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Culinary Wanderlust

Are you hankering for a taste bud wakeup call, perhaps some octopus pastrami, rabbit tenderloin, pork belly buns or garlicky escargot? Well, turn up the traveling music, because it’s time to hit the road as we present a coast-to-coast guide to the most exciting new dining venues in the country—the hottest tables in cities near and far. Bon voyage and bon appetit! 

Dishes like grilled venison with roasted parsnip and endive, pistachio-barley porridge and plum-cherry puree ($39) get an artful touch at Atlanta’s Atlas.

Charleston | CANNON GREEN
Lowcountry cooking meets sophisticated Mediterranean cuisine at Cannon Green, a chic new restaurant in a once-dilapidated 1840s home, meticulously renovated and reborn as a charming 80-seat cafe with landscaped courtyard. Executive Chef Amalia Scatena’s California upbringing, Italian heritage and culinary training are evident in the way she honors the integrity of local, seasonal ingredients—there’s no showboating or heavy-handedness here. And no need for it when the just-caught fish in the flounder cioppino is tender perfection, the ideal vehicle for her robust tomato broth accented with fennel salad and saffron aioli ($32). Sommelier Justin Edgar recommends pairing it with a crisp 2013 Albert Mann Pinot Blanc ($46) for a nice Alsatian acidity to balance the cioppino’s richness. 103 Spring St., 843.817.7311
PRIVATE DINING Chef Scatena loves creating a unique experience at the venue’s Chef’s Table. From a magical private balcony perch overlooking the courtyard, you’ll enjoy a customized prix fixe meal with wine pairings (prices vary). Ideal for parties of 10 to 18.
POWER MOVE The problem with Sunday—it rolls around only once a week. And it’s the only time Cannon Green’s cocktail menu includes its brunch best-seller The Sunday Struggle ($8)—a Drambuie, Aquavit, ginger syrup and Stiegal Radler concoction that takes Monday morning right off the radar. Those in-the-know, however, can make a special request for it any day of the week.

Houston |
In a crisply renovated Craftsman-era mansion decorated with Picassos, on a side street in Houston’s hip Montrose district, chef Luis Roger serves elegantly reimagined classics from Barcelona, the city whose airport abbreviation gives the eatery its name. The cooking owes as much to Roger’s experience working under Ferran Adrià at legendary El Bulli as to traditions learned from his parents and grandparents. Dishes range from the sublimely simple (such as barely adorned razor clams that taste as fresh, pure and bright as the salty sea, $22) to the simply sublime (rabbit tenderloin with porcini rice, fried artichokes and a sauce of caramelized onions and vermouth, $36). The boutique wine list draws from all corners of Spain, with selections unknown to even seasoned oenophiles, but the most buzzed-about beverages are variations of the not-very-Spanish gin and tonic; the best is the Mediterranean ($13) with touches of rosemary, thyme, sea salt, olives and lemon. 4210 Roseland St., 832.834.3411
TABLE-HOPPING Expect dressed-up socialites from all over Houston—including many with roots running to Spain—along with an artsyfoodie crowd.
POWER MOVE While cozy and private upstairs rooms are available for VIPs on request, regulars also know that Table 8, by the chimney underneath both a painting and sculpture by Joan Miro, is the best seat in the house.

New York City | BÂTARD
The recipient of more stars than a small constellation, countless rave reviews and, most recently, the 2015 James Beard Award for best new restaurant, Bâtard is on every New York food lover’s speed dial. In a Tribeca space with a rich culinary history—it previously housed the venerable Corton and Montrachet—the dining room blurs the line between elegant and casual, where diners order from chef Markus Glocker’s exclusively prix fixe menu (two courses $55, three courses $69, four courses $79). Specialties include octopus pastrami, veal tenderloin tramezzini, and coffee and milk kardinal. For a first-class first-course food and wine pairing, sommelier Jason Jacobeit suggests the lobster salad with avocado, fava beans and jicama ($7 supplement) accompanied by a Grüner Veltliner—2013 Walter Buchegger Gebling, Kremstal, Austria ($16 by the glass). The wine, he says, is crisp and refreshing, with an acidic backbone that really stands up to the lobster. 239 W. Broadway, 212.219.2777
TABLE-HOPPING David Letterman, Martin Short, Rainn Wilson, and chefs Daniel Boulud and Bobby Flay are among a legion of notables recently spotted here.
POWER MOVE Pork schnitzel, Austrian-born chef Markus Glocker’s favorite comfort food, is not on the menu, but NYC’s culinary cognoscenti know that all you have to do is ask and it will be made to order. Pork loin cutlets are coated with housemade breadcrumbs, quickly sauteed in clarified butter and plated with the chef’s craveworthy cucumber and potato salads.

