In a protein-centric dining world, chef John Fraser offers a refreshing celebration of vegetables at Award of Excellence–winning restaurants Dovetail and Narcissa, as well as Nix, in New York City.
A veteran of fine-dining kitchens, Fraser is taking a more relaxed approach with Narcbar. The 60-seat East Village venue is located in the Standard Hotel, which also houses Narcissa, the inspiration for the new bar’s name.
Wine director Ashley Santoro oversees the Standard East Village’s wine programs, including Narcissa’s. She says Narcbar will continue promoting the hotel’s goal of supporting smaller producers.
«We love to highlight [producers] that we admire,» Santoro told Wine Spectator in an email. «At Narcbar, we selected wines within that framework but with an additional focus on accessibility for all wine drinkers both in style and in price point.»
The concise wine list has a European focus, with wines from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as California and New York. All selections are offered by the glass and by the bottle, except the canned and on-tap wines that Santoro says fit Narcbar’s «easygoing atmosphere.» The two on-tap selections will change seasonally, beginning with the Artomana Txakolina 2016 from Spain and a pour from California’s Yes Way Rosé 2016.
The menu gives classic bar food a modern upgrade. «Narcbar was an exciting prospect since it provides me with a space to play with a more casual approach to dining—something that I felt would be a valuable addition to the neighborhood,» Fraser says. «These days, it’s just as important for a bar to have great food as it is for a restaurant to have a great bar.»
Narcbar serves «bites» like a green pea tostada and a shawarma bone marrow. «Bigger bites» include a steak tartare topped with crunchy potato, sour cream and horseradish, and a rice bowl with raw tuna, shallots and soy sauce. The bar’s signature item, the khachapuri, cracks an egg into a cheesy, bubbling-hot boat of baked Georgian flatbread.—J.H.
Nobu, one of the biggest names in upscale chains, has opened a location in Palo Alto’s Epiphany Hotel. This is the 13th Nobu outpost in the U.S., and 37th worldwide, which includes Best of Award of Excellence winner Nobu Hong Kong, whose 535-selection wine list has strengths in Burgundy, Bordeaux and California.
In a press release, chef Nobu Matsuhisa said he decided to open a Bay Area Nobu because customers had been requesting it for years. «When this space became available, we were really excited because it was very intimate,» he wrote in the release. The restaurant offers the sleek atmosphere and high-end Japanese dishes guests have come to expect from the chef’s chain.
General manager Ross Boykin and corporate beverage director Marcus Voglrieder put together the wine list. «We decided on a well-structured representation of Old and New World wine, but also one that showcases the well-known wines that are local to the Palo Alto area,» Voglrieder told Wine Spectator in an email.
The California-heavy wine list has standouts such as the Kenzo Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley Asatsuyu 2016 ($195) and Matsuhisa’s favorite Champagne, Salon Blanc de Blancs ($880 for the 2004). Value picks include a Tenet Syrah Columbia Valley The Pundit 2014 ($65).—J.H.
From the team behind Restaurant Award winners Boka, GT Fish & Oyster and Swift & Sons comes the Kennison, a new project on the ground floor of the Hotel Lincoln in Chicago. Boka Restaurant Group partnered with restaurateurs Ryan See and Dan Warren to gut the space of Perennial Virant—the group’s restaurant that closed in 2016—and open a more relaxed, family-friendly dining experience.
Boka wine director Ryan Musser was brought in to create the wine list at the Kennison, which prioritizes organic and biodynamic wines. «The overarching philosophy when curating the list was to support wineries that have a story to tell, whether the winemaker is a newcomer trying to make their mark, or it’s a family-run operation that has spanned centuries,» Musser told Wine Spectator in an email. «The Kennison is aiming to be an approachable neighborhood restaurant that caters to not only guests of the hotel, but also families that live around the corner. The wine list is designed to complement that goal.»
With 80 selections, and 24 offered by the glass, the list represents a wide range of regions, including bottlings from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the U.S. and New Zealand. Rotating craft cocktails and a local beer list round out the beverage program, which is overseen by beverage director Brian Daigle.
Executive chef Bill Walker, formerly of vegetarian restaurant Green Zebra in Chicago, serves local ingredient–driven dishes like a veggie «pastrami on rye,» made with carrots, beets, horseradish, caraway and sauerkraut. There’s no shortage of meat, though; the menu offers a traditional cheeseburger, a filet mignon, and gnocchi with rabbit, ricotta, rhubarb and lavender honey. At the raw bar, a «rawtender» serves tuna tartare, a rotating crudo selection and oysters topped with a Champagne mignonette.—L.W.
Award of Excellence winner Keystone Ranch Restaurant, in the namesake resort in Keystone, Colo., recently welcomed Vincent D’Amato as its new executive chef. He was formerly the owner and executive chef of Uptown Scratch Kitchen in Saint Augustine, Fla.
With D’Amato helming the kitchen, the restaurant transitioned from its previous tasting-menu concept to an upscale steak house and bistro with an à la carte menu.
«The goal for me coming out here was to bring a slightly different touch to the mountains,» D’Amato told Wine Spectator. «For many years, Keystone Ranch was a seven-course type restaurant, so last year, they switched over to a steak-house concept using Black Angus, Wagyu, Kobe, and so on. With my past, I felt like it was the perfect fit to be able to come in and really take that concept that they were trying to do and finalize it, perfect it.»
D’Amato has launched a new summer menu, offering dishes such as bison tartare, lobster ceviche crudo, seared foie gras with a rhubarb puree and candied apples, and a stuffed quail with fennel sausage, sweet pea Arborio rice and aged-Port jus. General manager Cindy Burkart and assistant manager Scott Smith run the 275-selection wine program, which focuses on California and France, with bottlings like Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2014 ($92) and Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley 2013 ($80).—V.S.
Topolobampo in Chicago, owned by restaurateur couple Rick and Deann Bayless, has converted to tasting menu–only service during dinner. The renowned modern Mexican restaurant has an Award of Excellence–winning wine list of 250 selections, with strengths in California, Mexico and France.
Three tasting menus are now available. Guests can choose from the seasonal or classic five-course tastings for $90, which can be supplemented with a $70 wine pairing. The new seven-course «Oaxaca» tasting ($120) debuted last week. The wine pairing for the new menu goes for $100 and features pairing such as rabbit with a Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc Napa Valley 2013 and elk with a La Poderina Brunello di Montalcino 2011.—J.H.