In 2020, chef and TV personality Bobby Flay closed his Mesa Grill at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace hotel and casino. Last month, Flay revived the space as Amalfi by Bobby Flay, his first venture with Italian cuisine. Joining his other restaurants, including Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City, N.J., Amalfi is inspired by the chef’s travels to southern Italy, especially the Amalfi Coast. “We had 16 incredible years as Mesa Grill, but it’s important to evolve and stay ahead of the curve, especially in Las Vegas,” Flay told Wine Spectator.
Overseen by general manager Jean-Pierre Francois, formerly of Mesa Grill, Amalfi’s bottle list is focused on Italy and quickly approaching 250 labels, with an exclusively Italian by-the-glass program. There are diverse whites and reds from up and down the Italian boot, with emphasis on southern regions, plus sparkling wine and rosé. “We’d like for each guest to feel transported and to maybe try a varietal they’ve never tried,” Francois said. “Let us take you on an adventure.”
Flay and executive chef Anthony Fusco’s menu offers antipasti plates and fresh seafood inspired by Italy’s fish markets (Amalfi has a fishmonger on staff). There are also pastas, including spaghetti with toasted zucchini and scialatielli with scampi sauce, as well as meatier dishes and traditional desserts like pistachio–olive oil cake and tiramisu.
The casual interior features a natural color palate with stone, wood and fabric elements. It consists of four spaces, including the bar-and-lounge area, the dining room, a fish market room and a private-dining area. “After immersing myself in Italian culture and spending time exploring, cooking and eating with the country’s greatest chefs, I can honestly say Italy has stolen my heart,” Flay said in a statement. “My time in that region inspired me to bring fresh fish, perfectly made pastas, herbaceous flavors and so much more to Caesars Palace.”—Collin Dreizen
Seafood-focused chain Truluck’s has locations throughout the U.S., including 12 Award of Excellence winners. Now the group has added its first spot in Washington, D.C., opened on May 22. “D.C. is a magnificent city,” said Truluck managing partner and director of beverage Dave Mattern. “We are honored to now be a part of such a wonderful community.”
Wine director Karen Schmid oversees the wine list of more than 200 selections that complement the menu, supported by an inventory of about 2,500 bottles. This includes Champagne and sparkling wines to pair with oysters, and many Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay picks for dishes like stone and king crab. Guests can also discover reds from Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux, Spain and Italy to pair with steaks, along with 75 wines by the glass. “[The wine experience] is elevated and adventurous,” Mattern said. “We want people to drink what they want to drink.”
Laurence Cohen is the restaurant’s executive chef, offering a menu of dishes like South African lobster tail, miso-glazed sea bass, Dutch yellowtail, Nigerian prawns and lobster bisque. Like other Truluck’s locations, the restaurant sources its oysters locally. “Our quality sourcing is crazy good,” Mattern said. “Every bit of food is special.”
The 10,000-foot, two-tier space in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood features floor-to-ceiling windows and chandeliers, and will host live music every night. “This is our most beautiful restaurant to date,” Mattern said.—C.D.
Best of Award of Excellence winner Yugen closed in May after two and a half years in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The fine-dining restaurant served modern Japanese cuisine and a wine list of more than 900 selections excelling in California, Germany and several French regions.
“It was sad to see the ending, but I’m so very proud of the accomplishments that everyone put forth in this restaurant,” said owner Michael Olszewski. “What the team did, what they built and how they executed and performed was second to none.”
Olszewski says the closure was not COVID-related, but rather a decision that was made when chef Mari Katsumura announced she’d be leaving her position to take a break from the demands of the industry.
“[It] was a no-brainer to make sure that her well-being was the top priority. We have always put our team first,” said general manager Morgan Olszewski, Michael’s daughter. “That really echoes the unique aspect of what our culture is in the restaurant, which is very different from the industry itself.” Morgan adds that Yugen was built around Katsumura’s cuisine and culture, so simply replacing the chef wasn’t an option. “It was something that through-and-through was her and represented her, so to do anything different with it didn’t make any sense.”
Instead, the team is celebrating their accomplishments with Yugen and beginning a new chapter. Another restaurant will open in the same space in the coming months, using Yugen’s wine list and extensive sake selection as a foundation for its own impressive beverage program. The concept is still up in the air, but Michael says to expect a similarly high-end destination with a real wow factor. “It’s going to be something one-of-a-kind and stupendous,” he said. “It will be something that’s unique to the area that nobody else will have.”—Julie Harans
Best of Award of Excellence winner Haywire has a new outpost in Dallas. On June 1, Front Burner Society unveiled a second location of the Texas-focused restaurant. The group also runs Restaurant Award winner the Ranch at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas.
The new location’s large dining space maintains the signature Texas flair, complete with a dining table inspired by a vintage camper RV and a patio with a retractable roof. Chef Skyler Gautier and his team will be serving the same menu as at the original location in Plano, Texas, including a 33-ounce Wagyu tomahawk rib eye, chicken-fried steak and chipotle meatloaf.
While the by-the-glass selection matches the Plano location’s, the wine list is slightly larger, at 500 selections. Wine director and VP of operations Judd Fruia said the additions will ensure that all major winegrowing regions from across the globe are represented. The list also highlights bold reds from France and California, as well as wines from Texas.—Taylor McBride
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