Culinary couple Bryant (a Food & Wine Best New Chef) and Kim Ng, along with their besties and prolific L.A. restaurateurs Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb, have created an Asian-meets-French menu in a big, airy space in Santa Monica’s historic Telephone Building. The beautiful new 5,000-square-foot restaurant combines the atmosphere and offerings of a traditional brasserie (house-cured charcuterie platters—albeit with Sichuan Lamb Ham and Singaporean Candied Pork, steak frites and handcrafted beers) with the “vibrant, fresh flavors and soulful, ancestral cuisine of Southeast Asia,” according to the owners. A chilled seafood bar and a wood grill turn out items such as Vietnamese “sunbathing” prawns marinated in garlic, chiles, and Vietnamese hot sauce and a grilled spicy lamb breast made with sichuan peppercorns, cumin and served with a sambal. Other menu items include grilled steak frites served with peppercorn sauce and shallot butter; and Kaya toast, a Singaporean specialty prepared with coconut jam and butter and served with a slow-cooked egg.
Opened: July, 2015
After the success of his Brazilian churrascaria-inspired Atlanta restaurant, Gunshow, Kevin Gillespie returns to his rural roots with Revival. Despite a list of fancy titles and accolades (Top Chef semifinalist, James Beard Best Chef: South, Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chef), the Southern Sunday dinners Gillespie grew up on are closest to his heart. He’s brought along Gunshow’s executive chef Andreas Müller for the “refined rural” concept, but Müller won’t exactly be slinging hash. Offerings include grass-fed beef and pork meatloaf wrapped in bacon; country-fried Kobe beef round steak with skillet pan gravy; spiced Mississippi catfish in low country tomato gravy; and, if Gillespie’s rep is to be believed, possibly the best fried chicken you’ll ever taste (sorry, Grandma).
Opened: June, 2015
Top Chef Nina Compton’s first restaurant, Compère Lapin was one of New Orleans’ most anticipated openings of the year, and its debut last month didn’t disappoint. Compton starts with ingredients from the Gulf region to create robust meals that merge the flavors of her Caribbean roots and her love for French and Italian cooking (such as the curried goat and sweet plantain gnocchi). Lots of dishes bear heat but are tempered with bright tropical fruits such as the hot fire chicken with pickled mango. Mixologist Ricky Gomez, formerly of NOLA cocktail spot Cure, calls on Compton’s St. Lucian background for libations such as the C.L. Pimm’s Cup, a twist on a New Orleans classic featuring Pimm’s #1, lemon and watermelon. The comfortable space is more neighborhood bistro than hotel restaurant and a rustic sketch above the bar portrays the restaurant’s inspiration himself, Compère Lapin, a mischievous and playful rabbit from Compton’s favorite Caribbean childhood folk tales.
Opened: July, 2015
“Nostalgic” and “continental” aptly describe the Riggsby, a new restaurant from James Beard winner Michael Schlow, (of Tico, also in DC). Schlow says the cocktail parties of his parents’ generation inspired his “menu of throwback favorites updated for a modern palate.” The space, inspired by supper clubs and whimsical midcentury American restaurants, features a chevron walnut floor, a zinc bar top, oak panels, and brass and gold-toned light fixtures amid glossy plum and emerald green jewel tones. Schlow tapped Philippe Reininger as executive chef, and the duo came up with dishes such as oysters with spicy cucumber mignonette; smoked trout with beets and horseradish; seared scallops with mushrooms, peas and onions; as well as more modern entrees like this hamachi crudo with cherries and jalapeno. There’s a menu of retro bar snacks (like house-made potato chips and onion dip) to go along with the midcentury classic cocktail menu (Harvey Wallbangers and Old Fashioneds). “I want our guests to feel like they’ve just walked into a really great cocktail party.” Sounds swell to us.
Opened: May, 2015
Don’t hate on the big fat noodle-slurping cartoon pig splayed on the walls at Futo Buta. We, too, might forget our manners the next time we hit up Charlotte’s South End, where chef-restaurateur Michael Shortino wows with house-made ramen, steamed buns, gyoza and an impressive selection of sakes. The ramen at Futo Buta (which loosely translates to—you guessed it—“fat pig”) is made with organic North Carolina hard red wheat and used in dishes like pork belly ramen, where Shortino substitutes the traditional chashu cooking method for pecan smoking, like many a fine southern cook. The deconstructed fire and ice ramen features a hot smoked salmon coated with fresh mint and Korean chili. This being the Carolinas, Shortino offers up a fried chicken dish, tori karaage, which he plates with chili mayo and fresh mint. North Carolina oak decks the walls of the modern, 40-seat dining room, which opens up to another 40 seats on a patio featuring views of the city’s skyline.
Opened: June, 2015
Michael Chernow, one of the minds behind NYC’s cult hit-turned-hugely-popular The Meatball Shop, is hoping to duplicate that success with Seamore's, a cute seaside shack smack dab in the middle of Nolita. Seasonal and accessible are the buzzwords for chef Gregg Drusinsky’s casual menu, which centers heavily on under-utilized, local species including monkfish, porgy and flounder. Menu items include a crispy fish taco with cabbage, guacamole, and chipotle mayo; and sandwiches like the Oh-Boy with crispy skate, romaine, pickled peppers and a “special sauce.” Diners can also pick a daily catch, which Drusinsky sears and serves up with the guest’s choice of sauces like salsa verde, red curry, harissa cashew or miso brown butter. Cocktails inspired by the coast include the Shore Thing: vodka, muddled nectarines, sage, lime and yellow Chartreuse.
Walnut Creek, CA
Opened: June, 2015
Chef Carlos Altamirano, (Mochica and Piqueos, San Francisco and the super-popular Bay Area Sanguchon food trucks; also a two-time Michelin Star winner for La Costanera), has opened the doors to Parada, where the focus is contemporary Peruvian comfort foods. The casual and inviting restaurant and rotisseria was inspired by the vibrant flavors of the parada (traditional outdoor produce markets of Lima) and serves up items like fresh fish ceviches, anticuchos (grilled beef heart served on skewers, a popular Peruvian street food) small plates like bolitas de yucca, (fried yucca balls stuffed with chorizo & raisins) and entrees such as pollo a la brasa, traditional Peruvian rotisserie chicken. Central to Peruvian cooking and Parada’s menu are Altamirano’s own rotoco peppers grown on his single-acre Alta Farm in nearby Half Moon Bay. The restaurant’s interior features a homey mix of wood and industrial metals and pops of turquoise. A dramatic and colorful mural by a local artist serves as a focal point.
Opened: June, 2015
After universal praise for her work at DC’s Alba Osteria, Amy Brandwein strikes out on her own with Centrolina, a 4,000-square-foot market and seasonal Italian osteria. The term “osteria” refers to simple Italian cooking, but Brandwein’s rotating menu of 15 dishes sounds downright dazzling with antipasti such as burrata (a soft cheese made from mozzarella and cream) with market vegetables agrodolce (sweet and sour). Pastas on the menu include pappardelle lamb ragu and chiancarelle with turnip greens and tuna. An open kitchen shows off a wood-burning oven where Brandwein fires up young chicken with crostini and pan drippings, and roasted bone marrow that’s served alongside tuna and snap peas. The adjoining Mercato sells local, seasonal meats, produce and seafood and a coffee counter that doubles as an evening as a cocktail bar.