written out on an itinerary. It was 7:30 and the wait was about an hour. As it turns out, the concierge did not follow through with the reservation. I guess they initially called and nobody answered and never called back. We told the host the situation and he was very understanding and managed to slip us in about ten minutes later. Yeah for LOS!
    I ordered a half bottle of Zind Humbrect Riesling 2004. As expected, Alsacian riesling went well with the spicy food. Unfortunately, only I got to enjoy this aspect of the meal.
    All of our choices were based on recs from previous CH threads.
    We started off with the spicy chicken soup from the Northern menu. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the mushrooms were delicious. It had a delicious spicy/sweet flavor. Unfortunately, I consumed a pepper likely not meant to be consumed and the heat tempered my enjoyment of the rest of this dish.
    Next was the spicy beef salad. The heat had subsided enough to really appreciate this charbroiled beef. It too was a bit spicy but very reasonable. The beef was well-cooked with a nice char but still had a somewhat sweet flavor. I'd order this again in a heartbeat.
    Next came two main courses. First we ordered the salmon panang which was in a cognac cream curry sauce which was highly touted on previous threads. I must say that the sauce was one of the most rich and flavorful things I have ever tasted in a Thai restaurant. I can't say enough about how delicious it was. Just eating the sauce on rice was absolute heaven. The salmon seemed like an afterthought. It was a bit overcooked and really did not add to the enjoyment of the dish. I think that this sauce with chicken for beef would be preferable. My wife only ate a few bites of the salmon not wanting to preclude eating fish later in the week. The pairing of a dry riesling with the spicy/creamy sauce was exquisite. Wish my wife could have experienced this but spitting is generally not accepted in restaurants.
    Next course was the pork stew off the Northern menu. Another winner. Spicy and hearty. Perfectly cooked. A bit fatty but easy to avoid. Calling this a stew was a bit of a misnomer since there was actually very little sauce. What sauce there was was delicious over rice. This was a great dish but I'd probably try other things before ordering it again.
    We had to finish the meal with the dessert that is so highly touted by the Chowhounds and the sticky rice with icecream and mangos did not disappoint. In fact, this is one of the more memorable desserts we have had. Even at high-end places, desserts often are very good but not real memorable. The flavors in this dessert melded together so well. Would order this again undoubtedly.
    All in all, we are glad we gave LOS another chance. I'm excited to try other things on the menu on upcoming trips. Thanks to the Chowhounds for the great menu recs.

    2 Replies
    1. re: climberdoc

      Ended up in the mall after dinner. We are the proud owner of two new dresses that hopefully will double as maternity dresses.

      1. re: climberdoc

        Right, there's plenty-o-shopping in Vegas, I never worry if I forget to bring something.

        I'm breathlessly awaiting your review of Cut! We will be in Vegas in two weeks for four nights and actually I haven't made any reservations yet which is highly unusual. We're playing in a pai gow tournament at the Hilton and the schedule is a little unclear to me, plus my husband's brother may also be playing in the same tournament and if he and his wife are with us then we'd make different choices. We may end up doing a lot of bar dining on that trip. Last time we were there with them we had dinner at LOS (my only dinner there, all the other times have been lunch) and it was terrific so maybe we'd do that one night. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

    2. You had an unusual distinction, climberdoc. You ate at LOS when none of the four Chutimas were in the house. The entire family was in New York for the James Beard awards. They'll be back in the restaurant today (Wednesday). I'm a little surprised about there not being much liquid in the pork stew. I've never experienced that and I've probably eaten the dish 50 times.

      I'm glad you overcame your several travails and had a good time anyway. Looking forward to your other reviews.

