Critics’ choice: Three emerging culinary stars

Betony in New York City; Din Din in Portland; Gunshow in Atlanta

Betony New York City

Bryce Shuman is the kind of culinary wizard who prefers not to let his labor show, said Pete Wells in The New York Times. Invariably, his food “has been fussed over, but it isn’t fussy.” But order a roast chicken at his 5-month-old Midtown restaurant and you can imagine chefs everywhere soon imitating the North Carolina native. Served in a pool of jus alongside Hakurei turnips and chanterelles, the golden-skinned bird is unforgettable for the clarity of its flavors. Quite obviously, Shuman is a chef who “obsesses over a dozen details of the kind that don’t show up in a photograph.” His seared foie gras with a center of smoked pork hocks won’t win any beauty contests either, but it’s “the most soulful foie gras I’ve ever tasted.” His “impossibly tender” lobster arrives bathed in a dill sauce so pungently fresh “that the scent of the herb fills your lungs.” Betony’s odd space can feel “seriously out of joint” with the elegance of the food, but once Shu-man gets the crowd he deserves, no one will notice. 41 W. 57th St., (212) 465-2400

Din Din Portland, Ore.

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“If Julia Child had joined the riot grrrl movement,” America’s food revolution might have looked a lot like Din Din, said Karen Brooks in Portland Monthly. The brainchild of 32-year-old Francophile Courtney Sproule, this hall of ever-changing culinary wonders makes every meal feel like one of the elaborate pop-up parties that previously earned Sproule a local cult following. Sproule’s supper club no longer moves from rooftops to basements, but “menu themes change monthly, and so does the space”—and not just the videos being projected on the walls. As plaid-shirted cooks assemble Sproule’s compositions in an open kitchen, Sproule directs the action “in her signature garb”—a vintage cocktail dress and oversize earrings. But Sproule is no dilettante. She studied under Portland’s French food guru, Robert Reynolds, and she’s “serious about cooking the classics.” A recent prix fixe dinner “moved from speck-wrapped apricots riding oven-fresh crackers” to an otherworldly lamb tartare. 920 NE Glisan St., (971) 544-1350

Gunshow Atlanta

Some chefs were born to buck the system, said Bill Addison in Atlanta magazine. Take 2009 Top Chef finalist Kevin Gillespie. Never completely comfortable with the fine-dining format at Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill—even after he and two partners bought it—the bearded 30-year-old has struck out on his own with “one of the most promising, perplexing, interactive, and utterly ballsy restaurants Atlanta has ever seen.” Given the name, you expect a brash celebration of good ol’ boy culture. Instead, Gunshow is “astonishingly spare,” with a big red sign hanging behind the floor-to-ceiling windows and diners hunkered over communal tables. Gillespie and two other chefs each prepare dishes, then rush about the floor with carts to sell them dim-sum style. Gillespie is the team’s meat expert, dishing out smoked duck legs or pork-skin risotto that tastes like “the distilled essence of North Carolina barbecue.” Any dish the chefs tire of gets 86’d. Which is fine, provided Gillespie never grows bored with his grandmother’s warm, custardy banana pudding. 924 Garrett St., (404) 380-1886

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