Bar Charlie: Spectacular (Las Vegas)
I just came back from Vegas, and had a spectacular 14-course Kaiseki dinner at Bar Charlie. The menu has changed from what is on their web site. The courses are (the starred ones are part of 8-course meal):
1) Santa Barbara Uni with Fuji Apple & Chervil: A+
2*) Japanese Snapper with Braised Ma Kombu & Lime: A+
3*) Carbonated Carrot with Diver Sea Scallop & Sultana Raisins: A+
4*) Spanish Blue Fin Tuna with Watermelon, Pine Nuts & Mint: A
5*) Steamed Alaskan Halibut with Asparagus, Garlic & Heirloom Tomato: A+
6) Nigiri Trio: Tasmanian Ocean Trout, Braised Octopus & Shima Saba: B+
7) Yakitori of Braised papaya with Sweet Potato & Shiso: B
8*) Tempura of Langoustine with Roasted Beets, Turnips & Black Sea Water: A+
9) Seared Hamachi Belly with Cured Wa-Gyu & Breakfast Radish: B
10*) Saikyo Miso Soup with Maitake Mushrooms & Cilantro: A
11) Elysian Fields lamb Chop with Bing Cherries & Marcona Almonds: A
12) Ohmi japanese Beef with Plum & Fresh Wasabi: A+
13*) nectarine Sorbet: A
14) Passion Fruit Chiffon: A
15*) Steamed Cacao Nib Cake with Sour Candied Kumquats & 99% Cacao Ice Cream: A-
Yes, there are actually 15 courses. It is expensive ($250), but for me, it's a better value than other restaurants in Las Vegas. The food is uniformly fresh, flavorful, clean and creative. The presentation is beautiful. The service is personal and relaxed.
It has been quite a pleasure watching Hiro evolve and showcase his talents at Bar Charlie over the past year, and it should be noted that there are two choices available - there is the traditional kaiseki menu, and also an option to make it a bit of an omakase take on that theme. We have gone in the latter direction on two visits over the last few months, and it has enabled a talented young chef to showcase some unique skills (Hiro was a physics major in college, and combined with his passion for food and artistic flair he can work wonders with exotic flavors and textures).
A visit last week brought the usual assortment of remarkably fresh seafood (diver scallops, Fanny Bay oysters, two different kinds of mackeral, tai, blue fin chu-toro, Tasmanian ocean trout and Japanese cuttlefish), and some special presentations. Each course featured not just impeccable ingredients, but also accents that brought even more flavors into play - like a chamomile/amazake foam that helped to showcase the brine of the oysters; or a lavendar/mitsuba mixture that showcased the oils from a pickled mackeral, a real delicate balancing act. But where Hiro is at his best is going a step further. There was an almost translucent ravioli made from the essence of the sea trout, which was just gelatinous enough to make it come together; one of those wonderful marriages of flavor and texture. And we got to try his first presentation of an agedashi "Black Tofu", which was paired with scallions and beets to bring out the earthy flavors, something that was being designed to pair well with a hearty red wine. It worked.
Our suggestion to anyone going to Bar Charlie is to spend a few minutes with Hiro beforehand to design the evening. The set menu they design each each day is extremely sophisticated, but if you are on the adventurous side you can let him run with what he has to work with that evening. We have actually enjoyed not knowing what is coming next, and also the time that he takes to explain the motivation, and execution techniques, behind each course.
We had the 8-course dinner last week. Menu items were slightly different than yours but everything was beautiful, creative and delicious! At the end of our savory courses, we were asked if we would like to try anything else. We said "give us anything good" so the chef gave us the seared hamachi belly (complimentary). Since there were only the two of us at the bar, manager Aaron started to bring us non-alcoholic parings (total of 4) to try. After the sobet course, we were invited into the kitchen to plate our final dessert course. What a memorable finale to a fantastic meal!! We look forward to going back for the 14-course next time.
I was invited to join QAW and a friend @ Bar Charlie for a 'Pre Holiday' dinner this week.
QAW had consulted w/ the Manager and Sommelier in putting together an evening that I won't soon forget.
I don't know how anything could compare to the mastery of our chefs and the dreams and visions of Chef Hiroo Nagahara who was hand picked by Charlie Trotter for his amazing talent to visualize and present a story on each plate.
