Chef Daniel Boulud opens his highly anticipated, sprawling new seafood restaurant in Midtown Manhattan’s One Vanderbilt skyscraper this week. Le Pavillon debuts with a limited number of dinner reservations May 20, followed by a full opening on May 28. The restaurant takes its name from the New York destination that’s widely credited for putting French cuisine on the national stage during its run from 1941 to 1966. “Le Pavillon was synonymous with French dining in New York in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s,” Boulud told Wine Spectator. “Bringing back that name here to New York was very important.”
The cuisine focuses on seafood and vegetables, with an emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients. Menu items include roasted beets with sesame, poached halibut and baked lobster with purple potatoes.
Daniel Johnnes, wine director for Boulud’s Dinex Group, built the wine list to complement the delicate nature of the menu. His 650 picks comprise a plethora of seafood-friendly wines such as Chablis and Champagne, but that’s rounded out by a range of selections to ensure guests can find what they’re looking for—even if that’s a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon with fillet of sole. “We don’t like to lecture people and limit them in what’s available,” Johnnes said. “We want them to have a broad spectrum to choose from.”
“That’s really the DNA of many of my wine lists,” Boulud said. “It has always been a strong balance of French and American wines, but also others.”
Le Pavillon’s seafood cuisine is dependent on seasonal ingredients and local sourcing. (Thomas Schauer)
Thanks to the duo’s longtime industry relationships (plus some extra time to develop the wine program during pandemic shutdowns), the opening list features numerous deep verticals and top names like the Loire Valley’s François Cotat and Burgundy’s Raveneau. Johnnes balances those offerings with lesser-known growers to reflect what he sees as a more curious and value-driven community of wine drinkers. “The dining public today wants to learn, they want to discover, and they want the wine to deliver what they’re expecting with that dollar amount in mind,” he said. “My goal is to give wines that overdeliver.”
It’s all presented in the multistory dining room set inside the skyscraper, boasting city views through massive windows and adorned with live greenery. “The space is quite special,” Boulud said. “I think it really symbolizes the reopening of New York City.”
Johnnes echoes this enthusiasm, especially after a particularly challenging period for the industry. “In a way it’s a rebirth,” he said. “It’s spring, so we see the flowers and trees blooming, and our hospitality industry blooming again also—we are excited beyond belief.”—Julie Harans
The newly appointed leader of Canlis’ kitchen, Aisha Ibrahim, is the restaurant’s seventh executive chef. (Vorasith Panichsusawadi, Kevin Scott)
For the first time in its 70-year history, Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Canlis has a female executive chef. Aisha Ibrahim, formerly a sous chef at Best of Award of Excellence winner Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif., started at the Seattle restaurant April 30. She replaces Brady Williams, who left the position in February.
“I’m thrilled to be joining this group of highly creative minds dedicated to changing restaurant culture,” Ibrahim said via email. “But equally as thrilled to be finding myself cooking with products from one of the most important food-growing regions in the world.”
“Our mission is to inspire all people to turn toward one another. [Ibrahim] was very clearly the best person to lead Canlis in that mission,” said co-owner Mark Canlis. Like past Canlis chefs, Ibrahim has total autonomy to create her menu. While it’s not yet finalized, she’s looking forward to incorporating her unique perspective. “I think it’s important to celebrate the advancement of women in a male-dominated industry,” Ibrahim said. “It’s certainly a giant responsibility for me to take on this role, but a challenge I’m excited to tackle, as I know my presence in this role will mean something to the next generation.”
Ibrahim’s debut coincides with Canlis’ reopening process as the country continues to see an overall decline in COVID-19 cases. While the main dining room remains closed (the team hopes for an early-July reopening), the restaurant is offering alternative dining experiences through its outdoor Camp Canlis programs. Those include intimate dining in private yurts and in the Canlis Tree House. “In many ways, reopening Canlis will be the hardest of the dozen or so pandemic pivots we've pulled off,” Canlis said. “We think of this as opening a brand-new restaurant. The role [Ibrahim] plays, her voice on this team, is essential to every step of that journey.”—Collin Dreizen
Sky Terrace atop Ai Fiori is the latest venture from Altamarea Group, from which co-founder and chef Michael White recently departed. (Courtesy of Altamarea Group)
Chef Michael White has left his position at Altamarea Group, the New York–based family of restaurants behind Grand Award winner Ai Fiori. As co-founder, White was instrumental in building the group’s reputation across the city and beyond. “Michael White is no longer involved with Altamarea Group, but we are very grateful for the work he did to make the company what it is today,” a representative from Altamarea told Wine Spectator via email. “He is currently living in the Hamptons and is pursuing other projects.”
Prior to his departure, White served as an advisor to the group’s two chefs, Lauren DeSanto and Bill Dorrler, who have each worked at the group for more than 10 years.
Separately, Ai Fiori has debuted a rooftop space atop the Langham Hotel helmed by DeSanto. Sky Terrace opened May 13 and serves classic dishes from the downstairs restaurant as well as exclusive new items like lasagna di carciofi, bass tartare and a signature burger. An abbreviated wine list built by Altamarea’s beverage director, Francesco Grosso, offers 10 selections, mostly from Italy. All are available by the bottle or by the glass.—Taylor McBride
Osteria Georgi has a decidedly upbeat and colorful atmosphere. (Kathleen Marshall)
Giorgios Bakatsias, the Greece-born North Carolina restaurateur behind Best of Award of Excellence winner Bin 54 Steak & Cellar, has unveiled Osteria Georgi in Chapel Hill. Opened April 30, the restaurant features traditional Italian fare with a wine line list to match. “We hope to bring joy around the table for our community,” Bakatsias said. “We hope it connects them to their memories of traveling to Italy, and with our farms and sea right here in North Carolina.”
Overseen by general manager Adam Iorfida (formerly of Bakatsias’ Parizade), Osteria Georgi’s 95-wine list spans regions around the boot, with a range of sparklers and white wines, plus plenty of reds from the north and Tuscany. The 600-bottle inventory also focuses on bottles from smaller estates with sustainable and organic winemaking practices. “We strive to offer both wines that our customers are comfortable with, as well as wines that are slightly less familiar to the Chapel Hill clientele, but that we feel are true expressions of the terroir,” Iorfida said.
Leading the kitchen is executive chef and co-owner Daniel Jackson, a Chapel Hill native, whose résumé includes stints at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants and Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park. “Osteria Georgi serves simple, authentic Italian food with modern touches,” Bakatsias said. “We are very vegetable- and seafood-driven.”
Using primarily local ingredients, Jackson cooks up hand-made pastas and antipasti, including potato soup with truffle oil, a tricolored salad, burrata and tuna crudo. There are also heartier mains like ricotta agnolotti, wild-mushroom risotto, rib eye steak and branzino scottato with calamari and shellfish.
Bakatsias began planning for Osteria Georgi last year, with inspiration sparked from his late friend George Tarantini, for whom the restaurant is named. “I traveled around the world with [him],” Bakatsias said. “He sought out the most exquisite local ingredients everywhere we went, and that really resonated with me and how I was raised in Greece.”
Bakatsias describes the space as “relaxed and playful.” In addition to its dining room and umbrella-covered patio, the restaurant will be adding a market this summer, where guests can pick up house-made ingredients. And looking further ahead, Bakatsias will be opening the French-influenced East End Bistrot in Raleigh, N.C., in early 2022.—C.D.
Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at @wsrestaurantawards.