The Finest Dining Across America

The Modern Luxury Editors | July 6, 2017 | Feature Features National

Sample what's trending in fine dining from culinary masters in top-rated gastronomic destinations—from the East Coast to the West Coast, and everywhere in between.

A sampling of In Situ dishes, including Apocalypse Burger from chef Anthony Myint and octopus and coral from Virgilio Martínez

[ San Francisco ]

In Situ
As the three-Michelin-starred chef behind Benu, Corey Lee is someone others in the industry want to emulate. But with In Situ—a restaurant on the ground floor of the recently reborn San Francisco Museum of Modern Art—Lee has turned it into a first-of-its-kind concept devoted exclusively to recreating dishes from culinary innovators near and far. The result, overseen by executive chef Brandon Rodgers, is a global exhibition of faithful reproductions ranging from a copy of the spicy pork-sausage-and-rice-cake combo served by David Chang at New York’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar to the Forest, a whimsical diorama first dreamed up by Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur in France. (This walk in the woods features sunchoke peel as a stand-in for dried leaves; quinoa risotto plays the “forest” floor.) Cooking this eclectic risks becoming disjointed, but at In Situ, almost everything on the menu is linked thematically by the fact that it tastes very good. INSIDER’S TIP The restaurant's front lounge section has a separate menu of drinks and savory snacks. 151 Third St., 415.941.6050

Cherry-smoked oyster with red shiso foam and roe from Kōbō

[ Chevy Chase, MD.]

A Japanese omakase experience has many delights, and most involve a culinary sleight of hand. At this new restaurant, which is located within sister restaurant Sushiko, the magical turns are committed by the Tjan brothers, Piter and Handry, who treat up to eight guests to a show. The stage is an enormous two-tone wooden counter slicing across the expanse of Sushiko. Lucky patrons have an unfettered view of the action as the Tjans prepare a 12-course vegan kappo adventure or a 15-course omnivorous version. For anyone worried about the limitations of a vegan menu, those thoughts are quickly dashed with the first course: a glass cloche covering a microplot of baby turnips sprouting from a bed of whipped-black edamame. The nonvegan creations include grilled wagyu beef with California sea urchin, black winter truffle and wasabi leaf. There isn’t a swing and a miss the entire evening, making this brilliant team even more legendary. INSIDER’S TIP Don’t forget to ask for a swag bag, brimming with items like balsamic ganache-packed dark chocolates and a bottle of yuzu vinaigrette. 5455 Wisconsin Ave., 301.961.164

Photo by Greg Powers

Among Staplehouse's rotating menu is duck prepared with seasonal accompaniments.

[ Atlanta ]

When Jen Hidinger lost her husband, Ryan Hidinger, in 2012 to gallbladder cancer, they were in the middle of opening their dream restaurant. The tragic loss kick-started a movement in Atlanta’s restaurant community that resulted in The Giving Kitchen, a nonprofit to help industry workers facing emergencies and hardships. Staplehouse, helmed by Jen; her late husband’s sister, Kara Hidinger; and Kara’s husband, executive chef Ryan Smith, is the organization’s for-profit subsidiary. It’s still the hardest reservation in town to score and the most representative of the phenomenal efforts Atlanta chefs and restaurateurs are putting forward to make the city shine on the culinary stage. A recent lunch outing included a finely finessed chicken liver tart with turmeric-pickled green strawberries and corn nuts. The superiority and artfulness of the food takes a while to process, let alone the philanthropic impact Staplehouse is making on the city and the industry. INSIDER’S TIP Go right at noon on Sunday when it opens; it’s your best chance to snag a seat at the walk-in bar, where the chairs have The Giving Kitchen patrons’ names emblazoned on the back. 541 Edgewood Ave. SE, 404.524.5005

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Chef John Shields puts the finishing touches on a squab dish at Smyth.

[ Chicago ]

It takes guts to end an elaborate eight-course meal with a bowl of vegetable pâte de fruits. But Smyth, a tasting-menu-only restaurant, isn’t afraid to nudge diners out of their comfort zones. The masterminds of this West Loop spot are husband-and-wife chefs John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, who, between them, have some 30 years of culinary experience, including at Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s. It was at the latter that the pair—he as sous-chef, she as head pastry chef—first met. At Smyth, the couple’s point of view permeates the restaurant, which includes plenty of chic midcentury-modern furniture. But as pretty as the room is, your attention will quickly turn to the open kitchen and the stunning food coming out of it, which might include Dungeness crab and foie gras with a Japanese-style custard and a savory brioche doughnut. The restaurant is superseasonal, and having a local farm growing a variety of produce exclusively for them makes that easier—and more delicious. INSIDER’S TIP Downstairs is The Loyalist, a casual lounge with one of the city’s best burgers. 177 N. Ada St., 773.913.3773

