Restaurants without borders
Brenner Pass Richmond, Va.
One of the South’s most gifted chefs is breaking out into new territory, said Bill Addison in Eater.com. Brittanny Anderson’s Brenner Pass conjures “an Alpine state of mind”—taking both its name and culinary inspiration from a mountain corridor that divides Austria from Italy but weds several neighboring mountain cultures. The elevated German fare Anderson created for Metzger—still Richmond’s best restaurant—has a place in the larger venture’s warm, contemporary dining room. But she’s also able to dip into France, Switzerland, and beyond, “zeroing in on the richly comforting foods—cheeses, pastas, polenta, lake fish enriched with dairy, pork in its infinite iterations—that sustain hearty souls in the provincial mountain terrain.” Surprisingly, the house fondue is a bland, chalky affair. But plenty else is wonderful, including mussels in a paprika aioli, the coq au cidre, and arctic char bathed in a vin blanc sauce. For instant transport to the French Alps, try the sausages called diots. Their secret? “The distinct thunderclap” of nutmeg. It “transmits elemental messages to the brain: You’re happy. You’re safe.” 3200 Rockbridge St., (804) 658-9868
Chez Ma Tante Brooklyn
“It is hard to say what kind of food Chez Ma Tante serves, apart from the consistently good kind,” said Pete Wells in The New York Times. Chef Aidan O’Neal, who arrived in New York City by way of Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon, borrowed the name of his spare Greenpoint retreat from a Montreal hot dog joint, and all his cooking shows “a healthy disregard for refinement.” At brunch, the kitchen serves delicious pancakes that “look and taste as if they were made in the woods,” as well as kedgeree, a British-inspired mosh of rice, flaked cod, and hard-cooked egg under a crunchy celery salad. At night, you might start by spreading a chicken-liver pâté on toasted country bread and move on to salad and thick grilled pork steak rubbed with mustard and maple syrup. The pork will arrive slathered with a parsley salsa verde and wading in stewed Puy lentils. As with every other dish here, “the look may say it was thrown together, but the full, lasting flavors tell you it wasn’t.” 90 Calyer St., (718) 389-3606
Theodore Rex Houston
Though Justin Yu isn’t aiming for the stars anymore, the Southwest’s 2016 James Beard Award winner “still pushes the envelope on flavor, texture, and technique,” said Alison Cook in the Houston Chronicle. Having shuttered Oxheart to escape the pressures of forever delivering theatrical tasting menus, Yu has converted the same space into a more casual operation where his artistry tends to sneak up on you. Consider his tomato toast—a simple but addictive opener whose secret is that it requires cooking 75 pounds of tomatoes down to 5 pounds of tomato fondant. The menu bounces from a “downright cosmic” bowl of Carolina rice with butter beans to a lively hot-cold marriage of Rio Red grapefruit and blanched snap pea pods. A few duds have shown up on Theodore Rex’s brief menu, but Yu has shed or upgraded them promptly. I’d return regularly just for the Italian bread dumplings served in a whey sauce (“sounds awful, tastes great”) with braised greens, white beans, and crumbled cheese. “With a glass of white Lambrusco, this is my idea of heaven.” 1302 Nance St., (832) 830-8592