We dined at Charlie Trotter's tonight

My husband got a promotion that he had worked very hard for, so as a celebration, we went to Charlie Trotter’s, which was something he had always wanted to do.

(For those who haven’t heard of it, CT’s is probably considered to be Chicago’s finest restaurant.)

Their menu is fixed…they have two choices, the “Grand menu” and a vegetable menu. We had the Grand, and the dishes were:

Caraquet Oyster with Celery Root & Heirloom Tomato Ice

Poached New Zealand Cockles with Celery, Serrano Ham & Roasted Mayan Scarlet Peppers

Maine Diver Scallop with Braised Kombu, Sea Beans, Junsai & Creamed Lemon

Roasted Muscovy Duck with Bitter Melon Confit & Szechwan Infused Duck Consomme

Colorado Lamb Shank with Curry Spices, Preserved Lamb Tongue & Braised Ginger

Sour Cream Sorbet with Sweet Beets & Candied Walnuts

Organic Buttermilk with White Pepper, Toasted Milk Ice Cream & Nutmeg

Chocolate, Tea, Caramel
The shellfish were all tasty, and the duck and the lamb were divine. I do think the duck was the tastiest thing I have ever had at a restaurant. Mr. Trotter’s schtick is french food with Asian fusion, and the light ginger and other Asian flavorings were wonderful.

The desserts were less appealing to me…I’m not much of a sweets person, and I liked the sour cream sorbet, but I wasn’t wild about the combinations in the other desserts.

We also had the wine accompaniment menu, which paired a wine with each course, which I really enjoyed.

The service was outstanding…pleasant but unobtrusive.

Overall, a lovely evening. I was glad to do it, but I have a feeling we won’t be back any time soon…the bill was easily 5 times what we normally spend on a dinner out. :eek:

I’m soooooooo jealous. :frowning:

I’m glad you had a good time Sarahfeena. Boy does that menu sound pretentious though! (Don’t take this as any kind of slight at you!) I love going to fancy restaurants when I can and have eaten at some pretty ritzy places, but I’ve never seen a menu like that. “Heirloom tomato ice”? “Toasted milk ice cream”? But it sounds like a fun night!

A recent issue of Saveur magazine that devoted itself entirely to Chicago had claimed that Trotter started the gourmet food restaurant revolution in Chicago, elevating it from “a couple high-end restaurants” to a culinary destination - and partially did it by inspiring others, partially by turning out so many good chefs from his own kitchen that they went on to open competing restaurants! I’m inclined to agree with their analysis. And yes, I’m terribly jealous - I’d consider going for a very special occasion except that my husband tends to have a more “hearty” appetite and am afraid he’d leave very hungry. Do you think that would be the case?

I’m thinking I might leave something like that for our next trip to California and go to the French Laundry instead; at least he’d expect a lighter meal out there instead of in Chicago. :wink:

Congrats to Mr. Feena on the promotion.

A different wine with every course? The Lovely and Talented Mrs. Shodan and I have tried that, and I was mighty glad we reserved a room in a hotel that we could walk to afterward. I was hardly able to walk, let alone drive.

The ad at the bottom of the page is “Undo Circumcision Damage”. I shudder to think how that got triggered.


Well, it IS a little pretentious. I mean, think about it…this is a place where the chef basically says, "you don’t get to choose what you eat…you’ll take what I’m serving and like it! :slight_smile: (Although they are very nice about leaving out ingredients you don’t like, and in one review I read they actually substituted a completely different kind of meat for someone in one of the dishes.) You really have to kind of look at the chef as an artist who puts together ingredients you may have never seen together before, and turning them into a cohesive dish.

This is the reason we wanted to go there. You know, Chicago is so known for meat/potatoes/ribs/pizza, etc. (which is the kind of food we usually like to go out for!), and Charlie Trotter really did lead the way in revolutionizing what Chicago offers in this regard. I think a lot of the business there is out-of-towners who come for the dining experience…in fact, we took the kitchen tour with a couple who had driven from the Detroit area just to go to Charlie Trotter’s for their 40th anniversary celebration. It’s really neat to me that restaurants like CT’s draw people here.

