Restaurants With Kitchen Views
Restaurants with kitchen views
by Jill Fergus July 2008
These restaurants let you watch the action in the kitchen as you dine
Traveling for business can be tough, especially when you’re on your own for meals. In recent years, the communal table has become a haven for solo diners, but now restaurants are offering another option—chef’s counters. This concept hearkens back to greasy-spoon diners, but these days, the counters don’t overlook short-order cooks. Instead, you’ll get a front-row seat next to some of the finest chefs working today. In gleaming exhibition kitchens, they’re showcasing gourmet cuisine made with seasonal ingredients—a far cry from omelets and grilled cheese. Diners are privy to the kitchen’s inner workings and often get to chat with the chef about the dishes being prepared, which creates a more intimate dining experience. So whether you’re on your own or with a colleague (or even a client), consider giving some of these chef’s counters a try.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Las Vegas, Nevada
3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South, 702-891-7358, joel-robuchon.com
While Michelin-starred chef Joel Robuchon is best known for his eponymous fine-dining restaurants in the culinary capitals of the world, his more informal L’Atelier concept has introduced his sublime French cuisine to a new audience. This stylish, red-hued space with a semicircular 36-seat counter is located off the main casino floor in the MGM Grand. It’s not only a great spot to watch the team of talented chefs, led by Steve Benjamin, whip up dishes like roasted rack of lamb seasoned with fresh thyme, confit duck layered with mushroom and potatoes and free-range quail stuffed with foie gras—but also a prime seat for checking out the action at the gaming tables.
New York, New York
1900 Broadway, 212-595-0303, danielnyc.com
This Lincoln Center hotspot, which resembles a chic wine cellar, is the latest from überchef Daniel Boulud, whose esteemed New York restaurant collection includes Daniel and Café Boulud. You’ll find classic bistro dishes like coq au vin and steak frites on the menu, but many customers head straight to the charcuterie bar to savor the rich pâtés, terrines and cured meats specially prepared by in-house charcutier Sylvain Gasdon and artfully displayed behind a glass counter. Popular choices include a foie gras pâté with port and truffle juice and a terrine of slow-cooked spiced leg of lamb with eggplant and sweet potatoes. The sommelier is happy to suggest appropriate wine pairings from the impressive selection.
San Francisco, California
817 Sutter Street, 415-928-8870, sfcanteen.com
Chef-owner Dennis Leary, formerly the executive chef of highly regarded Rubicon, branched out three years ago to create this cozy 20-seat restaurant. A lime-green Formica counter and snug booths are a throwback to ’50s-style diners, but the food is far from standard fare. Sit at one of the seven vinyl-topped counter stools (there are three dinner seatings: 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.) and get up close and personal with Leary as he busily prepares a weekly-changing menu of dishes, such as pepper-crusted venison leg with mango chutney and poussin roasted with squash purée and sesame-flavored spinach, with a vanilla soufflé for dessert.
New Orleans, Louisiana
800 Tchoupitoulas Street, 504-528-9393, emerils.com
Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse has long been at the forefront of this emerging culinary trend. His original restaurant, Emeril’s, located in the Big Easy’s Warehouse District, boasts a nine-seat chef’s counter overlooking a large exhibition kitchen. Reserve seats as early as possible, since they’re still quite popular. Watch the chefs (and occasionally Emeril himself) as they create delicious Creole-style dishes, such as gumbo of the day, andouille-crusted redfish and Gulf shrimp with brown butter–and–sweet potato grits. (You’ll also find a chef’s counter at Table 10, Emeril’s latest restaurant in the new Palazzo resort in Las Vegas.)
25 Degrees Restaurant
Los Angeles, California
7000 Hollywood Boulevard, 323-785-7244, 25degreesrestaurant.com
Tim and Liza Goodell (owners of L.A. hotspots like Dakota and Red PearlKitchen) have elevated the simple burger joint to new heights. This glam space in the hip Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the Dakota is also located, is done up with burgundy wallpaper, oxblood leather banquettes and glass chandeliers, which create a fun bordello-style look. Grab a counter seat and watch the hustle and bustle of the kitchen as the cooks prepare made-to-order burgers—nine ounces of ground sirloin with an array of toppings, from artisanal cheeses and prosciutto to caramelized onions and portobello mushrooms. Be sure to indulge in sides like sea salt–seasoned fries and buttermilk-batter onion rings.
Here are a few other restaurants that offer chef’s counters.
405 8th St. NW, 202-393-0812, cafeatlantico.com
At this tiny second-floor restaurant within Café Atlantico, Jose Andres wows diners lucky enough to snag one of the six counter seats (two seatings per night) with his tasting menu, which includes items like cotton-candy foie gras and a salmon-roe cone.
95 Pine St., 206-625-0129, steelheaddiner.com
Located in Pike Place Market, this diner-style space, with views of Elliott Bay, is one of Seattle’s most popular spots. At the seven-seat counter, sample dishes like Oregon grilled petrale sole with black chanterelles, courtesy of chef-owner Kevin Davis.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Seasons Rotisserie & Grill
2031 Mountain Rd. NW,>505-766-5100, seasonsonthenet.com
At this popular restaurant near Old Town Plaza, you can sit at the counter and watch the chefs prepare dishes like rotisserie chicken with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, wood-grilled duck breast and oak-red Atlantic salmon.
1431 Larimer St., 303-820-2282, riojadenver.com
Jennifer Jasinski’s Mediterranean cuisine (black-truffle gnocchi, lamb chorizo pizza) is all the rage at this hip Larimer Square eatery. Catch the kitchen action at one of two chef’s counters—one with four seats, the other with seven.
The Restaurant at the Setai
2001 Collins Ave., 305-520-6000, setai.com
This global fusion restaurant, in the Setai hotel in South Beach, has a four-seat counter facing the kitchen area where the pastry chefs create their sweet confections, including macaroons and coconut-and–white chocolate rolls.
JILL FERGUS is a freelance writer in New York.