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Need Gluten Free near St Ben's on norh side for baptismal luncheon

Gluten free options that can handle a crowd within a reasonable distance:

Wilde (3130 N Broadway) -- lots of gluten free options, including bread+rolls for sandwiches/buns, and gluten free mac and cheese. Sister restaurant to Lady Gregory's in Andersonville, which also has lots of GF options.

La Villa, at approx Irving Park and Pulaski, has GF pizza (prefab crust) + pasta. I don't think their food is very good, though.

Chicago's Pizza (multiple locations) has excellent in-house GF pizza dough that can be used for thin/deep dish/stuffed/calzones. They also have a couple GF desserts and GF focaccia for sandwiches.

Monti's at Lawrence and ~Rockwell has GF pizza crust (prefab) and GF rolls for their cheesesteaks. Might be tough for a larger crowd because of the seating arrangement.

Sabatino's on Irving Park near Kostner has GF pasta available.

All of the LEYE restaurants are very good about GF, especially if you give them a day or two warning, but none are terribly close. Also, lots of italian restaurants carry GF pasta but don't advertise it -- call and ask. I've also found that most restaurants are happy to accommodate if you supply your own GF bread/bun for a sandwich -- either using your bread or sending the filling out on a piece of lettuce.

Hope this helps.

Mar 21, 2013
gleam in Chicago Area

Looking for Usukuchi Soy Sauce

You could always pop over to Chicago Food Corp at Kimball and Belmont. They're almost certainly going to have it.

edit: sorry, they're now named Joong Boo Market. They'll always be CFC in my head.

Jan 25, 2012
gleam in Chicago Area

Dress code at Alinea

sport coat with open shirt is fine. only one man within 5 tables of us was wearing a tie when we were there a few weeks ago. A few were wearing nice jeans + sport coat + shirt. Some had the sleeves of their coats rolled up.

Seemed like as long as you had a jacket, you were fine.

Dec 26, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

Obscure soda - Cleveland

Hey folks,

Anyone have any leads on foreign/local/regional/rare sodas in Cleveland? Swinging through later this month and I'd love to find something new to me. A store that specializes in soda would be best, but if there's an independent grocer that has a broad selection (beyond the CCE/PepsiCo/Dr Pepper/etc), I'd be happy to hear the details.


Dec 17, 2010
gleam in Great Lakes

Alinea waygu - 2 Q's

alinea cooks almost all proteins sous vide, and wagyu is a perfect candidate for the method.

my guess is that alinea was serving true wagyu from japan, and alex was serving the snake river farms wagyu/angus hybrid which is much more common.

there's a huge difference between the two.. SRF wagyu is a notch above most prime beef for sure, but it's nothing like the bms #12 wagyu you can get from saga/ohmi/matsuzaka/kagoshima in japan. That stuff is just way ahead of anything coming out of snake river farms. Even SRF's highest quality wagyu would only grade at about bms #10 in Japan, and most of it is bms #7.

There are a few restaurants in Vegas that have sold bms 12 wagyu in the past.. I've seen it at Craftsteak and at CUT and at the now-closed Bar Charlie.

None of this is meant to take away from the skill in the Alinea kitchen, but I'm pretty positive both Alex and Alinea are cooking it sous vide, and Alex is operating at a very, very high level itself, so I think the difference you saw is almost entirely due to the quality of the meat.

The problem is that now that you've had really exceptional quality wagyu from Alinea, nothing else will compare.

1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

Oct 08, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

Promo code please for Chicago Food Planet tour

man, don't bother. let's run down their bucktown tour:

* George's Hot Dog's: #1 rated Chicago-style hot dog "stand" (est. 1948)
-- meh. it's your standard greek hot dog/gyro/burger/beef joint. nothing remotely special about it, and not worth a tourist's time or money
* Hot Chocolate: Chicago's top pastry & dessert restaurant (est. 2004)
-- actually a worthwhile stop, with one of my favorite burgers in the city and great desserts, but I doubt you'll be getting to eat their burger.
* Goddess & Grocer: A gourmet foods & organic grocerer (est. 2004)
-- mediocre sandwiches, massively overpriced prepared foods, overpriced "gourmet" dry goods. Much better off visiting a dedicated store like pastoral or even fox and obel (which has its problems but is light years ahead of goddess & grocer)
* Sultan's Market: Middle Eastern food store and falafel deli (est. 1985)
-- some of the most overrated, overhyped hipster-pandering middle eastern food you'll ever eat.
* Piece: New-Haven style pizzeria & award-winning brewpub (est. 2001)
-- very good pizza, but there's better pizza, and more distinctly chicago pizza, to be had elsewhere.
* iCream: Designs and creates ice cream instantly on the spot (est. 2008)
-- neat to watch but absolutely terrible, awful, nearly inedible ice cream.

so you go to two worthwhile places and four places that seem to just be padding it out. The old town tour isn't any better.