Miami Beach | SEAGRAPE
Michelle Bernstein’s latest ode to local ingredients and European-influenced fare was worth the seven-month wait. Anchored in the Thompson Miami Beach hotel, the restaurant’s eclectic menu, created by the James Beard Award winner, features options that range from purely vegetarian to unabashedly carnivorous. Pescatarians will enjoy a crispy-skin Florida snapper over a paella rice cake with an aromatic sofrito and chunks of shrimp chorizo ($27) that sommelier Zach Gossard suggests pairing with a 2012 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin Le Banc Chardonnay ($115), which can easily handle the entree’s multilayered sauce without overwhelming the fish. 4041 Collins Ave., 786.605.4043
TABLE-HOPPING Luminaries who have broken bread at Seagrape have included the likes of Miley Cyrus, Jeremy Scott, Solange Knowles and Padma Lakshmi.
POWER MOVE On occasion, Seagrape’s culinary team has been known to deliver dishes to the private jets of extra-special VIP regulars—especially braised short rib with reconstituted cornbread with Brussels sprouts and popcorn ($39), which travels particularly well.

Scottsdale | SUMOMAYA
Arizona restaurant mogul German Osio originally opened fusion concept SumoMaya with celebrity chef and Bravo star Herb Wilson. Though Wilson has since departed, he left the kitchen in the capable hands of veterans—Executive Chef Matt Zdeb and Head Sushi Chef Andy Hisao Suzuki—who turn out elevated yet accessible mashups, such as Mexican pho ($12) and Korean beef tacos ($9). The miso-glazed grilled sea bass ($24) with pickled red onion, cherry tomatoes and cilantro is the most requested. Beverage Director Bill DeGroot recommends the refreshing and slightly sweet Green Magic Mojito ($10) to balance the savory flavors of the sea bass. But for sheer decadence, try the Billionaire Roll ($50), with Japanese wagyu, snow crab, asparagus, soy aioli, truffle garlic butter and gold flake. 6560 N. Scottsdale Road, 480.397.9520
PRIVATE DINING Adventurous diners should request the customized omakase experience ($80 for two, $40 each for sake pairings) for a surprise every course.
POWER MOVE The chefs sometimes pass out extras to guests at the sushi bar or in front of the kitchen. Also, only regulars know about the secret late-night menu that includes the satisfying Sonoran kimchee hot dog ($14) and ramen steak sandwich ($18) among other perfect-for-late-night inventions.

Chilled fava bean soup with blue crab, lemon oil and harissa ($13), available on the seasonal menu at Charleston’s Cannon Green

San Diego | CATANIA
Between high-brow cultural institutions and the neighborhood’s stone’s-throw proximity to San Diego’s billion-dollar biotech hub, La Jolla has long had the bones to be a buzzy dining destination for the area’s elite. But it took Catania—brainchild of rising restaurateur Arturo Kassel—to actualize that potential. Anchoring Girard Avenue’s new Moroccan-style La Plaza building, the venue serves up sunny, coastal Italian dishes of elegant simplicity. The oft-changing menu by chef Vince Schofield includes spit-roasted meats (market price), wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas (from $14), impeccable seafood (don’t miss the charred local spot prawns, $42) and the restaurant’s signature smoked-duck liver mousse ($13) on Sadie Rose bread. Pair that silky dish (foie gras accounts for its voluptuous richness) with a high-acid wine, like a 2011 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy ($91). 7863 Girard Ave., Ste. 301, 858.551.5105
TABLE-HOPPING Spot museum trustees and art-world luminaries, like Lynda Forsha (curator of the private Jacobs collection), Ben Strauss-Malcolm and Mark Quint (Quint Gallery), and architect Jennifer Luce, dining on the breezy patio.
POWER MOVE Regulars forego the scramble for Friday night reservations, instead booking an early table. Why? Chef Schofield, on request, will go off-menu, creating memorable one-off dishes for those who know to ask.