Photo by Anthony Tahlier

Mirador's chic art-filled lounge

Cod cake with fried-egg aioli

[ Dallas ]

Helmed by The Joule’s executive chef, Junior Borges, this jewel box of a restaurant, which sits on the fourth floor of luxury emporium Forty Five Ten in downtown Dallas, was the year’s most anticipated opening. Floor-to-ceiling windows wrapped by outdoor-terrace seating yield gorgeous southern views of the city. Open for both lunch and dinner, Mirador's menus are a reflection of the sophisticated surroundings. For dinner, start with the whipped-ricotta grilled sourdough toast topped with grilled grapes and pears, olives and toasted pistachios, specked with kale flakes. The grilled lobster has also reached cult status and comes served on a split shell, meat removed and combined with buttery roe. For a modern twist on a traditional Texas favorite, the pork belly with sea beans and smoked char roe will make you rethink the classic. INSIDER’S TIP Coveting Mirador’s tabletop items? Everything from the Georg Jensen china and La Fornasotta Murano glasses to the Christofle flatware is available for purchase in Forty Five Ten’s home department one floor below. 1608 Elm St., 214.945.8200

Photos by Jill Broussard

The main dining room of Momofuku Las Vegas includes a graffiti-esque installation from artist David Choe.

[ Las Vegas ]

Momofuku Las Vegas
David Chang’s original Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City has now become a veritable kingdom of restaurants, from Sydney to Toronto to Washington, D.C. But the chef met with some controversy in Las Vegas when, in 2015, he wrote an opinion piece in GQ that steered diners away from “Michelin-grade gastrodomes” and toward the city’s normcore, middle-of-the-road dining—a category, in a backhanded swoop, in which he said Vegas excels. Imagine the scrutiny when he opened Momofuku Las Vegas, whose dinner menu includes such non-norm items as a $115 Australian wagyu rib-eye. In fact, Chang aspires to the best qualities of normcore. Many dishes draw on favorite flavors from his other restaurants, but his ramen—pork belly and shoulder with a slow-poached egg—is Vegas-specific. His first restaurant in the Western U.S. leads diners from a series of neon signs to a massive, industrial dining room overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. INSIDER’S TIP You’ll only find the Vegas-exclusive chili-glazed fried chicken sandwich topped with cucumbers on a potato roll on the new late-night menu at Peach Bar. 3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702.698.2663

Photo by Gabriele Stabile

Raw scallop with melon and buttermilk, one of the many intriguing dishes from Bastion's always-evolving seasonal menu

[ Nashville, Tenn. ]

Located behind a rolling metal door inside a neighborhood watering hole, this laid-back 24-seat restaurant breaks down the barrier between diner and chef one delicious plate after another. Chef Josh Habiger—famous for making The Catbird Seat one of the city’s hottest restaurants—and his small team can be seen in the open kitchen creating dishes that combine familiar flavors with cool culinary techniques for the always-changing a la carte offerings, as well as the five-course menu. Have questions regarding, say, the lamb tartare wrapped in hibiscus leaf; the short rib topped with peanuts and paired with sweet potato dusted with dehydrated green onion; or the sunchoke ice cream with foie gras caramel? Since the chefs also double as servers, you won’t have to go far to find the answers. INSIDER’S TIP Parties of four to six with reservations have the advantage of preordering the Feast, a large-format dinner party of sorts. 434 Houston St., 615.490.8434

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Prawn and chive dumplings, one of Yauatcha's dim sum items

[ Houston ]

After a much-anticipated wait, stunning Chinese dim sum teahouse Yauatcha (pronounced “yow-atcha”) bowed in the Galleria. This makes Houston one of the first U.S. stops for Michelin-starred, London-based restaurant collective Hakkasan Group's Yauatcha. The modern, open dining room, punctuated with moss-green banquets and booths, offers a theatrical view of the kitchen and the bamboo steamer-lined dim sum operation, while beautiful macarons and pastries are on display at the entrance. Delicate steamed shu mai (the signature Phoenix tail shrimp is a must) and other pan-seared dumplings headline the large menu, which also features crispy duck rolls, venison puffs and sesame prawn toast. Mains range from jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs to black-truffle duck. Big spenders might enjoy Peking duck with Tsar Nicoulai Reserve caviar paired with Champagne, while those with a sweet tooth will swoon over the uberartistic desserts, like the Raspberry Delice, a delicate chocolate raspberry cake with a lychee panna cotta center. INSIDER’S TIP A seat at the counter gives the best view of the kitchen, where chefs hustle and bustle, plating dumplings in signature bamboo baskets. 5045 Westheimer Road, 713.357.7588