Do yourself a favor, do your own chicago food tour. Go up to andersonville and spend a night going from Sunshine Cafe (homestyle japanese) to in fine spirits (cocktails), pasticceria natalina (italian pastries), great lake (pizza), and end up at hopleaf (tons of belgian beers and pretty good food)

or start at hopleaf for moules frites, get pizza at great lake, dessert at pasticceria nataline, and drinks at in fine spirits.

or build your own tour in any other neighborhood. if you have one you're curious about, ask. you're guaranteed to get more value and eat better than if you went on one of these half-assed tours.

Hot Chocolate
1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Aug 18, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

2 days in Chicago, Hot Doug's is closed, need other recs for (cheap) good eats - please help!

they aren't really an exception since they aren't preparing the food on the truck. There are plenty of trucks rolling around with prepackaged food prepared in a commercial kitchen.. the african trucks, the jamaican trucks, the ones slinging pizza and such down by construction sites. Gaztro wagon just has the buzz because they're doing more gourmet stuff, and they're leading the charge to get the law changed to allow actual cooking.

Aug 18, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

NY Hound Not Foolin' Around

I'd also say that Mr. Beef and Al's are further apart than almost any two chicago beefs, so it's a good way to taste the rainbow.

I also don't understand how Twin Anchors made it on this list. Skip it and go to Honey One, Smoque, Uncle John's, whatever, if you want ribs.

Jul 30, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

Deep Dish Sauce

it's not the closest, and it's not traditional deep dish/stuffed, but it's unique to chicago and I like it a lot: pequod's on clybourn (and pequod's in morton grove + burt's in morton grove) has a very nice, very zesty sauce.

Jul 29, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

The Golden Steer

The restaurant it most reminds me of is Sabatino's on Irving Park, but I don't think it's nearly as good as Sabatino's is. The french onion soup is a specialty at Golden Steer, but I didn't think it was that great. Steaks were well prepared but nothing special. Any non-steak entree should probably be avoided.

Golden Steer
7635 Roosevelt Rd Lowr 1, Forest Park, IL 60130

Jul 25, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

Thanks for the Fox & Obel rec...and a funny story

$180/lb for a meat you eat a quarter or half ounce of at a time isn't so insane, but you'll see prices similar to that just about anywhere that is slicing jamon iberico.

one question: did you happen to notice if they were machine slicing or hand slicing?

Jul 18, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

Southport Drive with picky eaters

Wings: Toons
3857 North Southport Avenue
Chicago, IL 60613-2823
(773) 935-1919

My suggestion if you want something like Hot Doug's but don't want the wait is to swing down to Franks n Dawgs on Clybourn.

Hot Doug's
3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Jul 12, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

chicago - where to refill my grill's liquid propane tank?

it's cheaper.. a refill might $10-15 and an exchange is more likely to be $15-25. Also of note: most of the exchange places (blue rhino/amerigas) have reduced their tanks from 20lbs to 15lbs over the past few years without changing their prices.

One other reason: the tanks you get in exchanges are often of much worse quality than the tank you'd buy yourself or that came with your grill.

Jun 14, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

Gourmet Sausages - Franks 'N' Dawgs vs Hot Doug's

It's actually only a couple blocks from the North and Clybourn Red Line stop, so it's much more convenient to the train than Hot Doug's (which is close to a couple bus routes).

In any case, some friends and I went to Franks 'n Dawgs in February and had mixed results. The polish sausages were excellent, as was the andouille, but overall we felt like everything was a bit blander than Hot Doug's. The fries were very good, but the portion was extremely small for the money they wanted for them, and they weren't any better than Doug's regular fries.

To be fair, this was during their soft opening, and they may have amped up some of the flavors since then, but Franks 'n Dawgs won't be replacing Hot Doug's in my heart any time soon.

