Following his New York City debut last year with Amada NYC, prolific restaurateur Jose Garces has opened a second Manhattan restaurant, Ortzi, at the Luma Hotel Times Square. Under chef de cuisine Michael Han—formerly of Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Bouley and now-shuttered Grand Award winner A Voce Columbus—Ortzi’s menu will showcase Spain’s Basque cuisine. The refined tapas-style menu features various crudos and conservas, braised oxtail and roasted king crab cazuelas (Spanish terra-cotta cooking pot dishes), and plates a la planxa, such as wagyu sirloin with salsa verde.
Ron Morgan, Ortzi’s sommelier and general manager, has designed a beverage program spanning 125 wine selections, with an emphasis on natural and biodynamic wines hailing from northern Spain and western France. “The underlying vision of the program is value,” Morgan told Wine Spectator in an email. “Most of the selections come in at well under $100 at restaurant prices. Since many of the wines and regions are not household names, I want people to feel comfortable experimenting with new wines.”
In addition to by-the-glass and bottle options, the program features a list of cocktails, Sherries and porrons—traditional Spanish wine pitchers for communal dining—as well as beers and ciders. “The ideal experience at Ortzi starts with a porron, Sherry, or one of our delicious cocktails, which skew heavily toward savory and aperitiflike flavor profiles,” said Morgan. “Then, depending on the number of guests at the table and the kind of night they're looking to have, we dive into an exciting white from Galicia or the Loire, and follow it up with a great Mencía or Rioja.” Garces’ restaurants have a reputation for great wine programs; his Tinto, Volvér and Amada in Philadelphia and Rural Society in Washington, D.C., have all earned Restaurant Awards for their outstanding lists.—V.S.
Italian fine-dining institution Valentino in Santa Monica, Calif., is bringing new energy to its dining experience with the help of an old hand. Renowned restaurateur and wine director Piero Selvaggio has brought on Valentino veteran Luciano Pellegrini as executive consulting chef to create a revamped dinner menu for the longtime Grand Award winner, which has earned the accolade since the awards were created in 1981. Pellegrini, who led the kitchen at Valentino Las Vegas until it closed its doors in 2013, spent the past few months working with Selvaggio and chef de cuisine Tommaso Tarantino to create fresh new dishes for the classic menu, including tuna tartare with orange-flavored burrata sauce, prosciutto-stuffed ravioli with cantaloupe melon cream sauce, bone marrow–stuffed veal shank and veal scaloppini with warm caponata and creamy bottarga sauce. No changes have been announced to Selvaggio’s 1,900-selection list, strong in bottles from Italy, France and California.
"Valentino has forever been the trendsetting place for creative Italian fine dining cuisine,” Selvaggio said in a press statement. “With Luciano back overseeing our kitchen and the restaurant offering a wine program that is better than ever, we feel that we are again positioned to be the Ferrari in this competitive Italian dining field."—L.W.
There's a new executive chef at the helm of Charlie Palmer’s flagship restaurant in New York, the Michelin-starred, Best of Award of Excellence–winning Aureole. In January, Milan native Gabriele Carpentieri took over the role from Marcus Gleadow-Ware. Carpentieri joined the restaurant in 2013 and served as its executive sous chef in his previous role.
Carpentieri has been working with Palmer to design new menus for the restaurant, available in three-, five- and seven-course options and including dishes such as black bass tartare with grapefruit, crispy branzino with fennel and Swiss chard, macerated strawberry and foie gras torchon and lamb loin with charred spring onion. No changes have been announced to the wine program, which is currently managed by head sommelier Morgan Harris and offers 1,300 selections, with strengths in California, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Italy.—S.H.
Rooftop season is officially in full swing at the Eataly New York Flatiron location, where Sabbia, the seasonal pop-up restaurant hosted at Eataly's in-house microbrewery, La Birreria, is now open. Guests can relax under festive umbrellas and a retractable roof while sipping on summertime favorites, including 50 different rosé options—among them offerings from Donna Olga, Ferrari and Castello di Bossi—a house-made "frosé" and a rotation of frozen cocktails. Executive chef Fitz Tallon's menu offers light seafood-centric fare, including a bruschetta bar, soft-shell crab and Island Creek oyster boats.—L.W.
New to New York's Gramercy neighborhood, Middle Eastern restaurant Nur brings a modern, playful flair to traditional cuisine. Gadi Peleg, founder of Breads Bakery, teamed up with Israeli chef Meir Adoni to provide guests with a wide variety of shareable plates from different regions, including fluke kibbeh nayeh, which features bulgur, harissa, yogurt, fresh herbs, black Persian lemon powder with a side of gazpacho; a dish called Horias from the Alleys of Nablus; lamb kebab grilled in pita with pine nuts; eggplant and amba; Palestinian tartare made of hand-cut beef, smoked eggplant cream, sheep’s yogurt, baby artichokes and raw tahini; and gefilte shrimp with a dashi gelée, pickled vegetables and creamy chrain. The wine list also provides a great overview of Middle Eastern styles, with more than 50 selections, including the Chateau Musar white blend of the grapes Obaideh and Merwah from Lebanon, Alain Graillot Syrocco Syrah from Morocco and Shvo Chenin Blanc from Israel.—L.W.
Fogo de Chão’s first Washington state location is expected to open later this spring in the heart of downtown Bellevue. With 41 locations in the United States and Brazil in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program, Fogo de Chão is a Brazilian steak-house chain that serves open fire–roasted dishes featuring steak, lamb, chicken and seafood. Guests can opt for the full churrasco experience or the market table, which includes a selection of charcuterie and imported cheese. With 193 wines by the bottle and 30 options by the glass, the Bellevue location’s wine list will be overseen by Helio Vieira and focus primarily on South American wines. The program will also feature private-label wines exclusive to the Fogo de Chão chain made by the Zuccardi family in Argentina, such as the Fogo Gran Reserva Malbec 2015.—V.S.
Japanese steak house Roka Akor from JNK Concepts is expected to debut its first Texas location in Houston next month at 2929 Weslayan St. The new outpost joins a group that includes Award of Excellence–winning locations in Chicago, Scottsdale, Ariz., and San Francisco, all known for their sushi, steak and seafood dishes that highlight the traditional robata technique of Japanese grilling. The Houston restaurant will open with a robust beverage selection, engineered by company beverage director Rob Holder and expected to feature around 200 wine labels, predominantly from California and France, plus over 60 sakes. A selection of seasonally changing cocktails will highlight sochu, a Japanese distilled spirit, infused with house-made flavor concoctions.—V.S.