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Turning Tables: Big-Shot Chefs Flock to New York's Hudson Yards

Thomas Keller, José Andrés, Ferran Adrià and more have signed on. Plus, Fleming's and North End Grill get new wine directors, and Smith & Wollensky Las Vegas is closing
Photo by: Courtesy of Related Oxford
Chef Costas Spiliadis' Estiatorio Milos will take a prime spot with a hard-to-beat view.

Emma Balter, Victoria Sadosky, Lexi Williams
Posted: May 25, 2017

Big-Shot Chefs Flock to New York's Hudson Yards

A major redevelopment is bringing some of the biggest names in the restaurant industry to a previously barren stretch of midtown-west Manhattan, along the Hudson River. The Hudson Yards megaproject will be home to more than 20 dining concepts, many of which were selected by renowned chef Thomas Keller, who worked with development firm Related Urban to bring the best restaurateurs to the area. Keller's own planned restaurant, an American grill tentatively named TAK Room, will put a casual spin on American fine dining (a change from his upscale Wine Spectator Grand Award winners Per Se and the French Laundry).

Spanish-American culinary star José Andrés is also on board with the project, partnering with Spanish chefs Ferran and Albert Adrià to open a 35,000-square-foot food hall in the Yards. The concept is being heralded as the Spanish answer to Eataly (restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's Italian food hall). Think tapas restaurants, wine bars and a marketplace to take home Spanish delicacies. "I cannot wait to tell the story of Spain to my adopted home of America in this iconic new neighborhood," Andrés said in a press release. "And to do this with my friends, my mentor Ferran and his brother Albert … such an honor and so much fun!"

Other notable chefs coming to Hudson Yards include David Chang, who will roll out another Momofuku concept, and Michael Lomonaco, who will offer a more casual alternative to his Best of Award of Excellence–winning Porter House. "As a native New Yorker and a proud New York chef, I’m honored to take part in this reinvention of the city that starts with Hudson Yards. We’re about to enter a new period of creative excitement across all industries, and that innovation will be celebrated in our food and at our restaurant," Lomonaco said in a press release. Chef Costas Spiliadis will also open an outpost of Estiatorio Milos, an Award of Excellence winner with a Mediterranean seafood focus.

Nearly all restaurants at Hudson Yards will incorporate wine in some capacity, but details are still being worked out. Most dining venues are slated to open in late 2018.—L.W.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar Names New Corporate Wine Director

Stephen Blevins has taken the reins as corporate wine director of Fleming's, replacing Maeve Pesquera, who served at the wine program's helm for five years. Blevins had previously been an operating partner at the Newport Beach, Calif., location and at the Walnut Creek, Calif., location.

The steak-house chain has 66 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners across the U.S., boasting wine lists with selections spanning several continents as well as regional focuses tailored to each location. "After over a decade of being part of the Fleming’s team, I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue to grow our national wine program as the new director of wine," Blevins told Wine Spectator via email.

No changes to the wine program have been announced, although Blevins has selected this year's "Fleming’s 100" wines, highlighting 100 by-the-glass selections offered at Fleming's locations.—V.S.

Danny Meyer's North End Grill Has a New Wine Director

Union Square Hospitality Group's Best of Award of Excellence–winning North End Grill in Downtown Manhattan has tapped Jeff Taylor as its new wine director. "I jumped at the chance to get back into the USHG family, having spent seven years at Eleven Madison Park," Taylor told Wine Spectator. (Danny Meyer's group founded the Grand Award winner, now owned by chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara.) Taylor also recently served as the beverage director for Lidia Bastianich's Felidia, a Best of Award of Excellence winner, and the now-closed Betony.

"I was further enticed by the opportunity to work alongside chef Eric Korsh, whose food I have been a big fan of not only at North End Grill, but his previous restaurant, Calliope, as well," said Taylor of the restaurant's executive chef. The wine program will continue to focus on old-school California and France, he said, with the addition of a cellar list of back-vintages from notable producers.—E.B.

Now Open: Chef Daniel Patterson's Second Alta CA Location in San Francisco (With One More to Come)

Courtesy of Alta CA
The concise wine list at the new Alta CA offers value and discovery.