That is a little bit of an issue. The courses are really, really small. There’s a bunch of courses, but the beginning ones are literally one bite, and the main dishes are maybe 1/4 of what you would get at most restaurants around here. I was pretty full when we left, but my husband said that he could go for slightly larger portions, or one or two more courses. It was early when we were finished (we went to the 5:30 seating), so we stopped at a hotel bar/restaurant near our house where we often go for an after-dinner drink or dessert. I thought my husband might actually get something else to eat, but when we got there he said he didn’t need it. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if he got himself an appetizer or something.

Thank you! :slight_smile:

That was the other issue my husband had…the glasses of wine were pretty small. It was fine for me, I got maybe a slight buzz, but he would have liked a little more. There was basically enough to wash down the course, and he missed having a glass to sip on in between courses.

Me too! That is weird! :eek:

ONE bite?

What would they say if you asked for seconds?

I’m not sure that would be considered the thing to do!

The first course was literally one bite. One tiny oyster, sitting in the tomato ice, scoop it with a spoon, and you’re done.

They did get progressively larger!

It’s called an amuse-bouche, or an “amuse” among the cognoscenti.

More information here.

I’m the chef for a twelve-person dinner party next weekend, and I’ll be serving two amuse courses, one at the beginning, one in the middle. The first introduces the concept for the meal; the second changes the flavor direction and sets up the finale.

It sounds kind of precious and fussy, and in less competent hands it definitely can be, but it’s actually a cool trend in fine dining.

There’s a whole cookbook about it from one of the modern architects of the phenomenon. Good stuff.

Heh, I was walking past Trotter’s last night in a fairly inebriated state.

How hard is it to get reservations? Sounds very interesting.

Your dinner sounds wonderful, and congratulations to Mr. Feena on the promotion.

I always find I feel more full after multiple small courses, even if the portion sizes added up are smaller than the amount I would eat all in one go.

I would love to see what the vegetable menu is – if that were me, I might have tried to have one person order the vegetable and the other the meat, and then split. Of course, with us, we both would have been saying “okay, YOU get the vegetable then … no, YOU get it.”

Thanks for the expert’s explanation! You reminded me that I forgot that we were also served what I think of more literally of as an amuse-bouche, because it was not listed as one of the courses, and was served directly on a large spoon. It was fig, with I think ginger and of course some other stuff that I can’t remember.

Oh, that’s funny. I’m sure I’ve done the same many times. :slight_smile:

I think we had to make the reservation about a month in advance. They have a table in the kitchen, which I think you have to wait more like 2 months for. We really wanted to do that, but couldn’t think of anyone who we thought would be interested in going, and you have to pay for 4 dinners at a minimum.

Thank you!

This is true for me, as well. By the time we got to the hotel bar we stopped at, I definitely did not feel as though I needed to eat anything.

We would have been the same way! I thought about doing that, but the portions are just not sized well for doing it. Since you were curious, here’s the vegetable menu from their website. Our server told us that it’s not actually vegetarian, although I’m sure you could get it made that way if you asked in advance.

Summer Thai Basil

Terrine of Cipollini & Torpedo Onions with Easter Radish Gelee & Mustard Seed Vinaigrette

Cumin Scented Alverdale Cauliflower with Purple Cous Cous & Dill

British Columbian Matsutake Mushrooms with Pine Honey & Burnt Lemon

Organic Eggplant with Saffron, Black Cardamom & Sousvide Green Thai Eggplant

Maca Sherbet with Pickled Dates & Quinoa

Sweet Carrot Sorbet with Toasted Orange Cake & Marsala Sabayon

Indonesian Chocolate with Pine Nuts & Pandan Broth

Chocolate, Tea & Caramel

One thing I didn’t mention before in detail was how wonderful the service was. They had neat little touches, such the invitation to see the kitchen after dinner (they had a lady there whose job it is to give tours).