Hot Doug's
3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Mar 20, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

What are Chicago's "heart attack" meals?

A 911 burger (nine 1/3lb patties and 11 slices of cheese, with fries) with an extra side of country fried bacon at Wiener and Still Champion in Evanston.

Mar 17, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

Looking for an Interesting Sandwich or Notable Meal along 294...

one small correction: ttowa dumpling house is korean, not chinese.

Feb 20, 2010
gleam in Chicago Area

Los Corrales - another good Mexican Restaurant in Chicago

After a couple trips, Los Corrales has cemented itself as one of my wife's favorite Mexican restaurants in the city. Very good quesadillas, sopes, and huaraches and low prices mean we'll be back very often.

Dec 20, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

Chocolate-covered Potato Chips?

I've bought them at the Blommer's Chocolate factory store. They weren't particularly great.

Dec 16, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

Daniel Boulud Brasserie to close, Las Vegas

Then why is he opening up a restaurant at Sheldon Adelson's resort in Singapore? He wanted out of the Wynn, not out of Vegas. I wouldn't be surprised if a new Daniel Boulud property opens up at the Venetian or Palazzo in Vegas in a year or two.

Nov 02, 2009
gleam in Las Vegas

Where to find Dutch Processed Cocoa in Chicago?

Blommer's has it at their factory store. Pretty cheap, too. They're at 600 W Kinzie and you should call ahead to find their hours. 312-492-1336.

Otherwise, the spice house or trader joe's. Also try Treasure Island.

Oct 31, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

Thin Crust Pizza in Chicago area seen on Food Network

Vito and Nick's is definitely it, and it's a great pizza place (I haven't had the italian beef pizza, though). It can be very difficult to get to if you don't have a car, though.

Quite a few other pizza places in the city will put Italian Beef on a pizza, but I can't think of any that I'd trust to do it more than Vito & Nick's.

edit: I have no idea why chowhound is automatically adding links to some pizza joint in podunk, IL, so disregard those links.

Pizza Place
124 W Lincoln Ave, Hinckley, IL 60520

Oct 28, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

3 nights in Vegas in mid November, head exploding b/c of decisions....

So, you wouldn't be able to get the full Bar Charlie experience (since the 14 course tasting runs $250, not including wine), but the 5 course menu is $100, so that might be a good option for your "splurge" meal.

Oct 28, 2009
gleam in Las Vegas

Two Very Good Mexican Meals ......

Nuevo Leon is two blocks from the 18th Street Pink Line stop. It's in Pilsen, which is a nice neighborhood on its own, but it's also close to the National Museum of Mexican Art. Another great choice near the museum is Abuelo's, which is across the street from the Damen Pink Line stop.

Oct 20, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

Do any of the chefs cook at their restaurants anymore?

Well, what are you asking? Are you asking if the chef's are working in the kitchen, or if they're working the line? Bayless is always floating between Xoco/Frontera/Topolo but you'll never see him working the line anymore. Same goes for almost every chef. Some of them might expedite and do quality control, but I don't think you can expect more.

Keep in mind also that the exec. chef has a lot more duties than the dinner service, and that most of the really upscale restaurants have a chef de cuisine who will be doing most of the QC/expediting/new menu development, leaving the executive chef to focus on profit/loss statements and that sort of thing.

So... what restaurants have you been disappointed by?

Oct 17, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

Italian Beef - downtown

$0.50 extra for hot or sweet peppers is very common... the (quality) stand that doesn't charge is pretty rare, in my experience.

Oct 09, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

Alinea and Moto

If you're interested in molecular gastronomy, you'll want to go to Moto over all others in Chicago. If you're interested in food, you'll want to go to Alinea over all others in Chicago. So I'd say those two are your best bets.

Oct 07, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

An Outstanding meal at Bar Charlie, Las Vegas

writeup with pics:
just pics:

Bar Charlie at Restaurant Charlie in the Palazzo.

Bar Charlie is a restaurant inside a restaurant. Restaurant Charlie is a traditional fine dining spot with its most notable feature being a lofted kitchen table with a 270 degree view down onto the kitchen and the dining room. The restaurant also has a separate menu and separate tasting menus, although I think any dish at Bar Charlie is available at Restaurant Charlie, and vice versa.

Bar Charlie, off to the right as you enter the restaurant, is quite a bit different from Restaurant Charlie. The bar is an 18 seat trapezoid around a minimally-equipped open kitchen, with just two cooks putting together constantly changing tasting menus and creating dishes on the fly.

