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Oct 25, 2008 03:51 PM

LV: Bar Charlie Review

Our 10th wedding anniversary dinner at Bar Charlie last Saturday night was a smashing success, not to mention the most expensive meal we've ever eaten and that includes Urasawa. Since we had just the right amount of money specifically stashed away for special occasion dining purposes, we won't even feel the pain when the AMEX bill comes! $250 per person for food, $100 per person for pairings (basically, half-pairings). One of the pairings was non-alcoholic, and a few were cocktails instead of wine which suits us just fine. In fact, the Restaurant Charlie bartender has concocted some amazing cocktails and we will definitely be returning for drinks, a lot faster than we will return to eat at Bar Charlie, not through lack of desire but through lack of justifying another $900 dinner. We absolutely loved the atmosphere and the interaction with Chef Hiro, Sous Chef Sergio, our server (Kathy, I think), the pastry chef whose name I didn't get, and everyone else. What a great evening. Besides me and my husband, there was one other person at Bar Charlie. I have no idea how they can continue to make a go of it, which is sad.

Anyway, I'll just list the courses and the pairings and attach some pictures. I'll keep my comments to a minimum, since I'm not great at reviews.

1. Shime Saba with Concord Grape & Celery, paired with 2004 Schramsberg "Blanc de Noirs" Sonoma, CA . Normally I'm not a big celery fan but the treatment here gave it a fresh, clean taste without any of the unpleasant stringy texture (since all the strings were removed). Picture #1.

2. Japanese Snapper with Olives and Citrus

3. Fanny Bay Oyster with Horseradish, Hops Amazake & Razor Clams, paired with 2006 Bosteels "Deus Brut De Flanders" Prestige Cuvee Ale, Belgium. This was the only dish that I didn't absolutely love. Texturally, it just didn't do it for me. On the other hand, the pairing was incredible. It was described as a beer champagne, sorry that I didn't get all the details of how it was made, other than I think it was Belgian beer aged using the Champagne method. You can tell that I'm not really much of a wine person.

4. Spanish Bluefin Chu-toro with Watermelon, Pine Nuts and Mint. Picture #2. Perfection.

5. Spanish Bluefin Tuna Tartare, Seaweed and Daikon. Picture #3. Perfection squared. This dish had a lot more components, which are not listed on the menu I took home. Olives. Yuzu gelee. Scallop.

Now I will continue as a "reply" so I can add more pictures as I write.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. For some reason, the picture I attached of course #3, the oyster, didn't attach. So, here it is as picture #4 (after posting, it appears that the picture of the oyster just isn't working, so I'll just let it go).


    6. Steamed Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Pearled Barley and Fennel, paired with 2006 A. Clape Cote du Rhone Blanc, Rhone, France. Picture #4. This was incredible. The ice cream that's under the crisped fish skin is ocean trout ice cream, and it rocked. For some reason, it didn't melt. Everything about this dish just worked, all the components enhanced each other without any one dominating. Check out the see-through raviolo.

    7. Tempura of Ayu with Hearts of Palm and Sesame, paired with "Coconut Conundrum" (non-alcoholic, kind of like horchata with a Thai bent). Picture #5.

    8. Homemade Smoked Tofu with Pumpkin and Bonito, paired with "Bourbon Almond Joy" (cocktail). Picture #6. I really loved this too. The tofu was dense and silky and pretty smoky, which worked very well.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Debbie W

      9. Sushi Rice Risotto with Maitake Mushrooms and Cilantro (topped with uni). By this time we were getting very, very full. I don't think I appreciated this dish as much as I could've. The uni kind of melted into the risotto. You could really detect the vinegary aspect to the sushi rice, which gave it a whole different flavor from regular risotto.

      10. Hamachi Belly with Roasted Beets and Breakfast Radishes, paired with "The MF Cocktail". Picture #7 (which didn't attach...I'll try below). As to the cocktail, "MF" was defined by the bartender as "mind-f**k" when we asked him after the meal, LOL! The cocktail contained Laphroaig (sp?) single malt scotch, and pomegranate juice, and I don't know what else. You could smell the smokiness but you couldn't taste it, that's probably the genesis of the cocktail's name. Anyway, the hamachi was seared but raw inside, I don't think I've ever had hamachi this way, usually it's just raw. Another stunning dish.

      On to dessert:

      11. Concord Grape Sorbet. This had a brioche tuile and a creme anglaise or other custard below the sorbet. A refreshing palate cleanser.

      12. Steamed Kabocha with Smoked Sultana Raisins and Sherry Granita, paired with "Andalucia" (cocktail). Picture #7. The cocktail had a 20-year aged sherry as one of its components. Smoking sultanas is quite creative, don't you think? They took to it very well. However, the steamed Kabocha was somewhat on the dry side.

      13. Milk Chocolate Cheesecake with Roasted Marshmallow and Milk Chocolate-Graham Mud. Picture #8. This was my favorite of the desserts, and usually I'm not a fan of chocolate cheesecake. The milk chocolate-graham "mud" was quite fun to eat, too.

      1. re: Debbie W

        Trying to attach the picture of course #10, Hamachi Belly. Guess it didn't work. Sorry. Mods can delete this particular reply if they want.

        1. re: Debbie W

          OMG! I would love to talk about this meal with you soon!

          1. re: xoxohh

            LOL, O. Does it sound as good as your meals at Alex? I told you that you would love Bar Charlie. You better get to Vegas asap! See you guys later.

            1. re: Debbie W

              At the risk of sounding like you and I are communicating, the menu really does sound delish. However, to me, it reads like a dinner at Urasawa. That could be a good thing, though

    2. Great review! The pictures brings me fond memory. So glad you enjoyed it. It is the most expensive meal for me as well, but the high price is justified. I just wish them to survive the economic storm.

      I hope it's not deemd "off topic" in this board. How do you compare it against Urasama in LA? It's on my wish list for next special occasion.

      2 Replies
      1. re: foggy_town

        I've only eaten at Urasawa once. I would say the two restaurants are roughly comparable in terms of atmosphere (the relative lack of formality given the high end dining) and the friendliness and engaging nature of the chefs. The presentation at Urasawa is probably more ornate. I liked the desserts much better at Bar Charlie. The main difference is that at Urasawa, after you've had several raw and cooked items which you could compare to Bar Charlie, then you are started with a progression of sushi which is incredible. There isn't any sushi at Bar Charlie. There are lots of Urasawa reviews on the L.A. board, plenty with pictures, so if you search there you should be able to get a better idea of what Urasawa's all about.

        1. re: Debbie W

          Debbie: Thanks for the report. I like Urasawa, but I really LOVE Bar Charlie. Hope they survive the economy.

          Foggy: Urasawa is more traditional Japanese omakase while Bar Charlie is more contemporary, more fusion in both presentation and execution of the food. I did order some sushi off their a la carte menu at Bar Charlie, and thought it pales in comparison to other dishes. If I want sushi, I would go to Urasawa. Bar Charlie does a fabulous job with everything but sushi.

      2. Looks fantastic, Debbie. Thanks for the writeup.