Photo Courtesy of Yauatcha

Le Coucou's light-filled dining room

[ New York ]

Le Coucou
As the winner of two recent James Beard awards (for best new restaurant and a first for outstanding restaurateur, awarded to Stephen Starr), New York is clearly cuckoo for Le Coucou. Diners nestle into the cozy Roman and Williams interiors—think plush velvet banquettes, ornate chandeliers and drippy romantic candles everywhere—where they tuck into chef Daniel Rose’s comforting French fare. The food is rich with Old World charm, featuring throwback Gallic dishes like veal tongue, sweetbreads and quenelle de brochet (a frothy puree of fish). INSIDER’S TIP Ask for table 55, the best spot in the house, where you have a front-row seat to the fully open kitchen. 138 Layfayette St., 212.271.4252

Rabbit terrine with toast points

Rabbit terrine photo by Daesha DevÓn Harris; Interior photo by Ditte Isager

La Petite Maison's grilled lamb cutlets with smoked aubergine

[ Miami ]

La Petite Maison
As the story goes, restaurateur Arjun Waney was so smitten with the original outpost of La Petite Maison in Nice, France, that he negotiated the world rights to bring it to other cities right there on the spot. That savvy move has yielded many happy returns at LPM locations in London; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and, now, Miami. The charm here begins from the get-go, thanks to the decor, which is marked by dozens of eclectic yet carefully chosen paintings. Chef and co-owner Raphael Duntoye heads up the kitchen with a menu of niçoise fare that takes many of its cues from sunny regions of the Mediterranean. Among the representative appetizers are pissaladière, a caramelized onion tart with pungent olives and anchovies; and escargots as tender as a love song. For heartier appetites, the turbot with lemons, artichokes, tomatoes, white wine and olive oil wins our vote. INSIDER’S TIP The whole-roasted heritage chicken stuffed with foie gras, which (keep in mind) takes 50 minutes to prepare, is a menu-must for those looking to indulge. 1300 Brickell Bay Drive, 305.403.9133

Photo by Michael Pisarri

Uni risotto, with hijiki seaweed, sea urchin, truffle vin and a poached egg

[ Huntington Beach, Calif. ]

When the sun dips behind the water in Huntington Beach, there’s a perfect place to take in the shimmering blue-gold hues as the day fades into night—and it bears the name of the colors that surround it. Bluegold is the stellar new restaurant from acclaimed chef Tin Vuong and partner Jed Sanford. It’s got a hip, hot vibe—and, of course, an ocean view to die for. Oysters and sea urchin, Indian-spiced pork short ribs and pork cheek sugo are all on the docket. The latter is piggy perfection, complete with handmade noodles and wilted greens for a complex flavor explosion. And a bevy of wagyu beef selections delivers true steak supremacy. INSIDER’S TIP Behind an unmarked door in a corner next to the wine cellar, the curious will find the chef’s clandestine LSXO, an offshoot of his Little Sister in Los Angeles—but created specifically for Orange County. There are only 28 seats and a home-style Vietnamese menu deeply rooted in Vuong’s culinary-focused childhood. 21016 Pacific Coast Highway, 714.374.0038

Bluegold photo by Robert Benson

Chef Kevin Binkley in front of his eponymous, award-winning restaurant

[ Phoenix ]

Kevin Binkley likens the experience at his restaurant to a dinner party in his own home. And when a locally revered, James Beard Award-nominated culinary artiste invites you to dinner, you oblige. An evening here is four hours long and about 20 courses wide. The dishes—which are perfectly petite to create a burst of flavor in a single bite—rotate weekly according to chef’s whims and the fresh, gorgeous ingredients of the moment. Dishes might include escargot fritters with herbed butter; black truffle corn dogs; or black pepper-cherry yogurt with olives, pistachios, pickled green strawberries and rhubarb. The evening begins on the patio with welcome cocktails, followed by “snacks” in the bar and dinner at tables facing the kitchen. Guests can join Binkley as he cooks or watch from afar. And as is commensurate with dinner at an old friend’s house, there is no bill at the end. Guests pay in advance, so they can close out the evening in giddy, rotund satisfaction. INSIDER’S TIP Upgrade to the chef’s personal wine pairings for $190 per person (he’s a fan of Burgundies). A5 wagyu and caviar are also available upon request, for an extra charge. 2320 E. Osborn Road, 602.388.4874

Photo by David Zickl

Seaworthy's Tuscan lettuces with braised butternut squash, goat cheese and walnut dressing

[ New Orleans ]