Chef de Cuisine Hiroo Nagahara, a physics major in college, prides himself on never giving a guest the same dish twice unless they request it. And indeed, a "regular" (visits once every 2-3 months) was sitting next to us for part of our meal and received very different variations on some of the dishes we had, and some that bore no resemblance to anything we were served. Except for one cooked dish and the desserts, everything was prepared by Chef Nagahara and one other cook in the bar.

The normal options when you order include 5 and 8 course prix fixe menus, and a small a la carte menu. But you're strongly steered towards the 14 course kaiseki (well, Trotter and Nagahara's version of kaiseki) menu. Beth was a little worried that she couldn't handle a full-size 14 course menu, so we ended up asking if the chef and restaurant would let us split a single tasting of 20 courses (the 14 courses plus 6 added at the whim of the chef). They were generous enough to accommodate that request, and a request for non-alcoholic beverage pairings, and with that, we were on our way.

note: for the first few courses, the descriptions are from other reviewers, most notably gourmet traveller and KevinEats. For most of the remaining courses, the description is a quote from the chef who presented the dish to us.

note 2: as always, click the images to view them at a larger size.

#1 - tai (snapper
With white and black grapes, black grape puree, celery confit, celery stock reduction and micro greens.
Pairing: ginger beer with kaffir lime

This was a delicious, light-yet-complex way to start, and I think helped set the tone for the next 19 courses. The mild snapper was a great base for the sweet/sour of the grapes, the herbaceous celery, and the slight bite of the micro greens. The ginger beer with kaffir lime was also outstanding, and the bite of the ginger and acidic and floral lime paired well with the dish.

#2 - iwashi (sardine)
With compressed watermelon, sea grapes, yuzu sorbet and celery marinated in miso and yuzu.
Pairing: Watermelon muddled with mint, and tonic

The highlight of this dish, besides the deliciously oily and fishy sardine, were the sweet and sour yuzu sorbet and the salty, slightly bitter sea grapes. Like the snapper, this dish showed a command of salt, sour, sweet, and bitter that few meals I've had have demonstrated. The paired drink featured the same watermelon from the sardine muddled with mint, and the tonic added some bitterness that brought the whole thing together nicely.

#3 - tomato
Heirloom Tomatoes with compressed cucumber rind, tomato skin chip, hijiki and dashi, tomato foam, hijiki "dirt" and avocado semifreddo.
Pairing: 7Up with kaffir lime and meyer lemon

Chef Nagahara said he came up with the concept for this dish in June, and then spent two months waiting for the tomatoes to be good enough for him to put it on the menu. It was worth the wait, though, because the richness of dashi and avocado and the bitterness of the hijiki "dirt" perfectly balanced the sweetness of the tomatoes and the acidity of the cucumber rind, while the tomato skin chip provided nice textural contrast. The pairing continued the trend of boosting familiar flavors with aggressive aromas, and reminded me of an upscale version of the temperance punch my grandmother makes... a very good thing.

#4 - Bluefin tuna chu-toro
"We're presenting tuna in two different forms: underneath the foam you'll see the roulade, it is filled with an umeboshi spoonbread, it's then lightly poached at about 58 degrees, so that you should get a nice texture of the cooked tuna. we as well have a sashimi of chu-toro coming from close to the collar. It comes over a sauce of Nashi, which is asian pear, and a little bit of umeboshi as well as a Nashi relish dressed with a little bit of chive and olive oil. The foam is seawater… basically a dashi that has been 'amped up'."
Pairing: umeboshi, meyer lemon, tonic

This was an exceptional dish, really showing off the amazingly rich and tender bluefin tuna. The umeboshi, nashi, and dashi-seawater foam helped bring the dish into balance. The umeboshi drink was also top-notch, with salty, sour, sweet, and bitter in each sip.

#5 - ama-ebi (spot prawn)
"With this course we have ama-ebi santa barbara spot prawn.. we have the prawns presented in two different ways: one, almost as a ceviche, over a shellfish panna cotta, and it's tossed with a little bit of cilantro, tarragon, and raspberry. We remove the heads, take off the head plates, and we fry them, so they're completely edible. The foam is a tarragon emulsion, it's one of Hiro's real pride and joys. Basically completely heat resistant... you can just about put a plate on top of it. A little bit of shellfish oil as well, and a raspberry-shellfish consomme"
Pairing: pomegranate juice with tarragon

A non-traditional take on a very traditional sushi-bar dish. The acidity of the raspberry matched well with the sweetness of the prawn, and the perfectly fried shell coated in and filled with tarragon foam was a playful and delicious blend of textures. The pomegranate drink was tasty, with the tarragon helping tie the sweet-sour of the pomegranate to that of the raspberry.

