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Turning Tables: Aba Opens in Chicago; Wolfgang Puck's Spago Las Vegas Moves to the Bellagio

Plus, the Greenbrier's wine director is leaving for Jeff Ruby's, Sushi Nakazawa opens in D.C., Michael Mina revamps his San Francisco menu, and more
Aba means
Photo by: Christina Slaton
Aba means "father" in Hebrew; it's a companion restaurant to Lettuce Entertain You's Ēma, which means "mother."

Posted: June 7, 2018

Reporting for this edition of Turning Tables by Julie Harans, Brianne Garrett, Samantha Falewée, Lexi Williams and Kamila Knaudt

Aba, a Lettuce Entertain You Venture, Opens in Chicago

Today in Chicago's West Loop district, the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises group will open Aba, a Mediterranean restaurant with a focus on steak, seafood and mezze and a 60-selection wine list with 25 available by the glass.

Wine director Ryan Arnold selected wines from Lebanon, Morocco and Israel, as well as classic regions like Napa, Bordeaux and Piedmont. "My goal overall is for people, when they end their meal and when they leave, to have discovered something new that they might not have thought to order," Arnold told Wine Spectator. A favorite pairing of his is the grilled lamb chop with Château Belle-Vue La Renaissance 2009, a Bordeaux blend from Lebanon.

The restaurant group also owns Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners RPM Steak, RPM Italian and Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab.—J.H.

Wolfgang Puck's Spago Reopens at the Bellagio in Las Vegas

Courtesy of the Bellagio
The new crudo dish at Spago is served with pickled radish, avocado and tapioca crisps.

Restaurateur Wolfgang Puck's Las Vegas flagship, Spago, relocated from its longtime home in Caesars Palace to the Bellagio Resort and Casino on June 1. "We had the opportunity, after 25 years, to reinvent ourselves. It's a great location. And I think change is good," Puck told Wine Spectator. The restaurant's terrace overlooks the Fountains of the Bellagio. Two other locations of Spago are Restaurant Award winners, including Grand Award winner Spago Beverly Hills.

The updated wine list has a seasonal emphasis on rosés, particularly from the U.S., France and Italy. "I can also keep growing our list of Austrian white wines," adds Puck, who says he especially appreciates his homeland's wines for their excellent value.

Executive chef Mark Andelbradt is staying on with Spago at the new location. About a third of the menu is new, including dishes like Baja Kanpachi crudo, while classics like the Wiener schnitzel will remain.—S.F.

Peru's Central Restaurante Relocates and Expands

Chef Virgilio Martinez's Central Restaurante in Lima, Peru, is closing its current space and reopening June 25 in a new location in the city's Barranco neighborhood. The large colonial house will include Central Restaurante, as well as another fine-dining concept called Kjolle.

Central will continue offering its upscale Peruvian food and Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list. Wine director Gregory Smith told Wine Spectator that the new location will double their capacity for wine storage. He anticipates significantly growing the list—currently at 500 selections—and bringing in more wines meant for long-term cellaring, like Bordeaux.

Kjolle will open with an à la carte menu, eventually transitioning to a tasting menu with two wine pairings. It will feature the same wine list as Central. Martinez is also planning to open his first restaurant in Asia, Ichu Peru, in Hong Kong, at the end of July.—J.H.

Sushi Nakazawa Opens in D.C.

New York Best of Award of Excellence winner Sushi Nakazawa opened a Washington, D.C., location in the Trump International Hotel last week. Like the original outpost, the restaurant will have an omakase menu and a comprehensive wine list.

Masa Uchi will serve as executive chef, while Dean Fuerth, who oversees the New York wine list, will also do so for the D.C. beverage program. He hopes to expand the list, which currently has 130 selections with a fairly even split between sake and wine. Fuerth will maintain the staple regions of Champagne and Burgundy while exploring others like Portugal, Hungary and Austria.

"I want to change people's ideas on how wines and sake interact with sushi," Fuerth told Wine Spectator. "It actually can deal with some more powerful and intense, concentrated beverages."—J.H.

Brian McClure Leaves Greenbrier for Jeff Ruby's

Courtesy of Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse
The Nashville location is one of three Restaurant Award–winning outposts of Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse.

