With the proliferation of celebrity chefs and colossally hyped restaurants, modern diners have a lot on their plates. Here, we talk to a top toque on the verge of second-chance stardom, learn what Parisians like to have for dessert, and generally find out what's on the menu in 2013.
These days, speakeasies have Yelp reviews and tasting menus have earned the status of restaurant cliché. But combine the two, and you get ultra-exclusive tasting rooms catering to those in the know. Hidden inside the sprawling restaurant Jaleo in Vegas’ Cosmopolitan Hotel, é by José Andrés treats eight diners, twice a night, to a bacchanalia of avant-garde Spanish cuisine featuring such delicacies as caramelized pork rinds, gelatinous cod cheek bocadillo and truffle-shrined Ibérico pork.
In Brooklyn, the 12-seater Blanca, behind Roberta’s pizzeria, showcases 28 small courses: foie gras–topped pici pasta, say, or fatty sashimi or wagyu beef in bittersweet kohlrabi broth. In both cases, you won’t need a special knock to get in, but you may need a special friend in the reservations department.
The likes of foie gel and caviar foam are back, and the proof is the brand-new New York eatery Alder, where mad-scientist-chef Wylie Dufresne (of wd-50 fame) applies his experimental formula to the gastropub. At the 56-seat eatery, the clam chowder comes with crackers made from actual oysters, and wine-infused cheddar arrives on a stone slate like a daub of violet paint. The trend is showing up from coast to coast: In Seattle, for example, a spot called Spur adds molecular impulses to Northwest outdoorsiness. One dish combines tagliatelle and a slow-cooked duck egg with melted goat cheese enveloped in an alginate skin and Parmesan foam—all served in an intimate pub where everybody just might know your name.
The thrill of dining in a stranger’s living room is so last decade, and every respectable city seems to have at least one parking lot that becomes a farmers’ market on weekends. But integrate the two—as Sauce and Bread Kitchen, a Chicago eatery opened in March, has done—and something decidedly less tired emerges. Farmers’ market vendors Anne Kostroski, a baker, and Mike Bancroft, who made sauces in the back of a friend’s bar, joined forces to create a once-a-month supper club called Stew to showcase their individual skill sets. With Sauce and Bread Kitchen, they’ve added a brick-and-mortar establishment where you can buy rhubarb-ricotta “Pop-Tarts” and barrel-aged hot sauce anytime, or try your luck at getting a spot at the monthly dinner.