Want to know the latest news on restaurants with great wine lists? Wine Spectator rounds up openings, closings, sommelier and chef changes, and more in Turning Tables. Don't miss an update: Sign up for our new free email newsletter, Wine Spectator's Private Guide to Dining.
On June 17, the Pontchartrain Hotel reopened in the Garden District, with its dining venues overseen by executive chef Chris Lusk, of the Besh Restaurant Group's management division. John Besh, known for Restaurant Award winners Restaurant August and Domenica, tapped Lusk, formerly of R'evolution, to restore the hotel’s fine dining space, the Caribbean Room, along with the tavern-style Bayou Bar and the Silver Whistle Café. The hotel has also introduced a rooftop bar, Hot Tin, with views of the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans and what it is planned to be an extensive Champagne program. Sommelier Julia Brady will oversee the wine lists.
Iron Chef star Masaharu Morimoto, owner of several eponymous restaurants, will open Morimoto Las Vegas at the MGM Grand this fall. Taking over the location that had been occupied by Award of Excellence winner Shibuya, the restaurant will feature Morimoto’s signature sushi dishes and a variety of cocktails. No word yet on the wine list, but the programs at fellow Western outposts Morimoto Napa and Morimoto Maui (each of which holds an Award of Excellence) both focus on California wines and may hold an indication of what’s to come.
Amanda Smeltz, formerly the wine director for Roberta’s Pizza and Blanca, both in Brooklyn, has taken over as head sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winners Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. She steps into the role held by Michael Madrigale for eight years, until he left in April. With his easygoing attitude and active social media presence, the Philadelphia native had become one of New York's most influential sommeliers.
In May, the Court of Master Sommeliers welcomed three new members to its highest rank, including two Restaurant Award–winning sommeliers: Kyungmoon Kim of the Modern in Manhattan and Jim Rollston of Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif. The third to achieve the accolade—of the 63 individuals who attempted the spring 2016 Master Sommelier examination—is David Keck of Camerata of Paulie's in Houston.
This modern Italian spot, which earned a Best of Award of Excellence after opening in 2015, has brought in new influences as some of its opening team depart. In June, Jen Schmitt, of chef Jean Joho's Chicago classic Everest, took over as wine director from Steven Morgan, who left to join importer-distributor the Sorting Table. This spring, chef Tony Quartaro, whose menu was a refined take on classic red-sauce dishes, moved on to become culinary director for barbecue star Charlie McKenna’s expanding restaurant group. New executive chef Stephen Wambach—most recently at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago—has introduced lighter dishes and more wood-grilled meats.