California-based restaurateur Daniel Patterson, who owns Best of Award of Excellence winner Coi, is expanding his casual offshoot Alta CA with two more locations. Alta at Minnesota Street Project opened earlier this week in San Francisco's Dogpatch district. Helmed by chef Matt Brimer (formerly of Patterson's now-closed Haven in Oakland), the restaurant offers daytime counter service with a selection of soups, sandwiches and salads, such as a smoked trout and endive salad. In the evening, guests can indulge in small plates, like grilled levain bread with a fava bean and fromage blanc spread, or larger dishes such as pork with dandelion salsa verde and black cod with artichoke barigoule.

Alta CA's beverage program complements the seasonal menu. Overseen by Alta Group bar director Aaron Paul, the offerings include on-tap wine cocktails like "The Cindy Sherman," which mixes rosé wine with strawberry, Contratto aperitif, mint and tarragon. The restaurant also offers a short, 35-selection wine list with choices by the glass and bottle. The focus is on California and France—with some Spanish picks—like the Champalou Vouvray Les Fondraux 2014 ($72) and the Bedrock Zinfandel California Old Vine 2014 ($14 by the glass, $56 a bottle).

The third Alta CA location is expected to open this fall in the Yotel hotel, a project underway in the historic Grant Building.—V.S.

Closing in May: Smith & Wollensky Las Vegas

Courtesy of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group
The iconic Las Vegas restaurant will return to a new location. Stay tuned.

After nearly 20 years on the Strip, Best of Award of Excellence winner Smith & Wollensky Las Vegas will have its final dinner service May 27. But according to the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group (SWRG), Las Vegas hasn't seen the last of this steak-house chain. In a letter published on SWRG's website, president and CEO Michael Feighery wrote: "Please think of this as a brief hiatus while we create our new home for you to enjoy," adding that details of a relaunch of Smith & Wollensky in a new Las Vegas location will be announced in the coming months.

Until then, fans of the Sin City steak house can take part of it home with them—for a price. On June 1 and 2, GA Global Partners will auction off the contents of the three-story, 635-seat restaurant, including kitchen equipment, dining-room furniture and famous memorabilia. According to a marketing representative, the 4,700-bottle wine collection was depleted over the past couple months by offering "cellar steals" to conventions and private events.—L.W.

Wine and Culinary Director Changes at Casa Lever in New York

Courtesy of Casa Lever
Spring is in the air and change is underway at the Park Avenue eatery.

Best of Award of Excellence winner Casa Lever recently welcomed a new wine director. Carrie Lyn Strong—who took over earlier this spring—boasts a fine-dining background that includes Aureole and Ai Fiori, both also Best of Award of Excellence winners, as well as Jean-Georges Vongerichten's now-closed restaurant, Vong.

With strengths in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont and Tuscany, the wine program spans nearly 400 selections, and Strong has already started expanding the wine list by increasing the Italian white-wine selection by 50 percent. "There is an amazing range of Italian white wines that go unnoticed or unacknowledged," Strong told Wine Spectator. "So to be able to showcase some of the amazing Italian white wines that come from various regions in Italy is just a really fun project." In addition to incorporating under-the-radar Italian regions such as Liguria and Trentino-Alto Adige, Strong is also working on a domestic white wine section, expanding on the red wines from New York, California and Oregon currently offered.

Parent company SA Hospitality Group also recently named Iacopo Falai as their first creative culinary director, whose role will include overseeing and making changes to the menus at the group's various restaurants. "Our spring menu at Casa Lever is about going back to the earth, beginning with the ingredients we choose to start a dish. As I start my role as culinary director, the new menu has a focus on vegetables, a playfulness with acidity, with an integration of crisp and soft textures of wholesome grains," Falai told Wine Spectator via email.—V.S.

Barcelona Wine Bar Will Open New Location in Philadelphia

The Barcelona Wine Bar chain will be opening its first Philadelphia location in the coming months. With five restaurants in Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Awards program, the Barteca Group's Barcelona Wine Bar is strong in Spanish and South American wine offerings. The menus feature a selection of tapas, cheese and charcuterie, like skate wing a la plancha, spiced chicken empanadas, shrimp al ajillo, and chorizo and figs with a balsamic reduction.

Overseen by Barteca Group wine and spirits director Gretchen Thomas and Barcelona Wine Bar regional beverage director Emily Nevin-Giannini, the Philadelphia wine program will mirror that of its sister restaurants. "We'll open with a smaller menu, approximately 200 wines with about 40 by the glass, while we work in the coming months to register lots of cool new things into Philadelphia that have never been sold [here],” Thomas told Wine Spectator via email. The location is expected to open in June or July.—V.S.

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