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Best Rising Chefs and Restaurants

James Beard Foundation Award nominees are culinary rising stars and worthy choices for client entertaining.

If you dine out frequently for business, you’re always on the hunt for great new restaurants. One place where you can be assured of finding excellent culinary recommendations is the James Beard Foundation (jamesbeard.org), a nonprofit that celebrates America’s rich culinary heritage. Named after chef and cookbook author James Beard, a pioneer in American cooking who passed away in 1985, the foundation offers classes, workshops, conferences and student scholarships. A who’s who of the culinary world—ranging from Bobby Flay to Lidia Bastianich—has cooked at the James Beard House, a historic townhouse in New York’s West Village. The organization also bestows the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards annually to chefs and restaurants in various categories. No need to research restaurants in these cities: Now you’ll know where to go. A wide range of price points is represented, from trattorias with affordable pizzas to more splurge-worthy spots.

Here are the 2008 nominees in the Best New Restaurant category.

Osteria

(Nominee)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

640 North Broad Street, 215-763-0920; osteriaphilly.com

This Italian trattoria—founded by Marc Vetri, a James Beard Award–winning chef who learned to cook from his Sicilian grandmother in South Philly and also worked with Wolfgang Puck—is one of the hottest tables in the City of Brotherly Love. Diners dig the house-cured salami and other antipasti, the thin-crust pizza made in the wood-burning oven (try the Trentino, with grilled figs and gorgonzola, or the Lombardo, with cotechino sausage and a baked egg), homemade pastas and spit-roasted meats like lamb stuffed with parmesan and herbs. Though the restaurant is located in a former warehouse, its antique pine tables, red wine–stained concrete floor and vintage espresso maker create a homey, farmhouse-style atmosphere.

Central Michel Richard

(Winner)

Washington, D.C.

1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, 202-626-0015; centralmichelrichard.com

Chef Michel Richard—who has been dazzling diners at his award-winning fine dining Georgetown restaurant, Citronelle, since 1989— is also getting rave reviews for his more casual brasserie in the buzzing Penn Quarter, midway between the Capitol and the White House. On his menu, you’ll find American and French classics: Appetizers include a spinach-and–goat cheese tart, a charcuterie plate and fried oysters with tartar sauce; among the entrées are mussels with white wine and garlic, braised rabbit with spaetzle and lamb shank with creamy corn polenta. The cocktail lounge, outfitted with velvet couches, is a fun spot for a specialty drink (try the Clementine mimosa), and the private Jean Louis room is available for larger parties.

Osteria Mozza

(Nominee)

Los Angeles, California

6602 Melrose Avenue, 323-297-0100; mozza-la.com

The names behind this L.A. hotspot are Mario Batali, Joseph Bastianich and Nancy Silverton (former winner of the foundation’s Best Pastry Chef award, now of La Brea Bakery fame). With a trifecta like that, it’s hard to go wrong. The decor is rustic-chic, with earth tones, leather banquettes and exposed wooden wine racks, and the Italian menu features new spins on classic dishes. You’ll find delicious pastas like gnocchi with wild boar ragú and linguine with clams and Fresno chilies, as well as pancetta-wrapped grilled quail and porcini rubbed rib eye. But the best feature is the L-shaped mozzarella bar, where Silverton herself can often be found whipping up creations like buffalo mozzarella anchovies with herb vinaigrette.

Anthos

(Nominee)

New York, New York

36 West 52nd Street, 212-582-6900; anthosnyc.com

Savor modern Greek cuisine at this stylish midtown spot owned by self-taught chef Michael Psilakis and his partner, Donatella Arpaia (the pair previously owned the pan-Mediterranean Dona, on the Upper West Side). The menu is rich in seafood—start out with a few of the raw mezze, which many consider Psilakis’s signature items. There’s a scallop flavored with garlic and scallions, and fluke topped with olives and hazelnut. Follow with a main course of roasted cod with eggplant in a plum vinaigrette, or roasted arctic char with feta fondue and tomato confit. For dessert, there are baklava in different flavors—pistachio, honey custard and walnut cake—topped with cinnamon ice cream.

Fearing’s

(Nominee)

Dallas, Texas2121 McKinney Avenue, 214-922-4848; fearingsrestaurant.com

Dean Fearing has long been one of Dallas’s most accomplished chefs. His restaurant at the Mansion on Turtle Creek was consistently one of the city’s best, and similar praise is being heaped upon his new venture, launched in partnership with the Ritz-Carlton. Fearing’s features numerous dining spaces, including a sexy outdoor patio and Dean’s Kitchen, which overlooks a gleaming display kitchen. The menu is loaded with Southwest-accented dishes like tortilla soup, barbecued shrimp tacos, buffalo tenderloin with jalepeño grits and mesquite-grilled rib eye with corn-bread pudding. Get ready for your meal with a margarita at the Rattlesnake Bar, where you might find yourself seated next to a socialite or an oil tycoon.

James Beard Foundation Rising Star of the Year -- nominees and winner

Gavin Kaysen

(Winner)

Café Boulud, New York 20 E. 76th St., 212-772-2600; danielnyc.com

Gourmands know Kaysen from his days at El Bizcocho in San Diego, and now his French-American cuisine (duck raviolini, seared monkfish with bean purée) is reaching a wider audience at this lauded restaurant from überchef Daniel Boulud.

Gabriel Rucker

Le Pigeon, Portland 738 E. Burnside St., 503-546-8796; lepigeon.com

At this laid-back Oregon bistro with an open kitchen and communal tables, enjoy exquisitely prepared dishes (beef-cheek bourguignon, monkfish in pork butter) from Rucker, a former sous-chef at Portland’s Gotham Building Tavern.

Johnny Monis

Komi, Washington, D.C. 1509 17th St. NW, 202-332-9200; komirestaurant.com

Monis, who honed his skills at McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C., is gaining attention for his multi-course Mediterranean menus, which might include pumpkin ravioli, grilled monkfish, slow-roasted katsikaki and donuts with chocolate mascarpone pudding for dessert.

Nate Appleman

A16, San Francisco 2355 Chestnut St., 415-771-2216, a16sf.com

Appleman, who has worked at San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton and Napa Valley’s Tra Vigne, is making a name for himself with southern Italian fare: Neapolitan-style pizzas, roasted chicken meatballs and sardines with eggplant.

Sean Brock

McCrady’s, Charleston 2 Unity Alley, 843-577-0025; mccradysrestaurant.com

Located in a redbrick tavern dating from 1788, this romantic restaurant, helmed by Brock, a Johnson & Wales graduate, features innovative seasonal cuisine (such as Snake River Farms pork with field peas, and local wreckfish with fennel).

Matt Molina

Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles 6602 Melrose Ave., 323-297-0100; mozza-la.com

Although Mario Batali gets the attention, executive chef Molina—who studied at the Los Angeles Culinary Institute and was Nancy Silverton’s protégé at Campanile (he also did a stint at Batali’s Del Posto, in New York)—is in charge of the kitchen here.

JILL FERGUS is a freelance writer in New York.


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