Restaurants have gotten smaller and more casual, and “local” and “seasonal” have gone from buzzwords to givens. And yet, dishes like Dover sole and steak au poivre à l’Armagnac in a ritzy environment with formal service have enduring appeal. With a spate of opulent openings that might have seemed out of place just a few years ago, restaurateurs are examining what fine dining looks like in the restaurant scene of 2017.
New York City fine dining once meant Lutèce, La Côte Basque, La Grenouille, Le Pavillon and La Caravelle, and it seems their ghosts have awakened. In Madison Avenue’s Lowell Hotel, Majorelle is like dining in a French manor home, complete with gougonettes de sole and foie gras et Sauternes. At Gabriel Kreuther, servers lift glass domes off of langoustine tartare and Siberian osetra.
Elsewhere, Washington, DC’s Mirabelle exudes midcentury glamour. It’s just two blocks from the White House, where Executive Chef Frank Ruta cooked under the Carter, Reagan and first Bush administrations. In Minneapolis, the historic Grand Café reopened with an unabashedly old-fashioned menu featuring foie gras royale and pike quenelles in crayfish sauce. John Besh’s revamp of The Caribbean Room in New Orleans’ Pontchartrain Hotel reimagines classic Creole in a baroque, jackets-required setting.
Yet the new school of fine dining isn’t all about nostalgia. Progressive Indian cuisine gets the white-tablecloth treatment in a majestic space at New York’s Indian Accent. In Scottsdale, Arizona, Sel serves caviar, foie gras and filet mignon with morels and sauce Bordelaise, but also such modern, global dishes as sushi-grade ahi tuna with a green papaya tostada and yuzu kosho aioli. Philadelphia’s Jansen takes the rusticity out of “farm to table” dining in an elegantly restored stone cottage dating from 1700, where Chef David Jansen’s two decades with The Four Seasons are evident in the ornate plating and meticulous service.