#6 - tuna tartare
"This is our second offering of tuna, a tartare. We take pieces from the akami, the toro, and the chu-toro, and combine them so you get what we think is the best combination of richness, flavor, and fattiness. It comes over a sauce of hijiki, as well as a daikon and greek yogurt flan. Next to it is a relish of hijiki and fermented daikon. We've quickly pickled a cucumber, and the crisp chip you see is a bit of battera kombu. There is a salad of daikon and red shiso, and a little bit of bonito powder."
Pairing: grapefruit juice, tonic, rosewater

Tuna tartare is such a cliche, no? No. Not this tuna tartare, which was more of a mousse in texture and impossibly rich. The hijiki and pickled cucumber added bitterness and acidity, and the battera kombu provided important textural contrast. It was one of the simplest courses, and wasn't as intellectually interesting as the earlier tuna course, but it was incredibly delicious. The pairing was again one of contrast, matching bitter and sour against the rich and fatty tuna.

#7 - trout three ways
"One of the tenets of kaiseki is to tell a story.. in this dish the story we try to tell is that of a trout swimming upstream.. what we have is tasmanian ocean trout. At the front we have a ravioli, it's made of house-made ricotta and a little pearl barley. The skin of the ravioli is actually a trout fume that's set with a little bit of vegetable gelatin. Underneath is a trout roe vinaigrette, along with some fried shirasu, and a little pearled barley.

In the center we have a trout roulade, the meat comes from the belly, seasoned with a bit of coriander, lemon zest, and fennel. Served with a raw fennel salad and a little bit of chervil.

Last, we have some cured trout ice cream garnished with a trout skin chip."
Pairing: oolong tea with ginger

Yes, trout ice cream. Well, actually trout sorbet, since it was dairy-free. The trout sorbet is notorious in the Bar Charlie kitchen because it broke their $4000 pacojet... tough to explain to corporate, no? Anyway. The trout ravioli was fine, but not really memorable.. interesting in terms of technique and presentation, but that's it. The trout roulade was beautifully cooked and well balanced with the brightness of the fennel and lemon. The ice cream was really impressive.. the fat of the trout gave it an incredible creamy texture, and it had just enough sweetness to balance the fishiness. This is a trout ice cream that would win Iron Chef America. The pairing wasn't particularly memorable here, just a gingery chilled tea.. but there was so much going on on the plate that I think they deserve a pass.

#8 - halibut
"Halibut with english peas; a puree of english peas with shallot and mint; a ragout of sous vide english peas and roasted shallots, seasoned with mint, chervil, and chives. On top, sweet pea shoots and baby cabbage."
Pairing: plum juice with rose essence and tonic

One of the few courses that had very few obvious Asian influences.. it was really a version of a classic English halibut with mushy peas. The halibut was as perfectly cooked as halibut can get, and the herbed peas matched well with it. Not much to say about this dish except that we loved it. It was comfort food, really. The pairing again wasn't amazing, but the bitterness of the tonic and slight acidity of the plums balanced the rich and sweet halibut and peas.

#9 - langoustine
"For your next offering we're doing a tempura of Icelandic langoustine with Kanzuri carrot and lemon. Like the rest of the dishes, we express the ingredients in more than one way. So, in the middle we have a langoustine dumpling which we've filled with lemon custard, like a soup dumpling.

Next we have the tempura langoustine with tempura bits on the bottom. We do a sauce of carrots stewed down with thai chiles and kanzuri. And then the ribbon is carrot pickled in kanzuri and orange. Then we've taken some roasted carrots and made a salad, with a little cilantro and soy. We've finished that with a vinaigrette with nasturtium leaves and seacress"
Pairing: Orange juice with meyer lemon

A beautifully fried langoustine was the highlight here, but the langoustine soup dumpling was delicious in its own right. In many of the earlier accounts of this dish that I've read online, the langoustine was replaced with Big Fin squid. I'd like to try that version, but I suspect that this combination works better, since the richness and sweetness of the langoustine perfectly played off the pickled carrot and lemon custard.

