Alma – Los Angeles. Ari Taymor has some trademarks which have served him well; almost no butter, lots of vegetable stocks, and selections that change nightly.
Aska – Brooklyn. This cooking style–defined by hyperlocal, often foraged ingredients, earthy flavors, rustic techniques, and a penchant for the cerebral–has found one of its most talented disciples in Aska's Swedish-born chef, Fredrik Berselius.
The Whale Wins & Joule are two separate restaurants in Seattle that get on very well together – they share the same front door and bathroom! The whale Wins is headed up by chef Renee Erikson where she serves wood-fired dishes driven by the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Just across the hallway is Joule, whose chef, Rachel Yang, was doing the Korean-American mashup thing long before it became a national trend.
Jeffrey's & Josephine House are sister restaurants in Austin Texas where you can dine elegantly on quinoa and carrots in an apple cider vinaigrette, and toasts with strawberries and house-made burrata at Jeffrey's and wedge salad smothered in goat-cheese dressing and a 35-day dry-aged Texas porterhouse that's seared to perfection in the wood-burning oven at Josephine House.
The Optimist - Named for a kid's sailing dinghy, The Optimist is the creation of Atlanta chef and managing partner Ford Fry, who clearly knows how to navigate a winner: It is without a doubt the best of a growing number of big-name fish houses that have opened this year. And by big, we mean big – 180 covers and a menu as big as the ocean.
The Pass & Provisions – Houston. The Pass is full of surprises such as Bucatini pasta made with nori; potato bread stuffed with lobster salad (an inside-out lobster roll); and a cheese course that features an “Oreo" crafted with ricotta scorza nera and vegetable ash. Provisions (the other side of the dual experience) is an easy going spot built for long lunches and family dinners, where menus double as place mats and the walls are made from an old church basketball court.
Ava Gene's is helmed by Chef Joshua McFadden who really knows his way around a vegetable. This doesn't mean that you should skip the proteins on offer–the wood-grilled pork steaks with salsa verde and the wide-ruffled pasta with lamb ragu are must-orders. It's just that you should anchor your meal with choices from the Giardini (“gardens") section of the menu. That could mean a zingy carrot and beet slaw; roasted cauliflower with Calabrian chiles and anchovies.
Fat Rice – Chicago. Macanese food (aka food from Macau) is a melting pot of tastes. Mingling ingredients and influences from Portugal, China, India, and Southeast Asia. Owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo describe it as “Euro-Asian comfort food."
Rolph & Daughters. Be mesmerised by Philip Krajeck's rustic Italian such as his hand-cut farro gemelli with mushrooms, kale, and Parmesan in Nashville's up-and-coming Germantown area.
Saison is Joshua Skenes's 32-seat stunner – both for fabulous food and high prices – we're talking $248 for the prix Fixe menu. Skenes, the guy cooking in an untucked dress shirt, is a flawless technician who's at the top of his game at just 34 years old. He's making some of the most personal food out there. Parmesan custard topped with gold leaf; blue wing sea robin crudo with foraged yuzu; abalone liver and rice stew; and duck dry-aged for 30 days – worth it? Bon Appetite think so.