Chef Shirley Chung’s immense talent (she’s a star from Bravo’s Top Chef: New Orleans who honed her skills at top restaurants like Bouchon, Guy Savoy, Carnevino and China Poblano) gives rise to a new Orange County restaurant standout. The menu is ever-changing—she buys much of her seafood from the Dory fishermen who cast lines off the shores of Newport Beach—but you’ll always find modern, edgy cuisine with California-centric ingredients and Chung’s whimsical twist. To wit: a yellowfin tuna salad ($18) made from seasonal fresh catch, and rich braised pork in a mouthwatering sauce served with scissor-cut noodles ($15), the latter accompanied by the 2013 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($72). And you’ll always find the twice-cooked pork belly buns ($8) on the menu—they’re Chung’s favorite comfort food. Team them with YangJing beer ($7) and you’ll be in comfort food-and-drink heaven. 19530 Jamboree Road, Irvine, 949.852.2828
TABLE-HOPPING Robin Leach flew in from Vegas just to dine here. And you may spot a few of the “Real Housewives” to boot. 
POWER MOVE Ask about the secret menu. Some regulars even have earned a special right: The day’s secret menu on edible paper. After they read it, they have to eat it.

Inspired by summers in Nantucket, this seafood bistro incongruously opened in the dead of last winter and quickly became a go-to spot for crustacean-craving Aspenites. Executive Chef Kathleen Crook gets raves for dishes like the decadent lobster carbonara ($35) and small plates like salty, full-bodied Damariscotta oysters ($3 each) and flavorful Thai shrimp corncakes ($15). Co-owner Ryan Chadwick’s uncle is a Maine lobsterman, and he overnights his catch daily. In fact, it’s the huge, meaty lobster roll (market price) that really satisfies the landlocked population; made from a whole steamed crustacean and served on a buttery bun from Annette’s Mountain Bake Shop, along with a hefty side of Old Bay-seasoned fries and housemade pickles, it’s like an instant trip to the ocean. Accompany it with a bottle of 2010 Bouchard Péré et Fils Chardonnay Beaune du Chateau Blanc, France ($95). 305 S. Mill St., 970.925.1797
TABLE-HOPPING Grey Lady attracts a younger crowd of locals and visitors, like NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel.
POWER MOVE Savvy locals know that come 10:30pm or so most Thursday through Saturday nights, a DJ starts spinning tunes, and the restaurant morphs into an informal lounge and dance club.

Atlanta | ATLAS

Complete with museumworthy works by Picasso, Soutine, van Gogh and Chagall that punctuate the restaurant’s high-gloss walls, Atlas offers a perfectly composed dining experience from start to finish. In the stunning space tucked inside The St. Regis Atlanta, The French Laundry veteran chef Christopher Grossman serves artfully crafted cuisine like truffle-potato pierogi dumplings served with slow-braised American wagyu beef ($18, paired with a bottle of 2012 Château Pégau Cuvée Maclura Côtes du Rhône, France, $60, which will stand up to the beef but not overpower the delicacy of the pierogis) and lightly cured yellowtail hiramasa with pineapple consommé ($18) alongside a rotating selection of seasonally sourced proteins ($29 to $59) and just-picked vegetables ($8). Pastry Chef Judy Roman’s otherworldly desserts, like the caramel custard topped with salted caramel sauce, chocolate pretzel crunch and soft cream ($10), are not to be missed. The rich decor is as carefully curated as the dishes at this newly opened restaurant, which has quickly become the hottest table to book in town. 88 W. Paces Ferry Road NW, 404.600.6471 
PRIVATE DINING The posh and ultraprivate Tavistock Room seats up to 16 people and offers a front-row seat to all the action in the world-class kitchen. Or, opt for the semiprivate chef’s table for up to 12 guests.
POWER MOVE Peruse the extraordinary collection of modern, 20th century art on its website; then call ahead and ask General Manager Jason Babb to snag you a seat next to one of your favorite works.

