More than a year after shutting its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park has reopened. The New York destination typically debuts new menus every season, but this one comes with a twist: As of June 10, the restaurant is the first Grand Award winner to offer exclusively plant-based cuisine.
Chef-owner Daniel Humm says that the shift was inspired by a desire to forge a more sustainable footprint and strengthen the team’s creativity and bonds with local farmers. “Every dish is made from vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains and so much more,” Humm said in a statement. “We’ve been working tirelessly to immerse ourselves in this cuisine. It’s been an incredible journey, a time of so much learning.” The restaurant is not entirely vegan, though; milk products and honey will be available with coffee and tea service.
The 5,000-selection wine list backed by a 22,000-bottle cellar will largely stay the same. “Our desire to serve an entirely plant-based menu is largely a creative decision based on the ingredients that we find inspiring at this level of dining,” wine director Watson Brown told Wine Spectator via email. “That concern does not extend to the use of animal products in wine, which are primarily used in an optional process called fining. Some of the producers on our list may fine, many others do not. As we are not a vegan restaurant, we will not be adjusting the wine program in this way.”
Still, the menu change offers an exciting opportunity to reconsider the wine list and how it pairs with Humm’s food. “There seems to be this [misconception] in the wine world that certain styles of wine (red wine specifically) can only be served with red meat, and that those producers are not the ones focused on sustainability,” Brown continued. “These wines work well with meat because it is roasted, grilled, smoked, etc., not inherently because it is meat. Similarly, the producers we champion on our list work to ensure the highest quality fruit for their wines, which means paying attention to the ecosystem of their vineyards.”
While the tasting menu will retain its fine-dining price tag, a portion of the proceeds will support the restaurant’s continued efforts to deliver free meals to hungry residents across New York City. Since the start of the pandemic, the restaurant’s food truck has worked in collaboration with Rethink Food to provide nearly 1 million meals to those in need around the city. “It is time to redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose and maintains a genuine connection to the community,” Humm notes. “A restaurant experience is about more than what’s on the plate. We are thrilled to share the incredible possibilities of plant-based cuisine while deepening our connection to our homes: both our city and our planet.”—Taylor McBride
Michael Mina’s RN74 Seattle Closes Permanently
The Seattle outpost of chef Michael Mina’s RN74 announced this month that it will not reopen following its 2020 closure in response to the pandemic. This ends a long run for the RN74 concept; the original location in San Francisco opened in 2009 and held a Grand Award until it closed in fall 2017.
In Seattle, the wine program had consistently earned a Best of Award of Excellence since 2012. The list was overseen by wine director Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen, who built the selection count to nearly 2,500 labels. The substantial list showed off numerous regional strengths, excelling in Burgundy but also offering an impressive range of selections from Bordeaux, the Rhône and Champagne, as well as Washington and Oregon. Chef Shawn Applin ran the kitchen, serving French-influenced steak-house fare.
The space itself will live on, though, as Mina’s restaurant group plans to replace RN74 with a Bourbon Steak this fall. The chain is one of several Restaurant Award–winning ventures from the group, along with Margeaux Brasserie in Chicago, Michael Mina in Las Vegas and San Francisco and three locations of Stripsteak.—Julie Harans
Girl & the Goat Coming to Los Angeles
Chef Stephanie Izard is bringing her Award of Excellence–winning Girl & the Goat to Los Angeles’ Arts District in mid-July. With similar cuisine to the original farm-driven restaurant in Chicago, this is the latest addition to Boka Restaurant Group, which includes Award of Excellence winner Boka and Best of Award of Excellence winner Swift & Sons. “We originally announced Girl & the Goat [Los Angeles] in 2019, but waited to open until we felt we could safely do so,” said Izard via email. “Our space and team have been ready to go for a while and we’re so excited to open our doors.”
Overseen by wine director Ken Fredrickson, the 80-label wine list offers a mix of California and other regions around the world including France and Oregon. An 18-label by-the-glass list is also available. “[It’s] bold and globally influenced, while approachable with a sense of fun,” Izard said. Much of the focus is on sustainably and organically made wines, with particular emphasis on smaller wineries. Chillable reds and low-alcohol wines are also featured.
“This is an international list with some thoughtful areas of emphasis,” Izard said. “Respect for the ‘new California’ movement, a desire to promote wines that are made from truly biodiverse farms and, perhaps most important, a user-friendly philosophy.”
Multiple menu items have been carried over from the original location, including wood-grilled broccoli, goat empanadas and pan-roasted halibut with blueberry–nuoc cham sauce. Guests can also expect new dishes that highlight Californian ingredients, like Vietnamese sausage over french fries, carrot-tahini dip with tahini tofu and curried goat with radishes, pickled vegetables and masa chips.
Girl & the Goat will open in the new At Mateo complex with both indoor and outdoor seating. Izard describes the casual space as “timeless and familiar, with an air of ‘come as you are.’” This includes plenty of plants, bright colors and high ceilings. Izard said she settled on the location once she discovered the Arts District had a similar atmosphere to Chicago’s West Loop area, where the original restaurant is located.—Collin Dreizen
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