Guests at chef Charlie Trotter’s latest restaurant will not have a Charlie Trotter’s experience—not, at least, of the type they have come to expect at that time-honored establishment, which has remained Chicago’s temple of haute cuisine since its opening in 1987.
"Chicago is the Holy Grail," says Trotter. "It’s a very serious, very formal degustation-dining format. People will tell us, ‘We love going there, but it’s sort of like going to church: You have to pay attention.’ So for Restaurant Charlie in Las Vegas, we let our hair down and had a bit of fun."
This sense of fun is reflected in the space itself, which is located in the casino of the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino complex’s 3,000-room Palazzo. Unlike most Las Vegas hotel restaurants, Restaurant Charlie is entirely enclosed against the chaos that accompanies the endless rows of slot machines and craps tables outside: Its exterior walls of knotted hardwood give the structure a cavelike appearance that belies its clean, geometric interiors, which are divided into a reception and bar area, a sushi bar called Bar Charlie, and a main dining room. One may also reserve the chef’s table, which is suspended above the fray of the main kitchen, over which chef Michael Rotondo—formerly of Trotter’s Chicago restaurant—presides.
This arrangement presents the diner with tantalizing choices. "The main dining room is à la carte," says Trotter. "We don’t want people to feel obligated to sit for three hours over 10 courses. They can order an appetizer, an entrée, and split dessert. Bar Charlie tends to attract the foodie-oriented folks who order eight to 18 courses."
In true Trotter fashion, the menu changes seasonally, with seafood—particularly exotic Asian fish—taking center stage, while meat and game tend to play supporting roles. Chef Rotondo also provides variety through the use of different cooking techniques. "Some things are cooked on a very, very high-heat charcoal grill," says Trotter, "while we like to cook other dishes sous vide, in vacuum packages. Others are raw or marinated."
Whether you stop in for a quick bite of cuttlefish with Asian pear and chervil or Japanese eel with grapefruit or you linger for hours over a multicourse meal culminating in seared hamachi with braised veal cheek in morels and chanterelle-mushroom sauce followed by a steamed cacao-nib cake with candied kumquats and tangerine, this Charlie Trotter experience will certainly be your own.
Restaurant Charlie, 702.607.6336, www.charlietrotters.com