San Francisco | MOURAD
Fourteen years after he introduced San Francisco to modern Moroccan cooking at Aziza, Mourad Lahlou has hit the big time with Mourad, a stunning new showcase for his inimitable Moroccan cuisine and a destination for the Bay Area’s most discriminating diners. Within the luxe confines of his high-ceilinged, exquisitely tiled South of Market restaurant, Marrakesh native Lahlou is conjuring contemporary dishes informed by the flavors of his homeland. Lahlou’s roast chicken for two ($75) has become the venue’s showstopping signature, especially paired with Master Sommelier Alan Murray’s recommendation of a robust red, perhaps the 2011 Joguet Chinon Varennes du Grand Clos ($66), to complement the chicken’s earthy appeal. Expect innovation across the board: Charred octopus comes tangled with merguez sausage, olives, artichokes, chickpeas and citrus ($19); and the basteeya is stuffed with duck confit and accompanied by compressed Asian pears and endive ($22). 140 New Montgomery St., Ste. 1, 415.660.2500
TABLE-HOPPING Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and actors Bradley Cooper and Michael Fassbender have all been spotted here, as has former Mayor Willie Brown.
POWER MOVE While Mourad offers several private dining options, request a table in the upper mezzanine for a bird’s-eye view of the bustling kitchen.

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii | CANE & CANOE
One of the most sophisticated arrivals to the islands’ dining scene is found in the chic West Maui enclave of Kapalua, beneath the majestic roof of the plush Montage Kapalua Bay. The culinary team deftly plays with Asian and Pacific influences, with sublime results such as calamari “chow fun” lap cheong sausage, bean sprouts, charred scallions, chili flakes and kale ($19). To round out the entree, try a 2013 Garganega Monte Tondo Soave, Veneto, Italy ($48). Other menu standouts include the tempura ahi tuna ($42), served with shimeji mushrooms and—oh, yes—a foie gras nage. For a playful ending to a superb meal, Pastry Chef Tomoko Nohina knows how to serve up a grand finale. Her signature: the Surfing Goat Cheesecake with poached Asian pear, amaretti crust and candied fennel ($14). 1 Bay Drive, Kapalua, Maui, 808.662.6600
PRIVATE DINING It’s Maui, so private dining here means going alfresco. Reserve one of the two cabanas that seat up to eight. Curtains and sugarcane-inspired details create an intimate atmosphere—without taking away from the picture-perfect view.
POWER MOVE Diners looking for a locavore experience can request a meal that highlights the islands’ offerings—down to the libations. (Yes, they even make vodka on Maui.)

Dallas/Fort Worth | LE CEP
With a nickname like Cowtown, Dallas’ western neighbor Fort Worth seems like a city where you’d expect steaks and barbecue to be the norm. But David and Sandra Avila’s intimate 60-seat fine-dining destination in a sophisticated, monochromatic setting in the town’s cultural district defies that stereotype. The two of them (he, the GM and sommelier, and she, an Alain Ducasse-trained chef) are drawing raves for a seasonally changing tasting menu of contemporary French dishes accompanied by a well-curated wine list. Duck breast, offered in both the four-course ($45) and eight-course ($85) tasting menu options, gently cooked sous vide for several hours before it’s seared, is a luscious chef signature tuned to the season with varied sides and sauces. David suggests a red Burgundy, such as a 2011 Domaine Parent Pommard ($97), a succulent, velvety pinot noir with intense red fruit and notes of spice and tobacco, silky tannins and a bright acidity to balance the richness of the duck. Expect a visit to the table (and, for regulars, a hug) from the petite chef. 3324 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth, 817.900.2468
 Judging by the Ferraris and Bentleys in the parking lot, you’ll be dining aside Fort Worth’s upper crust and well-heeled Dallasites, too.
POWER MOVE Champagne is a house emphasis, well-evidenced by a Champagne cart presented before meals. For a splurge, order a special bottle from the extensive cellar. Salon 2004 ($560) will make the occasion an event.

