I have long admired the talents of Gabriel Kreuther, the opening chef at The Modern, Danny Meyer's restaurant in New York's Museum of Modern Art. Kreuther departed a couple of years ago with plans to open a restaurant of his own. In 2015, he reappeared on West 42nd Street, across from Bryant Park, in his new place — Gabriel Kreuther. What a pleasure to enter a new restaurant and not be assaulted by a deafening roar of blasting music and the voices of diners amplified by unrelentingly hard surfaces. Instead, we found sanctuary in an elegant, high-ceilinged spot with wood accents, subdued colors and a professional staff. Kreuther has lost nothing in his move. Highlights on the menu include a starter of nori-flavored pasta with Pacific red crab, a purée of smoked parsnip and dulse seaweed, and a main of spice-rubbed Mangalica pork (an old Hungarian breed enjoying new vogue) with roasted fennel and pear. The inviting front bar area serves food rooted in Kreuther's native Alsace. A most welcome, sophisticated addition to the New York dining scene.
When this intimate, elegant restaurant opened in September on a quiet Parisian side street near the Elysée Palace, 45-year-old chef Jean-François Piège finally became his own master. The gastronomic results are superb. Piège trained with Alain Ducasse before he was tapped to become chef of Les Ambassadeurs at the Hôtel de Crillon, where he won two Michelin stars. He then went on to create Restaurant Jean-François Piège on the Left Bank with a business partner (he won two stars there as well). Now he’s completely on his own, and his new home-base restaurant showcases his ideas about what a French haute-cuisine meal should be for the 21st century, to wit, a friendlier and more accessibly priced experience of lighter, healthier, contemporary French cooking. The menu evolves but runs to dishes like langoustines wrapped in crispy, nearly transparent buckwheat crêpes and served with a sauce made from their own shells; lobster cooked in fig leaves and served with pickled blackberries; and veal sweetbreads roasted on a bed of walnut shells.
Now with two Michelin stars, this BYOB restaurant on Chicago’s North Side started “underground” in chef Jake Bickelhaupt’s apartment. It still feels like a dinner party, with Bickelhaupt’s wife acting as hostess and master of ceremonies. Tickets purchased through the website include the tasting menu, tax and tip, as well as seats at either a 10-person communal table or a counter facing the open kitchen (our preference). Almost all 13 courses on the menu dazzled. A wildly creative dish of asparagus gelato, salt-cured tuna, sea buckthorn cream, wood sorrel and apricot kernels created fireworks of flavor, as did courses such as triple-seared Miyazaki wagyu beef with baby bok choy, pickled plums and rich crumbs of dehydrated beef marrow. This restaurant is well worth the taxi ride. Reserve far in advance.
Located in the tiny commune of San Marzano Oliveto, 20 minutes south of Asti in the rolling countryside of the Langhe, this superb old-fashioned country inn is a simple place with terra-cotta tile floors and wood-beamed ceilings. Due to its unassuming appearance, plus its rustic style of hospitality, the quality of the outstanding cooking here comes as even more of a surprise. That said, the expensive cars with license plates from all over Europe in the parking lot may have tipped you off to the fact that this place is a cult address that attracts returning regulars from all over the world and which requires reservations several weeks in advance. Start off with the carne cruda di vitello battuta, a Tuscan version of steak tartare made with veal, or maybe the delicious flan with cardoons, a thistle-like vegetable, served with melted cheese. Next, everyone has the raviolini del plin al burro e salvia, tiny homemade meat-stuffed ravioli garnished with melted butter and fresh sage. The best main courses include roast veal or pork braised in Barbera wine, and if you can manage a dessert, the panna cotta is excellent. The wine list is the size of a phone directory, and it includes a remarkable assortment of French wines as well as a spectacular array of Barbarescos, Barolos and Barbera d’Astis.
Chevalier — named in tribute to a longtime creative director of Baccarat, Georges Chevalier — features the cooking of Michelin-starred chef Shea Gallante. With soaring ceilings, tables set with crisp white linens and Baccarat crystal, soft lighting and great floral sprays, it embodied all that I hope for in a sophisticated restaurant — including noise levels that made quiet conversation easy, a rarity these days. Dishes that made our meal one of the best we’ve had in a long time included a starter of three plump, cooked-to-tender sea scallops served with a pungent shallot compote, morels and a silken velouté; and an irresistible beef entrecôte, in a rich Bordelaise sauce with side of spinach gratin.