ESquared Hospitality's BLT Prime is back in service in New York City. The contemporary steak-house chain had closed its Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning Gramercy location in December 2018. On March 21, it reopened on the Upper East Side.
The new outpost has an expanded menu with many of the brand's signature items, like tuna tartare, sautéed Dover sole, popovers and steaks, as well as several new dishes, such as baked salmon with ginger-turmeric vinaigrette, and chicken with truffle puree and pickled mushroom.
The wine program, overseen by ESquared Hospitality beverage director Sylvain Brunel, is similar to the one at the former Gramercy location but smaller, with an emphasis on California Cabernet, Bordeaux and Burgundy. The opening list offers about 275 selections, but the team plans to grow the program to around 500 wines.
ESquared Hospitality president Keith Treyball describes the list as a mix of accessible labels and blue-chip wines. "Whether it's our buying power in the market or just being on top of when some of these vintages become available during the year, we do find some of those very rare, hard-to-get wines coming to our cellars," Treyball told Wine Spectator.
Ocean Prime, the seafood restaurant and steak house hybrid with 13 Award of Excellence winners, opens its first Chicago location April 3. The chain is part of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, which also includes Restaurant Award winners the Avenue Steak Tavern, the Barn at Rocky Fork Creek, two locations of Hudson 29 Kitchen + Drink, M and Mitchell's Ocean Club.
The new restaurant will feature the Ocean Prime brand's core California-focused wine list, as well as its own "Captain's List" of premium selections from producers like PlumpJack and Krug. The opening list will offer 190 diverse selections with about 55 wines by the glass, including six pours available via Coravin (Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 2015 will be among them). The team will grow the program as they get a sense of local wine-buying habits.
"We want to make sure that wherever somebody's interest level is and their experience level of wine, they'll be able to look at the list and make a comfortable decision for what they like," said corporate beverage director Ryan Valentine.
Another highlight of the Chicago outpost is a glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled cellar display that will separate the main bar from the dining room and stores about 1,500 bottles.
Brett Cooper is leaving his position as chef and co-owner of Aster in San Francisco. The tasting-menu destination holds an Award of Excellence for its 200-selection wine list with strengths in France and California. March 30 will be the final night of service for Cooper, who spent four years at the restaurant.
Co-owner Daniel Patterson will continue operating Aster in addition to his Best of Award of Excellence winner Coi, which features 700 selections excelling in California and Burgundy.
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