      1. CUT
        Arrived on time for an 8:30 res. Seated immediately in a very comfortable booth. The restaurant is open and bright. Not your classic steakhouse ambiance. I liked that. Over that past few years I have sort of avoided steakhouses. It seems like I was getting better steaks from places not classified as steakhousess. CUT intrigued me so there we were.
        The thing that distinguished CUT from other steakhouses I've been to was the service. This was a fine dining experience with ultra -attentive service. We had multiple servers. I'm actually not sure who our waiter was. Everyone involved with our service was very knowledgable and able to answer all questions we had.
        Some highlights of the meal.
        Amuse Bouche of gruyere popovers-excellent
        Split appetizer of oxtail boullions(sp?) with bone marrow dumplings-The broth was poured over the dumplings and oxtail right at the table. I'm glad we split this. The broth was light and tasty without being too salty like beef broth can often be. There were small chunks of braised oxtail which were "melt in you mouth good". The bone marrow dumplings were a delicious texture and consistency while being ultra-rich. All in all a very good and interesting appetizer.
        Selection of 4 breads. Both of us chose the pretzel bread based on a previous thread. It did not disappoint. Don't think I'd even try a different bread next time. It was that good.
        For entrees, I had the 10 oz American Kobe (Snake River Farms in Idaho) ribeye and my wife had the 8 oz American Kobe New York. Both were ordered medium rare and cooked correctly. We both enjoyed the flavor of the steaks immensely. The char flavor was enhanced by salt and herbs done near perfectly. I also really enjoyed that the steaks were not immensely huge like one gets at many of the chain steakhouses. I can't remember going to a steakhouse and being excited about dessert, but last night I was.
        Split a fresh raspberry and blackberry crisp for dessert. Extremely well done. Memorable? I'm not sure.
        Finished off with some complimentary biscotti and shortbread cookies. The shortbread was fantastic.
        I like the way steakhouses are moving. As stated, this was closer to some of the fine dining experiences I've had at places like Alex, Aureole. Picasso than to past steakhouse experiences. Every course was memorable and the portion sizes were not obscene. I could say similar things about my experience at StripSteak last year. I had a kobe filet there. I enjoyed the steak itself more at CUT.
        I guess a downside of the "New American Steakhouse" is the price. Our steaks last pm were somewhere in the $80 range. Whole bill was around $300 with 2 glasses of wine (each around $30). These prices may bother some but not me. The whole experience was on par with places where I've paid similar prices (in and away from Vegas). Would I go back? Yes, without any reservations.

        5 Replies
        1. re: climberdoc

          Did you have any sides with your steaks?

          Were they crowded? I called last night and made a reservation for Saturday 6/28, and got the time I asked for without any problem. I think the economy is definitely taking its toll. The "casino rate" that I was able to get at the MGM for one of the nights of our trip dropped by about $60 in the last two weeks, and the other three nights were already low.

          1. re: Debbie W

            Oh yeah!

            We had the Yukon Gold Potato Puree. Rich and decadent. Large enough serving for two people.

            They also brought out a selection of four mustards to go with the steaks. I tasted them all but didn't feel like they were needed on the steaks. My wife used them and liked them very much. A nice touch.

            Yes the place was mostly full and had sort of a hip feel. The layout and the fact that we were in our own booth kept the place from feeling overcrowded. I highly recommend the booths.

          2. re: climberdoc

            have you been to craftsteak? if yes, which did you prefer, craftsteak or cut?

            1. re: raider

              Sorry. I have not tried Craftsteak yet. Look forward to trying it sometime though.

            2. re: climberdoc

              "The whole experience was on par with places where I've paid similar prices (in and away from Vegas). Would I go back? Yes, without any reservations"

              If it's as good as you say, you may need reservations! Thanks for the cool report.

            3. Great reports climberdoc - looking forward to reading more!

              BTW, I love LOS, but haven't had the salmon panang there (yet). I don't know how it compares to the original, but I've been making this recipe for years, ever since Dave Feldman wrote it up. It's fantastic. I usually use Maesri Red Curry Paste.