Las Vegas | LAGO
Situated inside the ultraluxe Bellagio is James Beard Award-winning chef Julian Serrano’s newest Sin City restaurant, Lago. In this sleek, Milan-inspired dining room with a glass-and-chrome mixology counter, comfy midcentury modern chairs and floor-to-ceiling windows on the Fountains of Bellagio, he serves beautifully plated Italian specialties, such as branzino Livornese ($16), a whole fish resting on a bed of capers, tomatoes and olives, and agnello scottadito ($20), a grilled lamb chop perfumed with rosemary and garlic. Serrano’s small-plates menu encourages social dining and lots of sharing. The risotto al vino rosso ($17), a vegetarian dish made with red wine and burrata, has a robust flavor profile. A plate this rich pairs well with the subtle Rose and Rye cocktail ($16), according to Assistant Beverage Director Ricardo Murcia. As you toast to summer, let the dancing waters whet your appetite for the feast to come. Mangia! 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702.693.8105
TABLE-HOPPING A-list chefs Guy Savoy, Michael Mina and Alain Ducasse have all dined at Lago.
POWER MOVE Spectacular off-the-menu items include seafood pasta ($25) and seafood risotto ($25). Hardcore crustacean fans can have their serving of the latter topped off with an entire lobster ($30 supplement).

Washington, D.C. | CHINA CHILCANO
Chef José Andrés has embraced the cuisines of Mexico, the Mediterranean and his native Spain in D.C., but tackling Peru with China Chilcano—with its Japanese and Chinese influences—required bravado. Andrés tapped four masters: Head Chef James Gee, Chifa Chef Simon Lam, Nikkei Chef Koji Terano and Peruvian chef Julio Acosta. The results are remarkable, with menu standouts like langosta kung fu, five lobsters cooked in a wok with chicha de jora, aji amarillo, bok choy, napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms ($70 for 2 pounds). Especially delicious when paired with pisco cocktails, the concolón chaufa ($22) comes to the table in a steamy pot filled with crispy fried rice, house-cured Heritage Farm pork belly, lap cheong sausage, fried egg, bok choy and braised shiitake mushrooms. 418 Seventh St. NW, 202.783.0941
PRIVATE DINING On special request, the sunken Tatami Table experience (from $150 per person) offers off-the-menu items.
POWER MOVE Ask for a pisco flight ($55 per person) and you’ll get to taste various styles of the mysterious South American intoxicant, including Inquebrantable, known as the pride of Peruvians.

Los Angeles | PETIT TROIS
This diminutive French bistro tucked inside a Hollywood strip mall has Angelenos lining up not only because it is the sophomore effort from dream team Ludovic Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (who also own and operate Trois Mec next door), or because it was the only L.A. restaurant to get a James Beard nod for best new restaurant this year, but also because no one has served such perfectly simple, straightforward French fare in L.A. before. It’s the kind of place Julia Child would have probably visited daily to sip some Lillet Blanc ($9 per glass) while slathering crunchy baguette with rich French butter and saving some to sop up whatever’s left from the garlicky escargot ($18). Sit right in front of the cooks for plates of steak frites ($33) or crunch-topped chicken confit with a tangle of frisee ($24). When a chef with Lefebvre’s training and culinary exploration turns to the humble fare of his Burgundian roots, you’ll get such unforgettable dishes as a perfect ethereal omelet ($18)—the best you’ll ever eat. 718 N. Highland Ave., 323.468.8916
TABLE-HOPPING Even the young and beautiful have to wait for a seat here, Justin Timberlake or Busy Philipps—just some of the celebrity sightings since the bistro’s debut.
POWER MOVE If chef Ludovic Lefebvre is behind the counter, which is often, offer to buy him a Panache ($7), a refreshing concoction of Kronenbourg 1664 beer and Rieme sparkling lemonade. It’s his favorite drink.