This past weekend I was in Chicago and dropped a small fortune at Charlie Trotter's. My report is linked below.
Now I've been to Laboratorio twice and Trotter's once. Both are Big Event restaurants, and cost roughly the same, with Trotter's a bit more expensive: The Lab (approx. $110 for dinner, wine pairing $60) Trotter's (approx. $130 for dinner, wine pairing $85)...so time for a comparison.
One might argue that I'm comparing apples and oranges, since the The Lab is based on Italian cooking and Trotter's seems more French trained with Asian touches, but what the heck I figured it would be a fun exercise in comparing restaurants that are in the top flight of their respective cities. Also this comparison is not meant to take anything away from either restaurant, both are truly great eating experiences, and I would return to both in a heartbeat.
overall I thought the food, cooking, and presentation was better at Trotter's. As I noted, Chef Donna works mainly from the Italian Tradition where as Chef Trotter has a broader range of cuisine to choose from, giving him more options on what and how to prepare the food. However dish for dish, I felt that all of Trotter's dishes were at least as good as the best dishes at the The Lab.
Portion sizes are a little bigger at The Lab. Although each of the main courses at Trotter's look like works of art, with sauces drizzled on and little garnishes sprinkled around the food.
Trotter's you get 8 course and The Lab 12. The Grand menu at Trotter's focuses on seafood and meat, where as The Lab you have a greater range of food, pastas, risotto, seafood, meat. etc. I was actually a little disappointed that the main courses ended so soon at Trotter's. However the dessert courses at Trotter's are incredible...we shared seven desserts!
Hands down Trotter's. I wasn't all that impressed with the quality of the wine pairing at The Lab, especially the white wines. The only wine I truly enjoyed at The Lab was the Barolo.
The wines matched at Trotter's were excellent, except for the Cab (I'm not a fan of Cab's in general). The dessert wines were awesome. However, again Trotter pulls from a wider selection of wines from around the world, where as Donna sticks to Italian wines. And you do pay a little more for the wine pairing at Trotter's.
One issue, you only get half a glass at Trotter's, where as The Lab is much more generous with their pouring.
The Lab wins here.
Trotter's is much more formal and decor is kinda drab, at least conservative in taste and style. and everything is very quiet. and one doesn't see a hair of Trotter, certainly not cooking in front of you and sharing a glass of wine.
next up: Trotter's v. Maestro
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