It has racked up ten James Beard awards and made its namesake chef a worldwide celebrity, and although it’s been around for twenty years, Charlie Trotter’s is still a wonderful culinary experience. Consisting of three rooms (each with ten tables) in a brownstone, the restaurant has a sedate, dignified atmosphere. The decor may be a bit tired, but the cuisine shines, with dishes that are impeccably prepared and surprisingly light. Diners have a choice of two set menus that change daily, highlight the finest market ingredients and run about eight or nine courses. Particularly delightful is the Vegetarian Menu ($130), which at a recent meal started with a refreshing sweet ice made from Thai basil. The Grand Degustation ($155) menu may feature, for example, roasted Muscovy duck with bitter melon and Szechuan-infused duck consommé. Serious foodies reserve three to four months in advance to snag the six-top in the kitchen, where a member of the culinary team serves and explains each of the fifteen or so impromptu courses. The spot is crowded and noisy but at the center of the...
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