              Lotus of Siam's Salmon Panang

              1. We were not feeling real hungary last night so we cancelled our reservation at Rosemary's and just did a few light appetizers at Enoteca. Looks like Bar Charlie is a go for tonight. We actually were able to talk to the chef and he said he'd take care of us. We made a reservation immediately afterwards. More to come....

                1 Reply
                1. re: climberdoc

                  Good call. Rosemary's is not the place to be if you don't have a good appetite. Looking forward to your review of Bar Charlie. Did you enjoy Enoteca? We only did one lunch there, it was ok, and another time we had gelato only after dinner at Bouchon.

                2. Review of Bar Charlie soon to come. It takes some time to review a 14-course/3.5 hour meal.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: climberdoc

                    So I made the mistake of waiting until we got home to start writing my review of the highlight meal of the trip, Bar Charlie. Got slammed at work and now, 5 days later, here we go.

                    A few days prior to dining at Bar Charlie, we stopped in around 4pm to check things out. As you remember, my wife is pregnant and raw fish is out for her. We were lucky enough to meet the chef. After explaining our predicament, he basically said he'd take care of us (not in a Tony Soprano type way). Enough said. We made a reservation for my birthday and cancelled our previous plans of going to Aureole.

                    I think instead of a course by course narrative, it makes more sense with my personality to give my general impressions and highlights.

                    Bar Charlie is an offshoot of Restaurant Charlie. It sits to the right of the hostess stand. It is quite simple yet elegant at the same time. The chairs are quite comfortable and you have a great view of the chefs meticulously preparing your food. What's interesting is that the bar type setting of L'Atelier really bothered me and detracted from my meal there while at Bar Charlie I was completely comfortable. My sense is that at Bar Charlie, we were the only diners in the place which was far from the case when I dined at L'Atelier. More on that later.

                    The service was on par with 5-star restaurants I've dined at. Seemed meticulous and impassioned on every level from the hostess, chefs and somms. The chef would place the courses on the counter in front of you and before you could reach up to grab it the server (who was also the sommalier) would place the plate in front of you. Silverware was changed between each course as one would expect from a 5-star establishment. The only glitch in service I remember was a few times the wine pairing came after the course was served. That's stretching to be critical though.

                    There are two menus. An 8-course which my wife ordered and a 14-course which I had. In reality, we each probably got 3 more courses than that. It seemed like being the only people in the place gained us some over-the-top treatment. We were a wee-bit apprehensive about trying a place that is so new, but other reviews on this site made us say "what the heck". In this case, we really scored. Bar Charlie really seems to have their act together and we really did receive royal treatment. It was worth every penny and more.

                    Let me get the price thing out of the way. Really expensive! $700 for the two of us before tip. I had wine pairings with mine. If you are looking for a deal go elsewhere. If you are looking for a deal and somehow end up in Bar Charlie then please don't complain about the prices on the internet.

                    Some of the highlight dishes:

                    Unbelievable amounts of sashimi and tartar dishes. I was in heaven. My wife was jealous but she thought here lineup was fantastic as well. The Japanese Snapper with braised rishiri kombu and lime was the standout of the raw dishes. Paired with a German Riesling kabinett. Wow!

                    Egg drop soup with a succulent hunk of maine lobster and sea urchin paired with a wonderfully smooth sake. My wife got this same dish just without the sea urchin. Amazing contrasting flavors.

                    Tempura of hand harvested sea scallop with roasted beets, turnips and black sea water. Black sea water does not conjure a delectable image, but this dish was one of the best of the evening. Best tempura I've ever had. This was perfectly paired with an Alsace Riesling which was my most memorable wine of the evening.

                    Fried spiced globe artichoke with honey, pine nuts and mint. Both of were amazed how delicious an artichoke could be.

