Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago is preparing to launch the new California wine country themed concept The Oakville Grill & Cellar, the first restaurant by Chef Max Robbins with the group. Robbins recently joined LEYE as culinary director. Here, he will create a wine-friendly menu to showcase what the group says will be the largest collection of California wines in Chicago.
Meanwhile, Doug Psaltis, who formerly worked with LEYE on RPM Steak but departed in 2019, is partnering with pastry chef Hsing Chen on a new concept. The two are partners in Eat Well Hospitality, which operates Andros Taverna in Chicago. In March, the new Asador Bastian was scheduled to open in a historic two-story townhouse, offering steaks in the style of Basque country in the 55-seat upstairs dining room, with a more casual bar on the ground floor below.
In Savannah, Ga., Farm Hospitality (Farm Bluffton, Common Thread, Strangebird) is expanding its portfolio with the new Wildflower Café, in partnership with Telfair Museum, where the daytime restaurant is located.
At the new Noko in Nashville, Tenn., Executive Chef and partner Dung “Junior” Vo has built the menu around wood-fire cooking, which he said reminded him of his childhood in Vietnam, when his mother would make dishes like marinated lemongrass chicken.
The restaurant also strives to do better for workers, offering a four-day workweek, two weeks paid vacation, daily family meals, a yearly travel stipend and bonuses, as well as access to online therapy, a gym/yoga membership, health coverage and more.
“We are in pursuit of creating a sustainable work environment that will reinvigorate the realization that an amazing life can be created by working in restaurants,” said Noko’s Co-Owner Jon Murray.
In Los Angeles, the attorney-turned-restaurateur Rick Rosenfield is back at it with the new Roca Pizza, a Roman-style pizza concept that opened in February. Rosenfield is known as co-founder of California Pizza Kitchen almost 40 years ago. For this pizza concept, he is partnered with his wife Esther Rosenfield. A second unit in LA is already in the works and scheduled to open this summer.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, chef Robbie Felice is finally opening a brick-and-mortar location of his “wafu-Italian” concept PastaRamen, which marries the flavors of Japan and Italy. Felice, who has been showcasing the cuisine with popups around the country, has opened in partnership with Montclair Hospitality Group, founded by Luck Sarabhayavanija.
The group’s portfolio also includes the small chain Ani Ramen House and Mochinut. And Montclair recently announced plans to operate a concept developed by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto in Bellevue, Wash., at the InterContinental Hotel, though details have not yet been revealed.
And a few other tidbits to watch for:
Marcus Samuelsson is reportedly bringing a new concept to Atlanta. Marcus Bar and Grille is scheduled to open there sometime this spring.
And famed New York chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud is planning to come to the West Coast for the first time with Café Boulud, which is scheduled to open a location in Beverly Hills late this year. In a statement, Boulud said he has long teased famed Los Angeles chef Wolfgang Puck that, if he opened in New York, then Boulud would open in LA.
Now that Puck’s concept Cut is in New York, Boulud said, “This is a promise delivered.”
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