Chicago-based Boka Restaurant Group, the company behind five Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners including Swift & Sons and Boka, opened three new concepts April 4 inside the Hoxton Hotel in Chicago.
Cira, the Mediterranean restaurant on the hotel's ground floor, has a menu of small shareable plates crafted by Swift & Sons chef Chris Pandel, and an adjoining daytime coffee bar. Cira's wine list features 100 selections from Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia and Morocco. The second concept, Cabra, located on the roof of the 12-story hotel, features a Peruvian-inspired menu by celebrity chef Stephanie Izard. The 15-selection wine list focuses on producers from Argentina, Chile, Peru and Spain. And finally, Lazy Bird is a 65-seat bar—the group's first cocktail lounge—serving 52 classic cocktails, including a variety of wine-based ones.—B.G.
Award of Excellence winner Bazaar Mar by José Andrés in Miami's SLS Brickell Hotel closed March 30. According to a statement sent to Wine Spectator from Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup, the hotel's new ownership decided to close Bazaar Mar to make room for a new concept. "We'll continue to welcome South Floridians to Bazaar South Beach and are excited to announce additional Bazaar locations in the coming months," the statement reads.
The restaurant had a 155-selection wine list with a Spanish focus to complement the Spanish seafood menu. ThinkFoodGroup has 14 Restaurant Award winners across North America, including Bazaar concepts like the nearby Bazaar in Miami's South Beach, as well as the Bazaar in Los Angeles and Bazaar Meat in Las Vegas.—J.H.
The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston is hosting five intimate wine-pairing dinners in its brand-new private-dining cellar. The "Sommelier Series" kicks off this month and runs through December. Each dinner will be limited to 12 guests and feature a different focus, starting with Burgundy grands crus on April 25. Other themes include "Napa versus Sonoma" and "Beef and Bordeaux." While details will vary by event, the dinners will feature five to 10 courses, with prices ranging from about $350 to $1,000 per person, including tax and gratuity. The striking new cellar space holds approximately 1,100 wines, a fraction of the hotel's 30,000-bottle inventory.
Sommelier Keith Goldston, who oversees the wine program at Post Oak's Best of Award of Excellence–winning Mastro's Steakhouse, worked with executive chef Jean-Luc Royere to develop unique menus to complement each focus. "The idea is to be really exclusive and intimate and [serve] rock-star wines," Goldston said. "We have a lot of people [on staff] who can tell some pretty good stories, so let's have some fun with it and pick some wines that we want to drink and share with our guests."—J.H.
Award of Excellence winner Ava Gene's in Portland, Ore., temporarily closed for renovations, which will include the addition of a pizzeria. In the meantime, the team will open a more casual pop-up, Ava Geno's, from April 16 through May 24 in Portland's Chinatown.
Ava Geno's will offer a family-style, prix-fixe menu showcasing what the restaurant calls its more "nostalgic" Italian offerings, like rigatoni Bolognese. "Ava Geno's has always been a staff nickname for the restaurant. When we decided to fully embrace Italian-American classics in the pop-up, we knew that we needed to put the name to use," general manager Sam Ryan told Wine Spectator. "We wanted to find a way to keep our staff employed and engaged during our closure, and to continue to serve our guests and regulars with a fun new experience." The 30-selection wine list is a scaled-down version of Ava Gene's, with the same emphasis on Italian producers to match the menu.—B.G.
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