Beverage and wine director Brian McClure has left his position at the Greenbrier's Main Dining Room in White Sulfur Springs, W.Va., after nearly five years at the restaurant. He will begin his new job as Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment's corporate beverage director next week.

"I was very impressed by the company culture and I am very excited to work for the Ruby family and the great team they have assembled," McClure told Wine Spectator. "I am also looking forward to [...] helping to create a reputation that is associated with excellence in beverage in much the same way as the reputation the company currently has for the best steaks in the country."

"We're thrilled to have Brian join our growing team. As we continue to introduce the Jeff Ruby Experience into new markets, his expertise will help propel our beverage program to the next level," read a Jeff Ruby company statement.

The group owns Restaurant Award winners the Precinct, Jeff Ruby's Carlo & Johnny and Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse.—J.H.

Boka's Dutch & Doc's Is Now Open in Wrigleyville

Boka Restaurant Group's latest Chicago venture, Dutch & Doc's, is 50 feet from Wrigley Field, offering baseball fans an alternative to sports bars. The group also owns Restaurant Awards Boka, Swift and Sons and GT Fish & Oyster. "We hope [Dutch & Doc's] becomes an iconic restaurant that people think of when they come to the ballpark," said Kevin Boehm, Boka Restaurant Group cofounder.

The restaurant will serve classics like macaroni and cheese and prime steaks sourced from local butchers, and a housemade pappardelle ragu that executive chef Chris Pandel recommends pairing with the 2015 Beckmen Cuvee Le Bec Santa Ynez Valley, a Syrah blend that's featured on the 17-selection by-the-glass list.—B.G.

Michael Mina Revamps San Francisco Restaurant's Menu

Chef Michael Mina reimagined his namesake San Francisco restaurant with a new menu and wine list paying homage to his Middle Eastern heritage, with dishes like glazed Egyptian mango with foie gras and spiced squab with koshary rice.

Lead sommelier Jeremy Shanker bolstered the Best of Award of Excellence–winning list with Mediterranean wines, which now make up about 30 to 40 percent of the 740 selections. While flipping the wine program was a new challenge for Shanker, he is eager to introduce guests to regions he considers undervalued, like Greece, Lebanon and Morocco. There are also 60 wines available by the glass, including traditional Mediterranean aperitifs like Sherry.—J.H.

Introducing this Season's Culinary Team at Trout Point Lodge in Nova Scotia

Courtesy of Trout Point Lodge
Trout Point Lodge executive chef Andreas Preuss (left) and sous chef Jonas Kwekkeboom

Award of Excellence winner Trout Point Lodge in Nova Scotia, Canada, brought on Jonas Kwekkeboom as sous chef for this season; executive chef Andreas Preuss returns for his second season. The resort's restaurant, which offers a 180-selection French-focused wine list and a four-course prix-fixe menu, will be open through October.

"We are always raising the bar of quality, creativity and service and [Kwekkeboom] brings a fantastic skill set to the team," Preuss told Wine Spectator via email. "He's also been a big help in planting our on-site vegetable and herb gardens this season."—B.G.

Chef Scott Conant Opens Cellaio in the Catskills

After opening Masso Osteria in Las Vegas earlier this year, celebrity chef Scott Conant is back with another new restaurant: Cellaio, an Italian-inspired steak house within the recently opened Resorts World Catskills casino and hotel near Monticello, N.Y. Similar to Conant's Scarpetta in Miami, the 500-selection wine list has strengths in France and the U.S., but its main focus is Italy, driven by Piedmont and Tuscany.—L.W.

Chada Thai & Wine in Las Vegas Has Closed

Las Vegas Award of Excellence winner Chada Thai & Wine closed its doors May 26; it had a 180-selection wine list with strengths in Germany, Champagne and Burgundy. The family-run restaurant was owned by chef Aime Wanmaneesiri, who also served as its wine director. Sister restaurant Chada Street, a Best of Award of Excellence recipient, recently closed as well, in April. Chada Thai & Wine published a statement on the restaurant's last day of service, thanking its customers and friends for the support offered during its six years of business.—K.K.


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