Familiar names in New York's wine-and-food scene are now making their mark on the City of Brotherly Love. The team behind Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Rebelle and Pearl & Ash (expected to reopen in 2018), opened its first restaurant outside of Manhattan on June 30. Located in the FMC Tower in Philadelphia's Cira Centre South, Walnut Street Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a beverage program that's a bit of a departure from its New York forerunners.
"We're doing some cool stuff within the list to make it different for Pennsylvania, and more approachable and exciting," partner and wine director Patrick Cappiello told Wine Spectator. The wine list has 120 bottlings and a 50-selection by-the-glass program that will rotate regularly. Additionally, every selection on the list will also be offered by the half-bottle. "When you have a vast wine list with all these exclusive bottlings, and the wines are never open, I feel like it almost becomes a museum. In an area where people might be a little hesitant to try those bottles on the list or might be a little overwhelmed by it, we want to create an opposite effect," Cappiello said.
The list has a strong focus on France and the U.S., and also offers selections from Italy, Australia, Argentina and South Africa. Cappiello will focus mainly on small-production and family-run domaines, with a balance between natural and more conventionally made wines. While he and his business partner, Branden McRill, will split their time between New York and Philadelphia, Kaitlyn Caruke, formerly of Rebelle, will oversee Walnut Street Café's wine program full-time as head sommelier.
"We're also going to be inclusive of Pennsylvania wine," Cappiello added. "We really understand that there's a lot of pride in Pennsylvania, and a lot of pride in Philly. We want to prove that we're not trying to make this a New York restaurant; we want this to be a Philly restaurant."
Rebelle's chef, Daniel Eddy, will also helm the kitchen at the new restaurant, offering classic American fare with French and Italian influences. Melissa Weller, a veteran of Grand Award–winning Per Se, is spearheading the pastry department. Walnut Street Café will source much of its produce, meats and cheeses from local farmers.—L.W.
Francis Mallmann, the celebrity Argentinean chef with an affinity for cooking over open flames, has opened a namesake restaurant in Provence at Château la Coste. The 600-acre organic winery and art center sets a dynamic stage for uniting wine, food and art in one stunning location.
This is the first European venture for Mallmann, who is also the chef at Restaurant Award winners Siete Fuegos in Argentina and Los Fuegos in Miami Beach, Fla. Siete Fuegos' 260-selection wine list is overseen by wine director Mariana Onofri and has strengths in Argentina, while Los Fuegos has a 525-selection list by beverage director Zach Gossard with strengths in Bordeaux, California, Champagne, Argentina and Burgundy.
"I am very honored to bring the taste of my cooking to a country that inspired my very first beginnings," Mallmann said in a statement on the new restaurant's website. Dishes such as Mediterranean fish roasted in a clay oven and dome-hung Charolais beef are creatively crafted with a primal appeal for enjoying the local bounty.—J.H.
Chef Michael Mina, the brains behind several Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners, including two eponymous restaurants and two RN74 locations, will open Margeaux Brasserie in Chicago's Waldorf Astoria on July 10. The venue is the Mina restaurant group's 22nd concept and the first one set in the Windy City. A bakery and cafe, Petit Margeaux, will also open in the lobby of the hotel.
Margeaux Brasserie will offer refined French fare in an atmosphere that recalls a traditional Parisian eatery. "I have long favored French cuisine for its bold, 'craveable' flavors and exquisite technique along with its capacity to let exceptional ingredients shine," Michael Mina told Wine Spectator via email. "Margeaux's menu will feature a robust selection of raw seafood, alongside time-honored French staples."
Under the helm of executive chef Brent Balika, formerly of the Dawson, the restaurant will serve French staples such as steak tartare, steak-frites, sole meunière, and for dessert, a chocolate macaron with chocolate crémeux. The 800-selection wine list, curated by beverage director Daniel Grajewski, with Ryan Baldwin serving as sommelier, will focus on French wines. A Champagne cart with rotating bubbly selections will showcase big names like Krug, Egly-Ouriet, Jacques Selosse and Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon.
"While the list will have a Parisian flare, it will also have wines from all over the world," Grajewski told Wine Spectator via email. "Since Waldorf Astoria Chicago had a back-stock of great wines from previous restaurants, we are able to have fun wines from areas like Australia or even Madeira," Grajewski teases at a 1991 Henschke Hill of Grace and an 1864 Barbeito.—A.F.
After a year on the job, Amanda Smeltz has left chef Daniel Boulud's Best of Award of Excellence–winning New York restaurants Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud. Joe Robitaille, formerly of Il Buco, has taken over as head sommelier, overseeing the wine programs at the two French-Mediterranean restaurants.