Our evening began w/ a glass of H. Billiot Brut Reserve Champagne, (France)
We began our "kaiseki" tasting with a Japanese Snapper with Black Grapes & Celery. The snapper was so very fresh the crisp clean taste of the celery and the sweetness of the grape along with the dryness of the champage was enough to whet our palate for what was to follow!
This first course was the perfect start to prepare us for the flavors to come.
The Sommelier then poured us each a glass of 2003 Jon. Jos. Prum Riesling Auslese "Wehlener Sonnenuhr" (Mosel, Germany) This was a nice pairing for our second course which was a Shime Saba with Olive and Citrus.
This dish which sounds so simple was very intricate. The kalamata olive juice was reduced to tiny gelee cubes along side the fresh 'saba' and the citrus was made into a 'chip' the saba skin was dehydrated and spinkled on top to give this dish a wonderful flavor......it was absolutely beautiful!
We then moved on to a dish all 3 of us proclaimed our 'favorite so far'...Chef Nagahara called this 'Oyster on a Beach" which came to him in a dream!
This dish was a Barron Point Oyster with Horseradish granules (representing sand), Hops Amazake & Razor Clams. Everything about this dish was fresh, and titalating. I love the fact it told a story. It brought meaning and connection to the composed plate in front of us!
We were then served a Spanish Blue Fin Tuna with Ume Boshi & Seawater. This was a nice continuation from the previous course with a play on Seaweed and ocean flavors. The Reisling brought out the flavors and freshness of the Tuna.
We then moved on to a little richer more flavorful dish with the same Blu Fin Tuna...this time a Tuna Tartar...with hints of sesame served with Hijiki Seaweed and Daikon. On this dish the Seaweed was formed into a tuile and deep friend like a potato chip...we loved this. Chef Nagahara gave us a few extra chips to enjoy as the salty flavor and the wine worked so well together.
We then moved on to an Ocean Trout with Pearled Barley and Fennel. The flavors on this dish were very richt...we all wanted to lick the plate!
We were given a spoon to enjoy the melded flavors of the liquid remaining on our plates.
The Sommelier then opened and poured a bottle of 2001 Allegrini "La Poja" (Veneto, Italy)
Next came a hand picked Diver Sea Scallop with Hearts of Palm and Sesame. The scallop was seared and was rich and meaty.
We learned how the scallops were hand picked and were shipped to the restaurant 'live'. This dish was playful and fun...this was a great transition to the second half of our meal.
We then moved on to one of the richest, heartiest dishes of our meal...it was a Sushi Rice Risotto with Santa Barbara Sea Urchin and Hon Shimeji Mushrooms. The Sea Urchin was so fresh...the chefs were coming in from Restaurant Charlie to look at it and smell it! This was the freshest sweetest Sea Urchin I have ever experienced.....it was a nice coupling along with the earthiness of the mushrooms.
Then we had Seared Hamachi Belly with Ponzu and Soy. A very simple presentation....the flavors were so distinct and the fish so buttery rich...nothing else was needed. This was a 'perfect' plate!
Then came a Crispy Pork Belly (seared) with Quinoa and Apples. The rich fattiness of the Pork played into the sweetness of the apple and the naturalness of the Quinoa. It was beautiful...another 'favorite' !
Our last dish before the lighter sweeter finish to the evening was a Elysian Fields Lamb Rack with Manchego Cheese and Lamb Shoulder, it was rich, hearty and wonderful.
A perfect dish for the Season and entrance into the Holiday Season. The lamb was cooked a perfect 'pink'.
To cleanse our plates we were served an intermezzo of Pomegranate Sorbet with Persimmon & Candied Pecans. I not only loved the flavors of this dish, sweet and tart...
The colors too were amazing. It reminded me of the 2008 Summer Hermes collection of Bright Oranges and Pinks.
For our dessert tasting we began with a Bottle of 2002 Dr. Loosen Rieslin Eiswien "Bernkasteler Lay" (Mosel, Germany)...very reminiscent of an 'ice wine'.
The wine was a nice compliment to our first dessert course:
Apple Confit Tart with Triple Creme & Sherry Caramel Ice Cream. This was a nice Fall offering.
I would have liked this in larger form to serve to my guests at our Thanksgiving Day meal.
We then moved on to a Steamed Kabocha (Squash) with smoked Sultana Raisins and Sherry Granita. Another festive, fall dessert which would have been perfect to grace the Thanksgiving Table. The squash wasn't too sweet.... the flavors of the raisins and the granita brought out the depth of the Kabocha and united this dish.