                    Bonus course. The chef asked us to critique this dish he was contemplating putting on the menu. Four Story Hill Poularde (I learned this is a fancy name for chicken) with serrano ham, Brioche, Manchego and an egg that was apparently poached for 8-hours. The different flavors in this dish seemed to meld perfectly. It was so rich and delicious. A bigger portion of this would be an amazing splurge breakfast. I'm not sure what poaching an egg for 8-hours gains you, but who's going to argue with such a delicious bonus dish.

                    Elysian Farms Lamb Chop with Cherries and Almonds paired with Holdredge Pinot Noir. Perfectly cooked, very rich meat contrasted well with the sweet cherries. The pinot pairing was probably the best of the evening.

                    Ohmi Japanese beef with fresh wasabi and ume boshi. The chef explained that Ohmi is a different yet equally sought after beef as Wagyu. Delicious as any Wagyu I've had.

                    Three dessert courses. The highlight for both of us was the mint infused strawberries with strawberry sorbet, lime granita and hempseed ice cream. Not like any dessert I've had before.

                    One thing that we found really cool is that they offered my wife nonalcoholic cocktail pairings with her courses. They even started her out with a nonalcoholic sparkling wine. She decided against the pairings, but it seemed like they were pulling out all the stops to make it a most memorable meal.

                    I guess this turned out to be more of a litany than I planned. That's because so many of the courses were so well done. This was a true 5-star experience on par with others I've had at places like Alex, Kai, Michel Richard Citronelle. At the same time it's so unique from those other places in the bar seating and the interactiveness of the meal. I know it's a new place and new places can be risky, but in this case the newness really presents a great opportunity. I'm sure our experience would have been great if Bar Charlie was full of diners, but it would not have been the same. We are fortunate to have experienced it in that manner.

                    1. re: climberdoc

                      climberdoc's wife checking in here...I cannot say enough about our experience at Bar Charlie. I was leery because of the fish issue, also my stomach had been queasy throughout our trip. I was worried so much seafood would do it in. The chefs reassured us (me) that they could cook things, change entrees, do whatever it took so I would have an excellent dinner and they delivered. The offerings of the non-alcoholic beverage pairings was above and beyond in my opinion, not to mention the fact that after the first 4 courses, I basically received whatever course Mike did with any necessary adjustments. My 8 course meal turned out to be more like 12!

                      Some might have reservations because it's a new place but if our experience is any gauge you need not fear.

                      1. re: leeser

                        I have already touched on a recent evening at Bar Charlie in another thread, and the experiences were similar - very positive. We took the seats at the far end of the bar because we wanted to slow the evening down, and it was as close to being hosted in someone's home as we have experienced at this class of restaurant. It allowed for a lot of interaction with both the chef's and the sommelier, which made it a very unpretentious and comfortable evening. If there was a negative at all, it is that so much thought is put into the wine/ale/sake pairings that at 14+ courses it does become a real challenge for the taste buds. We may be inclined on future visits to focus on a bottle of one of the Rieslings that could pair with many of the early courses, and then play it accordingly the rest of the way.

                        As for "future" visits, the particular courses that we had were logged in their files, and we have been told that at any time we wish to return the entire cycle could be changed. We were also told that preferences could be discussed beforehand, and that they would enjoy tailoring the menu for particular requests. I enjoy hamachi collar, which is not easy to find in Las Vegas, and one of the chef's mentioned a couple of different ways that he has worked with it. While 14 courses is not something that we are likely to do very often, it is an intriguing notion to work with them on some 6 or 8 course possibilities that can veer from the posted menus. Their flexibility and friendliness will make for some interesting evenings ahead.

                        1. re: QAW

                          I agree with you QAW about their flexibility and friendliness. As a diner at Bar Charlie you have a lot of control over what you are served and they are most receptive to special requests. I was basically along for the ride on the 14-course menu, but after getting to know the dishes and my preferences, I could conceivably have much say in creating an absolutely amazing menu tailored to my specific preferences. This seems like a form of interactive dining which one rarely experiences on long established tasting menus. I'm also looking forward to my evenings ahead at Bar Charlie.