I am pretty sure they gave an anniversary gift to the older couple who we took the kitchen tour with. They were VERY discreet about it, so I’m not sure, but after the tour, someone came over and handed them a bag with what looked like a cookbook in it. I couldn’t hear what was said, but the couple looked surprised & pleased. I’ve heard of people getting those kinds of freebees there, so I told my husband maybe we should go back for our 10th anniversary & causally mention it to the waiter, just to see what happens! :wink:

Then, as the valet helped me into the car, he handed me a little box of candied almonds.

It was really, really nice.

Ooh the veggie menu looks good. I wonder what makes the purple cous cous purple? I hate going to fancy resturaunts (not that it happens that often) and getting served a plain pasta or a plate of steamed veggies while everyone else gets this extravagant-looking food.

I “dined” at Charlie Trotter’s once as part of a school field trip. The experience was entirely lost on me. Give me the full plate of ribs (with zesty sauce) at Twin Anchors anytime.

Sounds absolutely divine. My dream is to one day dine at Alinea (another Chicago restaurant, dubbed America’s best restaurant by Gourmet Magazine.) CT’s, Moto, Everest, and Avenues are also high up on my list. One day, I’ll gather the courage to spend the money. :slight_smile: Glad to hear you had a great time!

Shoot, missed my edit window. You should get a real kick out of this, then. It includes such items as “TURBOT shellfish, waterchestnuts, hyacinth vapor,” “EGGPLANT cobia, crystaline florettes, radish pods,” and " FINGER LIMES olive oil, dissolving eucalyptus". Despite the pretentious look of it all, apparently, the restaurant itself has a decidedly unpretentious and don’t-take-themselves-too-seriously vibe to it.

Oh, and the aforementioned Moto actually for some time had edible menus–they were printed on rice paper with some sort of vegetable or otherwise edible inks.

I’m sure the veggie menu is excellent…I doubt anything there would ever get less than full effort!

They mentioned the school field trips to us when we took the kitchen tour. I guess that’s one of Chef Trotter’s main philantropic efforts.

I would like to try Alinea sometime…a couple I know went there, and it sounds a little edgier than Trotter’s. I’ve been to Everest (my in-laws took us years ago), and it was good, but I wasn’t wild about it. The food is much more typical French cuisine, and that’s not my favorite. My favorite high-end restaurnt in the city is Ambria, but I think I heard that it’s closing.

Personally, I would never have made the decision to go to Trotter’s, because of the money. My husband is a great budgeter & tends to be on the frugal side, so I let him decide if we can afford the more high-ticket items. He never spends any money on himself, so when he decided this was what he wanted to do, I decided to just go along for the ride!

Too late. Always wanted to go there myself, but it closed on June 30, 2007. I’ve never been to Everest, either, but aren’t they both French cuisine?

edit: Yeah, Alinea is certainly edgy. Very much so. It’s one of those places that really pushes the envelope in what is possible with cuisine and presentation, edible art, really, with a great sense of fun. Not to everybody’s tastes, I’m sure, but everyone I’ve heard that has gone there has certainly been full at the end of the tasting menu.

Yes, Ambria is (was) French, but more of a bistro style, which I enjoy, than haute cuisine. Too bad it’s gone…I don’t get too much chance to go to high-priced restaurants, so I hadn’t been there in quite a while.

I think it sounds cool…definitely something I’d want to try. I like the idea of food as art.

Which is kind of funny, because like I said before, I’m really very much a pizza/hot dogs/ribs/beer kind of girl most of the time!

The head chef, Grant Achatz, was diagnosed with an advanced case of cancer of the mouth and is/will be undergoing chemo - which could apparently destroy his sense of taste. So you might want to go sooner rather than later.