Our last and most decadent dessert was a Baked Chocolate Ganache with Cilantro Phyllo & Rasberry Sorbet. The flavors of the cilantro in this dessert married the chocolate and Rasberry.
I am not sure how to describe the experience at Bar Charlie...
I was in awe my first visit back in August. If possible I am even more impressed with the Talents and Conceptual Vision of Chef Nagahara and the other Chefs who educated and entertained us during the most memorable meal I have enjoyed.
I didn't know it was possible to top my first experience @ Bar Charlie....Chef Nagahara didn't dissapoint.
This was an amazing evening and a perfect way to kick off the Holiday season!
Great Friends and Great Food!
Im taking my mom to vegas for her 75th birthday. Is it possible to create a custom tasting menu to our liking? I dont eat sea food so much of what they have would be wasted on me. i do, however, eat beef, lamb, pork, veal, chicken, duck, short ribs, eggs, sausage, most veges, and pasta.
It's very seafood-centric. The thing about Bar Charlie is that the chefs are preparing your food in front of you on very limited cooking equipment, for instance they have a very small induction cooktop as opposed to a restaurant stove. They do have some access to the kitchen of Restaurant Charlie, I believe, but they are not set up to really be cooking in a traditional kitchen. Therefore a lot of what they present has been pre-prepared and/or is raw. Perhaps there's another restaurant that might meet your needs better, but definitely give them a call to find out if they would accommodate. Someone else feel free to correct me if I'm incorrect in any facts or in my assessment, but I don't think it's a good match.
re: Debbie W
Instead of Bar Charlie you should consider Restaurant Charlie. It is IMO also truly spectacular, but in the Western tradition. We did the loft table in the kitchen. Without question one of the finest meals I've had (will do a report one of these days soon). I've eaten at both Robuchons, Alex, and Picasso, and RC is better.
Yes, Charlie Trotter. Bar Charlie is within Restaurant Charlie, both at the Palazzo. We had one of the best meals of our life at Bar Charlie this past October. We will be eating at Restaurant Charlie for the first time on our next trip to Vegas in mid-January. If we could afford to eat at Bar Charlie on a regular basis we would but it's akin to Urasawa. Here's my report on our meal at Bar Charlie, with some pictures:
re: Debbie W
Here is my posting from last Sunday evening.....
I concur: Spectauclar!
I Had the opportunity to dine @ Bar Charlie with a friend (QAW) and a new friend on Sunday evening. It was incredible. I had no idea what to expect except for what I have read on Chowhound and what I have gleamed from their online menu. Nothing truley prepared me for the trip I was about to experience.
QAW, who had dined at Bar Charlie before had talked with the chef's and the staff about creating a tasting menu that was experimental, creative, new and different....so we may have, and were at the mercy of these young, genius chef's..
As soon as I sat down I was presented with a glass of 2001 Prager Riesling Smaragd "Weissenkirchen Klaus" from Wachau Austria...it wasn't too sweet...though it was crisp and clean with a hint of fruitiness which prepared my palate for the journey ahead.
Our first Course was : Lobster with Red Bell Pepper, Mango & Mizuna. The preparation was bright, colorful and the flavors were clean. The sweet Lobster w/ the bite of the red pepper the juicy mango with the spicyness of the Mizuna...was amazing. It was the perfect bite....with an explosion of flavors. ...
Next came a Dungeness Crab with Fuji Apple & Chervil......this was a totally different experience than the first course even though it was similar....seafood, fruit and a fresh herb to bring out the sublteness of the flavors and freshness of the Crab....it was amazing.
Then we had Carbonated Carrot with Diver Sea Scallop, Ginger and Sultana Raisins.....this dish was absolutely beautiful...it was bright orange, yellow...it was bright and sunny as were the bright flavors of the carrots and ginger in a non traditional preparation that complimented the Scallop.
We then experienced a Japanese Snapper with Wasabi, Umeboshi & Plums...
This was one of my favorites so far....I am not sure I can describe how beautiful and how distinct and clean the flavors were....amazing. The plum was a terrific addition to the Snapper.
Next came a Tartare w/ Seaweed and Daikon...which was perfect to cleanse the palate...as this was our first dish without fruit...the flavors were more earthy, and substantial...it was a great transition dish for the courses to follow.
Then came a Tempura of Ayu with Bamboo and Sesame. This dish had BODY...it had texture, crispy, salty and a richness. Again one of my favorites so far!