Housed in a historic multilevel cottage, this charming restaurant, a partnership between Ace Hotel and the trio behind New York’s award-winning Grand Banks, takes its name very seriously. First, there are the sustainably harvested oysters, a rotating selection of bivalves from the Gulf, East and West coasts, which are displayed from hanging wire baskets and resting on beds of ice. (Head downstairs to the marble-topped oyster bar if a side of friendly banter accompanying your shuckers sounds good.) Fish follows a similar environmentally friendly vibe with lesser-known varieties often on offer—if chef Daniel Causgrove’s butter-poached black drum in a red chili-spiced sauce is available, get it. And if you’re craving caviar, Seaworthy is happy to oblige with a variety available, including Siberian sturgeon from Athens, Ga., a perfect partner for the housemade cornbread blini. Landlubbers aren’t left high and dry either and can snag a terrific fontal cheese-topped burger. INSIDER’S TIP Order a Sazerac and you’ll get an extra sidecar of Kubler Verte Suisse absinthe. 630 Carondelet St., 504.930.3071

Photo by Atelier Ace

Green curry crab fried rice with burdock root, egg and sesame from UNI

[ Boston ]

There is sushi, then there's chef Tony Messina’s mad-cool sushi. Ask actor Matt Damon, celebrity chef Tom Colicchio and, arguably, every one of Boston’s professional athletes. They walk—no, sprint—to his restaurant for such signature delicacies as smoked uni spoon, spicy tuna and seared foie gras tataki, or far-flung dishes like buffalo mentaiko spaghetti with nori, shiso and egg yolk. "Our menu is funky and playful,” says Messina, who is also an UNI partner with owner and James Beard Award nominee chef Ken Oringer. “We’re always challenging ourselves to come up with something new." UNI loyalists make regular pilgrimages for Messina’s variety of caviar—Russian, Israeli and golden osetra are his current obsessions. As a contemporary izakaya, the restaurant recently expanded its space in The Eliot Hotel. Mod, sculptural and ecru chandeliers dot the ceilings, while sleek jet-leather couches invite guests to indulge in plates that are equal parts artistic and culinary masterpieces. INSIDER’S TIP Want a show with your sashimi? Request one of UNI’s two open-counter seating options. Here, guests can watch in awe as chef Akira Sugimoto deftly prepares nigiri and makimono. 370 Commonwealth Ave., 617.536.7200

Photo by Andrea Merrill

Chef Curtis Stone and his brother, Luke

[ Los Angeles ]

Chef Curtis Stone and his brother, Luke, opened this stunner as a grand two-story meat lovers paradise—a perfect contrast to the small subtleties of Stone’s more intimate Maude in Beverly Hills. Gwen touches on everything that makes dining in Hollywood superhot right now: a dazzling room built in an art deco shell that’s as glittery as it is bohemian. The tasting menus change seasonally, but the stars are the gorgeous cuts of meat, both in design—the fully stocked retail butcher’s counter welcomes guests, and a window into the curing and aging room is on full view of the dining room—and on the plate. The three-, five- and 10-course menus feature dishes like fire-roasted pork and Blackmore Farms wagyu steaks. The wine program is just as exciting, with a spotlight on Central California sips. Thanks to the continually rotating menu, there’s always an excuse to make a reservation. INSIDER’S TIP Pressed for time? Eschew the tasting menus for a la carte options at the bar and on the patio. Most of the dishes from the tasting menus are available individually. 6600 Sunset Blvd., 323.946.7500

Gwen's glamorous dining room

Curtis and Luke Stone portrait by Ray Kachatorian | Gwen interior photo by Wonho Lee Frank

Chefs Anthony Rush and Chris Kajioka

[ Honolulu ]

A take on the Greek word and concept of hospitality called xenia, Honolulu’s hottest resto is a collaboration between island chef Chris Kajioka and British chef Anthony Rush, both of Thomas Keller’s Michelin-starred Per Se. The menu offers shareable plates and a thoughtful wine list from local wine director Christopher Ramelb, who’s on the fast track to becoming Hawaii’s next master sommelier. Notable dishes to try are the barbecue beet salad with cucumber, crushed avocado and quinoa; the pastrami short rib; and the unforgettable pineapple upside-down cake. The restaurant’s new lunch service offers a three-course prix fixe menu providing a convenient culinary treat for the downtown set. INSIDER’S TIP Experience a custom meal with both Kajioka and Rush by reserving online for the eight-seat Chef's Counter. Not only will you be able to feast on their elaborate tasting menu, but you'll have the opportunity to chat and interact with your tastemakers. 75 N. King St., 808.200.5412

Photos by Olivier Koning and Ryan Yamamoto

Barbecue beet salad with avocado and quinoa mix


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