#10 - scallop
"This is our diver sea scallop, which comes with the flavors of spinach, coffee, and turnip. Underneath there's a sauce of Bloomsdale spinach, a saute of Bloomsdale and Red Orach spinach. The cube you see in the back is a piece of kabu, which is Japanese turnip. We braise it in ponzu and coffee gastrique, the same gastrique we use to make the vinaigrette with the Rishiri-kombu and diced kabu. We wrap the braised kabu in its own leaf and steam it. The curl is flexible chocolate, with a little bit of cinnamon and cayenne. The vinaigrette is coffee gastrique, coffee oil, and vanilla. The Rishiri-kombu and kabu is scattered over the top."
Pairing: orange juice with clover honey

This was an eye-opening dish for us: a combination that makes almost no sense on its face (scallop, turnip, coffee, and chocolate) but that works incredibly well in reality. Chef Nagahara told us he came up for this dish when he was prepping turnips early in the morning and eating bites in between sips of coffee. The bitter coffee, spinach, and chocolate, the sweet scallop, the sour ponzu and coffee gastrique, and the spice from the cinnamon and cayenne all come together into one of the best dishes of the night. I'd have loved for it to be paired with a coffee or chocolate based drink, though, instead of the orange juice with honey.

#11 - saba / mackerel
"Another spontaneous course: saba, Japanese mackerel, yakitori-grilled. We did this with roasted eggplant and cumin, and genmai miso. We yakitori grill the mackerel, and then we have baby eggplant in different ways: one, as like a salad, and another one as a puree, and also a sheet, grilled, underneath the mackerel."
Pairing: plum and cranberry juice with bitters

We watched Chef Nagahara grab a beautiful, glassy-eyed whole mackerel from the walk-in, clean it, scale it, fillet it, and then grill it for us. This was another comfort-food type dish, and very traditionally Japanese. It was gorgeously cooked, a little smoky from the grill, and balanced well with the eggplant. The pairing went very well in this case, adding acidity, bitterness, and sweetness to a dish that didn't have too much in those departments.

#12 - "agedashi" Tamba tofu with beets
"Tamba tofu. Tamba is the original black soybean. One of the reasons we don't see it often is that it's very difficult to scald the milk to make the tofu. We also have some black beans in the bottom of the bowl, sauteed with some pickled asian mushrooms (honshimeji) and tokyo scallion. Inside the "present" is the tofu and tokyo scallions, seasoned with togarashi. We have some roasted beets, both candy striped and yellow beets, as well as a vinaigrette of a brunoise of red beets.

It's supposed to be a very similar dish to agedashi tofu, so what we have to finish is a little bit of beet consomme."
Pairing: grapefruit tea with rosemary and lavender

Another non-traditional take on a traditional Japanese dish. The tofu was the star of the show here, with a complexity and richness that most tofu would kill for. The pickled mushrooms helped balance the tofu and the sweet beets, but the pairing really did an amazing job bringing the dish together, with the bitter tea helping bring the rest of the dish into focus.

#13 - kurobuta pork belly with green curry
"Here we have our 36-hour braised kurobuta pork belly. It's braised in a hibiscus gastrique, and we have a sauce of cabbage, tomatillo and jalapeno. It's dotted with a little bit of coconut green curry. We take that same flavor of coconut green curry and represent it in the salad that comes on top. So we have a julienne of tomatillo, young coconut meat and jalapeno, as well as an herb salad of lavender, mint, shiso, thai basil, and cilantro. We have one red-wine braised pearl onion, as well as a little bit of braising liquid and the natural jus."
Pairing: green apple juice with cinnamon and clove

This was the most assertive of the dishes, with impossibly rich and smoky pork belly and bright, genuinely spicy curry-like salad. It was in perfect balance for me, and did a better job of balancing rich pork belly than any I've had. Another hit. The bright and slightly sour apple juice also helped calm the fattiness of the pork.

