Sorry, Charlie

The Southeast Cocktail at Restaurant Charlie is $20.
Photo: Xania Woodman

Last night with little fanfare and few witnesses, Restaurant Charlie said goodbye to Las Vegas. I was there — for the first and last time — to see it off.

Sometimes in Vegas things close with great theatrics. We implode our buildings, hold wild parties to celebrate a show’s end and dance until dawn on a club’s last night of life. But other things slip away more quietly. Restaurant Charlie nodded off with barely a death rattle.

Perhaps that’s because no one knew it was taking leave. The two-year-old Palazzo eatery left without a bang, closing its doors without so much as a press release to mark its demise. Sitting at the bar, I had a suspicion the other guests had no idea they were eating some of the kitchen’s last work. If it hadn’t been for a late afternoon note from Weekly contributor Brock Radke, I wouldn’t have known at all.

When I called the restaurant to ask if the news was true, the woman who answered the phone confirmed that Charlie Trotter’s sole Vegas venue was closing, sounding slightly stunned. She’d just found out that day, she confided.

And the atmosphere inside the restaurant on its last night felt equally bruised. The bar sat nearly empty, and a few suited staffers walked its rooms with hushed voices. The kitchen still was cranking and the bar pouring, but even with a glass of wine in front of me, I felt as if I’d walked into a funeral.

I’d half expected to find a raucous closing party inside Restaurant Charlie on its last night, but during business hours, at least, there was nothing of the sort. Instead, I spent my only visit sitting bar-side, sipping a glass of something red and chatting about food (the restaurant served geoduck — a giant, phallic clam), the economy (bad, very bad) and the impending closure (they still had reservations booked for the coming weeks) with a friendly bartender. Before departing for good, I sampled a superb bluefin tuna with caviar and a tart rhubarb sauce and a prettily presented Japanese snapper with crispy skin and bright vegetables. When I asked for my check, the bartender shook his head. “It’s our last hurrah,” he said with a smile, though he didn’t seem much in the mood for a party.

“Good night,” I said, as I bid Restaurant Charlie adieu.

And good luck.

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