Next up was a Ceviche of Langoustine with Pineapple and Citrus which played perfectly after the saltiness of our previous dish.....it was sunny, tropical and again over the top in color presentation and taste. I kept wondering What were they going to think of next......I was blown away and we were just getting started!
Then came a Yakitori of Brasied Papaya with Sweet Potato and Shiso.
I am a recent convert to Shiso...my first experience with this pepper was @ Koi....in the whole pepper form. In this dish it was used as an herb to flavor the dish...it really brought out the subtleties of the sweetpotato and added a nice dimension.
Next came a Sushi Rice Risotto with Black Fig, Maitake Mushrooms and Cilantro...we pared this with a Bottle of Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, from the Wilamette Valley. This dish was amazing. We all commented that we could lick the bowl.....it was, rich deep, flavorful, hearty and comforting. It was our first Starch based dish and it worked perfectly with the previous light, bright courses we had enjoyed. This was the perfect transition to the next part of our adventure.
From here we went to a Poached Maine Lobster in Yellow Curry with Lotus Root. The curry was vibrant yellow like brush strokes on an artists palette. It was almost too pretty to eat! It too was richer than the past dishes we had expeienced with more defined flavors and an heartiness from the curry and the lotus root...again this was an amazing combination.
We then had a Roasted Bobwhite Quail with Amazake and Red Miso Vinagrette.....another salty, crispy, dish that played to the taste buds. The quail was cooked beautifully, it was juicy, the skin snapped to the tooth.....I was in heaven.
Sadly this next dish was our last dish in this wonderful tasting experience. It is one that will stay with me...as it was pure perfection! It was a Japanese Ohmi-Gyu with Bloomed Mustard Seed and Pomme Puree.
This was the most tender, rare beef I have ever had. It was like eating butter. I dont know how to describe how flavorful and delicate each bite was...this was a perfect ending to an amazing meal so far....it left me wanting more.
Now came the dessert tasting.....this we married with a 2004 Kracher Sheurbe "Tockenbeerenauslese #10" from Neusiedlersee, Austria.
I was so enamoured with this dessert wine I snagged the empty bottle....it's now making the trip back to AZ with me for my label collection.
Our first dessert offering was a Nectarine Sorbet which was light, fresh, and extoxicating. The flavor and colors of fresh nectarines were robust and the wine brought everthing together.
Then we had Coconut Tapioca Pearls, Passion Fruit Chiffon & Pineapple Sorbet....this transported me to the islands for a quick trip (it may have been the wine) It was summery, again beautiful and fresh. The flavors were all distinct and stood on their own...though worked well together.
We finished this Culinary adventure with 2 rich decadent Chocolate tastings...one was a cold chocolate drink which was laced with sea salt....it was subtle. We enjoyed this with a Baked Chocolate Ganache with Cilantro Phyllo and Raspberry Sorbet.....
I love the play with the Sea Salt and the Cilantro with the Chocolate. It had much more vibrancy and complexity than you would expect.
We finished the meal with a Suntory "Yamazaki 12 year" Whisky......
I could have enjoyed just sitting and sipping the Whiskey....I was so satiated from this cilinary experience.....
The final adventure of the evening was a tour of the Kitchen where our masterpiece was created and a view from the Upstairs chef's table. This was more than a working kitchen....this was a gallery. From the colors of the vibrant food and sauces in glistening pots and pans to the artwork on the walls to the Glass perch upstairs from the Chef's tasting menu. This was like a culinary museum. It would be fun to go back and enjoy dinner in the kitchen...though I definitely prefer the dim light of the Bar area to the bright lights of the kitchen. I think it would be great to watch my meal being prepared...it was just a little to frenetic.
Kudo's to QAW for this Culinary Experience, the Staff and Chef @ Bar Charlie that could not have been more accomodating, friendly and knowledgable....and the Creativity of these young chefs...I am in awe!
This was an evening to savor for a long time.
re: Debbie W
Well, "food coma" is pretty close characterization. I was mentally counting courses, and thought I was done after 14 courses.
Of course, the score card reflects my personal taste. For instance, the blue fin tuna is an excellent dish, objectively. Tuna just happens to be my least favorite fish. As another example, there is nothing wrong with nigiri, but it did not exceed what I can get from better sushi bars. I guess I was expecting too much, as ocean trout and shima saba (shima-aji) are my favorite.