Both restaurants offer a 650-selection wine list with strengths in Burgundy and the Rhône, as well as other European picks. "I love the wines of Greece and Italy. It's exciting to me to have a venue for Greek wines," Robitaille told Wine Spectator. "One of the things I find fascinating with wine is to find the wines that are the best examples of their places, the ones that really show typicity. Boulud Sud is very Mediterranean-focused, and coming from Il Buco that is very natural to me." Robitaille mentioned that he hopes to expand the Italian selections, particularly Barolo.—V.S.
Roka Akor, the popular Japanese steak house and sushi restaurant, opened a new Houston location June 26. The restaurant now has five locations across the country, including three Award of Excellence–winning locations in San Francisco, Chicago and Scottsdale, Ariz.
According to Rob Holder, director of beverage and brand development at JNK Concepts, Roka Akor's parent company, the Houston outpost will share some similarities with other Roka Akor wine programs, with unique twists. "We'll make a few adjustments here and there as the local market dictates to make sure that we're catering to our guests, and not just always putting together a program that is set," Holder told Wine Spectator. "Something that works in Chicago doesn't necessarily work here."
The 170-selection wine list focuses on California, with additional strengths in France and other New World regions like Oregon and New Zealand. Sake is also a big part of the beverage program—Holder calls Roka Akor "one of the largest and [best] thought-out sake programs" in Houston.—J.H.
Eddie V's opened a new location in Troy, Mich., this month, adding a vibrant dining and music experience to the Midwest scene. "We are excited to bring the charismatic vibe of Eddie V's to the region and offer a food, music and beverage experience like no other," said managing partner Mark Flora in a press release.
The new restaurant keeps in line with the chain's other locations, offering fresh seafood arriving daily, hand-cut steaks and live jazz performances. The wine program will be no different—Eddie V's has 15 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning restaurants. "At Eddie V's, we focus on Champagne and seafood-friendly white wines that complement artfully prepared offerings like the Georges Bank scallops and regionally sourced seasonal oysters," Brian Phillips, a wine director at several Eddie V's locations, told Wine Spectator via email.
The 300-selection wine list has strengths in California, plus offerings from all over the world, including 40 wines by the glass and a reserve section. Dinner options include a Chilean sea bass, Maine lobster bisque spiked with Cognac, and a 10-ounce New York strip. To wrap up the evening, guests can indulge in a butterscotch panna cotta and Godiva chocolate cake.—A.F.
Miguel Ravago, a pioneer of Mexican fine dining in Texas, died June 24. He had been battling lung cancer since early this year.
Ravago, along with his partner Tom Gilliland, founded Award of Excellence–winning Fonda San Miguel in Austin, Texas, in 1975. For more than 40 years, the restaurant has been serving refined, complex cuisine true to the culinary traditions of Mexico, which Ravago learned to prepare from his grandmother.
The menu is sprinkled with educational tidbits schooling diners on the differences between traditional Mexican fare and Americanized versions. Wine director Nereida Romero oversees the 130-selection wine list, which has strengths in France and Spain. Part of Ravago's legacy includes Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art (2005), a cookbook he co-authored with Gilliland. A public celebration was held July 2 at the restaurant.—J.H.
Tim Love, celebrity chef and owner of two Best of Award of Excellence–winning locations of the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Austin and Fort Worth, Texas, is taking on some largely uncharted territory in the culinary world: gas stations. In a partnership with travel-center operator Pilot Flying J, chef Love plans to revolutionize the food scene at America's rest stops.
Chef Love's menu items will be available at all 786 Pilot Flying J locations across the country. A publicist for the company told Wine Spectator via email that they will aim to provide "interstate travelers and professional drivers with fresh, convenient food options that are easy to carry and easy to eat." There will also be regional specialties tailored to certain markets. Chef Love is known for down-home Western cuisine inspired by his Texan roots.
The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro's Austin location offers 370 wines, selected by wine director Patrick Vasquez, with a focus on California wines. The Fort Worth location has 450 selections overseen by wine director Brian Hardin, with strengths in California and Oregon.
According to Pilot Flying J, whether or not the gas-station offerings will include a wine program or alcoholic beverages of any kind has yet to be determined. There are no finalized menu items nor an official launch date, but expect to see chef Love's creations in stores by early 2018.—J.H.
The Texas de Brazil restaurant chain, which has two Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning restaurants, has opened another location in Lexington, Ky.
Known for their churrasco-style meats, the steak-house chain brings Southern hospitality to classic Brazilian cuisine. The wine programs across the group focus on California and South American offerings. "Our wine list in Lexington has 120 wine selections, which is more compact than our other locations, but the core selections of our national list do remain," director of wine and spirits for the chain, Rodrigo Davila, told Wine Spectator via email. "As with all our locations, we have a strong emphasis on South American varietals."—V.S.