I had the pleasure to dine at Bar Charlie in 2008, and it instantly became my all-time favorite. One and half year later, I revisited it with my wife (her first time). It recently switched to a down-sized schedule of opening only on Friday and Saturday. We made the reservation for 7:30pm on Friday. When we were seated, the hostess handed us a menu with a single 10-course offering for $175. She informed us that the restaurant now is “more focused”, and stopped offering 5 / 8 / 14 course Kaiseki menu, although a couple of supplements are “possible”. I inquired about splitting 20 courses that I read about, and was told it could not be accommodated. My guess is that the restaurant is cutting cost by stocking only limited amount / variety of those expensive and highly perishable ingredients.
The good news is that Chef Hiro is behind the counter all evening, and the food is as good as ever (Corollary: do not expecting his cooking on weekends in the main dining room). He is a true artist. On top of the 10-course Kaiseki menu, we shared the Japanese A5 beef as a supplement course, as I still have the fond memory of Ohmi beef from my 14-course meal in 2008. To my surprise, this time it was cooked by the kitchen, and Chef Hiro was not personally involved. Neither of us was impressed by the result, and it was the only miss of the night.
When we walked in, there was just a solo diner in the bar. Throughout our meal, a couple came in, had a drink while browsing the menu, and moved on to the main dining room. It is still very quiet, and I should be glad it is still in operation. We chatted with Chef Hiro, and he is helping in the kitchen on weekdays when Bar Charlie is closed. He said he would move to NYC when Bar Charlie opens there. I believe he will be a great success in New York, and I wish him good luck, although it would a loss for us who live in the west coast.