Critics’ choice: American fine dining’s next wave
The Grill New York City
As a restaurant pitched to today’s typical Manhattan diner, the Grill is “almost too perfect,” said Ryan Sutton in Eater.com. Occupying an iconic modernist space— the Philip Johnson–designed room in the former Four Seasons restaurant where the power lunch was born—the four-monthold Grill would be “easy to dismiss” as a pricey indulgence in mere nostalgia if the food weren’t so outstanding. Richard Torrisi and Mario Carbone, who proved how tasty nostalgia can be at Parm and other downtown ventures, have created a menu that references 1959, when the Four Seasons began its run as the most important American restaurant of the 20th century. But the prime rib, the $98 caviar vichyssoise, and even the mushroom omelet are all “spectacular,” while the reimagined Amish ham steak could double as “the city’s best pork chop.” The room, after a multimillion-dollar renovation, looks as gorgeous as it did when JFK was president—all contributing to the only four-star à la carte experience you can find in 2017 New York City. It’s “a theme restaurant for the wealthy,” but “one that puts everyone under a spell that they belong.” 99 E. 52nd St.
Acacia House St. Helena, Calif.
“What does luxury look like in today’s restaurants?” asked Michael Bauer in the San Francisco Chronicle. In Northern California, “the answer lies in Acacia House.” Chris Cosentino’s latest stunner, set in a Colonial Revival mansion that serves as the centerpiece of a new 68-room hotel, gets all the details just right, from the weight of the flatware to the gossamer glassware to servers “trained in the ways of fine dining.” Cosentino, who made his name at San Francisco’s Cockscomb with provocative nose-to-tail cooking, here blends his natural boldness with refinement. Openers include an excellent lamb tartare and a moist kampachi collar that’s taken to a higher level by green peppercorns, fried basil, and toasted chiles. Everywhere, Cosentino “adds touches of luxury in unusual places,” like the scoop of caviar nestled in watercress atop the Iberico pork schnitzel ($49), or the pool of bone-marrow bordelaise that accompanies the charred Kobe rib eye. Desserts are French L aundry–worthy, especially a trio of éclairs, a pastry almost reinvented here, and destined to be a signature. 1915 Main St., (707) 963-9004
Margeaux Brasserie Chicago
In our city, a celebrity chef from San Francisco is lifting the brasserie to luxurious new heights, said Phil Vettel in the Chicago Tribune. “Creature comforts abound” at Michael Mina’s beautifully realized ode to 1920s Paris dining, a ritzy retreat that sits on the second floor of Chicago’s Waldorf Astoria and rings marble-top tables with high-backed leather chairs. The food is just as 20th-century French—“which is to say that it’s delicious, indulgently rich, and often oversalted.” The raw-bar goodies meet expectations, but you get more from Brent Balika’s kitchen by ordering wood-roasted oysters in a Pernod cream with bacon and leeks, then moving on to “unassailable” renditions of duck breast with cognac jus or Dover sole on white asparagus. Still, “if you have but one entrée, make it the lobster bouillabaisse,” worth every bit of its $52 price tag. “Welcome to town, Mr. Mina.” If this is the standard all your restaurants meet, “I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.” 11 E. Walton St., (312) 646-1300