Just when you think you’ve seen it all. The hottest restaurant in America is Chicago’s Next, which superstar chef Grant Achatz of that city’s Alinea has just opened. The menu features classical French dishes that have all but vanished: whole lobes of foie gras in brioche, clear turtle soup with Madeira, pressed duck with its own blood and truffles cooked in ashes. Bookings are going to be tough for a long time.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is equally unusual and hard to book. The stunning room was designed by Adam Tihany, who has done many restaurants on the Strip, such as SeaBlue and Cravings, The Mirage’s buffet. I was privileged enough to be invited there on a recent visit to the U.K., and the food was amazing.
The concept is contempo takes on dishes from the 16th through the 19th centuries. The house specialty is “meat fruit” (circa 1500), a faux Mandarin orange that is filled with chicken liver mousse. (The “skin” is made from tomato.) Salamagundy (circa 1720) is a mix of chicken oysters, bone marrow and horseradish cream. Savory porridge (circa 1660) is cod cheeks, pickled beetroot, garlic and parsley in the most unusual use of oatmeal I’ve ever encountered. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
In our town, new concepts and openings continue to flood in. I’ve been a longtime fan of rodizio, the Brazilian barbecue restaurants where the servers carve hunks of meat from the skewer. Now we’re told Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian chain based in Dallas, is going to open later this year at 355 Hughes Center Drive. This is the best rodizio I’ve yet encountered.
Meat lovers might also be happy to know another chain, Famous Dave’s Legendary BBQ, has just opened at 651 Mall Ring Circle in Henderson, near the Galleria at Sunset mall. As chains go, this one’s pretty good. They tout their hickory-smoked, St. Louis-style ribs, but I prefer the brisket. For dessert, there is a Southern praline bread pudding so rich it should be illegal.
Finally, the Luxor is getting a new pan-Asian restaurant when the innovative Rice & Company opens later this spring. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant will feature a sushi bar, Chinese and Japanese cuisine, and a lounge with specialty cocktails and sakes, all moderately priced. Dishes like lobster shumai—dumplings stuffed with fresh lobster, crawfish and caviar infused with wasabi, basil and onion—and Cajun white tuna with mango salsa are two to anticipate, and there will be modern takes on classics such as lobster Cantonese.