1. Atelier Restaurants
Chefs as well-fed artists is nothing new. But the concept of restaurants as art studio, a place where innovation is not just illustrated but a living, breathing thing to be scrutinized by diners, has become even more prevalent over the past year. Restaurants are moving past the sequestered creative space to the dining room itself, letting the entire restaurant act as canvas. Take Chris Nugent’s Goosefoot, a tiny BYOB restaurant where every aspect of dining is an artistic expression: the locally crafted banquettes, the china, the building itself, and, of course, the delicately designed food. Cambridge’s Jason Bond has done much the same at Bondir, where he’s taken his years of charcuterie knowledge and applied it to vegetables, testing out new and beautiful manipulations of simple, fresh produce. There’s always Matt Lightner’s Atera, a tasting menu-only spot where dishes are a stylistic duet of foraging and sous vide cooking. Or Alexandre Gauthier, who has inherited a 350-year tradition at La Grenouillère and uses that history to showcase the produce of the French countryside in naturalistic, impressionistic swaths. Newer and notable additions to this trend include Honolulu’s Vintage Cave (where Hawaiian regional cuisine meets Japanese kaiseki, set inside a private wine club), Phillip Lopez’s Square Root in New Orleans (his 15-seat “grown-up version” of Root), and Jose Garces's soon-to-open Volver in Philadelphia, all of which are fundamentally changing their respective markets. Never before have restaurants, and their chefs, taken such a purely artistic approach to cooking, looking to at once confuse and comfort, to present food as reflection of self, take it or leave it.
Sunchoke Soup, Potato, Shrimp, and Truffle Essence from from Chef Chris Nugent of Goosefoot – Chicago, IL