#14 - wagyu filet
"Wagyu filet with black fermented garlic puree, black garlic emulsion, a little crispy wagyu, grilled tokyo scallions, and fresh tokyo scallions on top."
Pairing: St. Pauli Girl non-alcoholic beer

The pairing entertained me a lot. It actually wasn't a particularly awful beer (although it wasn't very good), but it was a real "one of these things is not like the others" situation. Anyway, the wagyu was the star here, fatty and beefy and meltingly tender, with the tang of the black garlic and the bite of the scallions balancing well. The crispy wagyu bits were a real highlight, too.. they reminded us of the crispy bits on a good griddled hamburger. Anyway, this was a very good dish, but as soon as we finished it, Chef Nagahara started telling us about...

#15 - Wagyu beef, grade 12, from Saga prefecture
Pairing: Coca Cola with bing cherry juice

Yep, grade 12 wagyu from Japan. It doesn't grade any higher, and Saga prefecture wagyu is spoken of in the same breath as Kobe and Ohmi. We never actually got a description of the other components in this dish, which is just as well... the star of the show was the beef, and it was the type of beef dreams are made of. Incredibly rich, fatty, and tender, but still maintaining the essential beefiness that you want from a slice of dead cow. Oh, and the bing-cherry-coke was pretty awesome, too.

#16 - lychee sorbet with ginger and pineapple

More of a palate cleanser than a course, but this was a very tasty sorbet, and the pineapple ribbons underneath were especially delicious.

#17 - strawberry, basil, olive oil
"For our first fruit course we have macerated strawberries with a basil syrup. It has a strawberry sorbet, basil semifreddo, and an olive oil ice cream, with a little olive oil powder on the side."
Pairing: grapefruit juice with kaffir lime.

All three frozen concoctions were very good, but the basil semifreddo was especially impressive, since it tasted of basil without tasting of grass. The tartness of the grapefruit juice played well against the rich basil and olive oil bites, also.

#18 - green tea cake
"Green tea cake with sliced peaches, a bruleed honey zabaglione, with a plum sorbet, and a little bit of a peach tapioca as well."
Pairing: peach and pineapple juice with cardamom

They do sorbets really well here, you know? The plum sorbet was the highlight of this plate, too, but I really enjoyed the lightness of the green tea cake and the crunchy-creamy honey zabaglione The peach/pineapple/cardamom drink was pleasant.

#19 - marshmallow and chocolate
"For the first chocolate course we have a tahitian marshmallow, bruleed, with a white chocolate custard and a marshmallow foam, and a little bit of milk chocolate rocks."
Pairing: soy milk with chocolate and vanilla

This was my favorite of the desserts. I love bruleed marshmallow, and the milk chocolate rocks added to the playfulness of the dish. The soy milk pairing was great, actually, since the flavors blended well, but it wasn't nearly as sweet.

#20 - Chocolate cake
Dark chocolate cake, banana sorbet, chai foam, and banana tuile.
Pairing: chocolate milk with frozen banana.

Another course, another beautiful sorbet. The chocolate cake was wonderful, too, but the banana-chai combination worked amazingly well.

lychee-raspberry gelee, cinnamon almond dragees, and two I can't remember. Beth thinks one was a salt caramel fudge and the other was an espresso truffle.

I really loved the gelee, because I really love gelees.

So that's 20 courses at Bar Charlie. Not one clunker, not one miss, not one near-miss, not one that we'd grade lower than an A-. It was the meal of our lifetime, and the effortless calm with which the two chefs at the bar pulled it off was nothing less than astounding. It's not a cheap meal, but you'd have a hard time convincing me my Vegas high-end-dining dollars would be better spent at Alex or Picasso or Robuchon at the Mansion. It was worth every dollar and every minute we spent on it.

If you're in Las Vegas for a special occasion, I can't recommend Bar Charlie highly enough.

Bar Charlie
3325 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 892-3589

Oct 04, 2009
gleam in Las Vegas

Burger Bar vs BLT Burger

I was at Burger Bar on the 19th, and it was superb.

Sep 30, 2009
gleam in Las Vegas

Suggestions for dinner with future French in-laws

Topolobampo? They've got a private room that'll fit your party.

Sep 29, 2009
gleam in Chicago Area

Las Vegas - 4 nights, 1 business dinner

We managed to sneak in without a reservation on a Saturday night at Raku.. showed up at 6:30 and promised we'd be out before an 8pm reservation arrived (we had show tickets anyway, so that wasn't a problem). They had seats at the bar even if we didn't get a table, though.

I do agree that it's worth a trip, although I went to Bar Charlie the night before, so I think I didn't enjoy it as much as if I'd gone there first...

Sep 28, 2009
gleam in Las Vegas