Washington, D.C., has a new wine bar coming soon. Brent Kroll, the current general manager at Best of Award of Excellence–winning Proof, announced in January that he had signed a lease on a location in the city’s Shaw neighborhood and plans to open the venue in spring 2017.
Kroll first became interested in wine while waiting tables at Coach Insignia in Detroit, which has held a Best of Award of Excellence since 2005. He was previously the wine director of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, where he made his mark introducing wines from lesser-known markets like Greece to dining spots such as Iron Gate Restaurant and Vermilion. Currently, he works with Fat Baby Inc., the Washington, D.C. restaurant group that owns three other restaurants in addition to Proof.
Opening a wine bar has been a longtime goal for Kroll. The as-yet-unnamed bar, on which he is partnering with Fat Baby, will feature selections of half-off wines by the glass based on monthly themes such as Mediterranean wines, wines impacted by volcanic soil, or indigenous varietals, said Kroll to Wine Spectator in an e-mail. Expect smaller selections of beer, cocktails and food, plus patio seating in one of the capital’s hottest up-and-coming neighborhoods.—S.F.
Livanos Restaurant Group, the family-owned team behind Best of Award of Excellence winners Oceana Restaurant, Molyvos and Moderne Barn, opened the doors to its newest concept, Ousia, on Jan. 24. With Greek-focused cuisine, a creative bar program and an adventurous wine list, Ousia brings a taste of the Mediterranean to Manhattan’s Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in the VIA 57 West building at 625 W. 57th St. Curated by Molyvos wine director Kamal Kouiri, the 240-bottle list is heavy on Greek wine, but also offers finds from Spain, France and Italy. There are also more than 30 Old-World wines offered by the glass. "I always enjoy being able to educate our guests a bit while also encouraging them to try something new," Kouiri told Wine Spectator in an e-mail. "After all, you can’t really experience a taste of the Mediterranean without the appropriate accompanying wine or spirits."
The menu features shareable, wine-friendly dishes that celebrate the traditions of Mediterranean cuisine, including grilled souvlaki, black sea bass crudo with micro coriander and caper salt, and turkey leg confit with roasted butternut squash and spiced honey. The cocktails also stick close to the theme, with names like "Athena the Wise" and "Baklava Island." Ousia is open for nightly dinner service from 5 to 11 p.m. and is expected to add lunch and brunch service soon.—L.W.
Less than a year after opening La Sirena at the Maritime Hotel in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, restaurant tycoons Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have already introduced some big changes. The most notable: converting the Italian giant's centerpiece bar area into a restaurant-within-a-restaurant that offers an entirely different style of cuisine. The new concept, called Tapas Bar, serves Spanish-style small plates created by executive chef Anthony Sasso—who has moved there full-time from Best of Award of Excellence winner Casa Mono—alongside La Sirena's impressive bar menu, which has been altered to complement the new offerings.
Wine director Luke Boland, former sommelier at Batali's Grand Award–winning Del Posto, spent around two months reworking La Sirena's predominantly Italian wine list to suit the salt- and citrus-heavy flavors of the new cuisine, incorporating 80 to 100 Spanish wines into the 650-bottle collection. One of the highlights of Tapas Bar is the addition of a Sherry flight and a by-the-glass program, lending a Spanish flair to La Sirena’s existing selection of fortified wines. "It’s been fun tasting through a new country that's kind of out of my wheelhouse," Boland told Wine Spectator, adding that he plans to incorporate more Spanish wines into the rotation as the restaurant sells out of Italian bottles.—L.W.
Award of Excellence winner BLT Steak Las Vegas' head chef, Ariel Malone, has stepped down from her post after earning the title less than a year ago as the season 15 winner of Gordon Ramsay's cooking competition show, Hell's Kitchen. Caesar's Entertainment would not comment on Malone's reason for leaving, and Malone could not be reached for comment on what she will do next. Former Gordon Ramsay Steak sous chef Agata Siwinska is listed as BLT Steak's current chef de cuisine.—L.W.
On Jan. 23, Florida-based international chain Ruth’s Chris Steak House opened its 150th location and its second in Massachusetts; joining its Boston outpost is a new restaurant in Waltham, home to Brandeis University. The 292-seat venue shares the traditional Ruth’s Chris menu of salads, soups, seafood and prime beef offerings, complemented by a 240-selection wine list. Curated by wine director Matt Williams, the list focuses on California reds, as well as white wines from around the globe. Currently, more than 100 Ruth's Chris Steak Houses across the United States hold a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award.—V.S.