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Turning Tables: Michel Mina Debuts Orla at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas

Who’s behind it: Orla is the latest Las Vegas restaurant from chef Michael Mina and his Mina Group, the culinary force behind a dozen Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners, including his Bungalow Kitchen in Tiburon, Calif., Estiatorio Ornos in San Francisco and seven Bourbon Steak locations across the United States. Mina is partnering with the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and the restaurant is taking over the space formerly occupied by Hubert Keller’s Fleur at the resort.

Why you should know about it: Mina—who was born in Cairo, Egypt, but raised in the U.S.—oversees a range of restaurant concepts, including four others in Las Vegas. But Orla stands out for the chef’s deep exploration of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, calling back to his ancestry. Corporate wine director and Master Sommelier Jeremy Shanker has created an impressively large wine list focused primarily on Mediterranean wineries, including lesser-known producers across Lebanon, Santorini, Croatia, Sicily and Corsica.

When it opened: Orla opened Jan. 16, 2024.

[article-img-container][src=2024-03/turning-tables-orla-interior-030724_1600.jpg] [credit= (Anthony Mair)] [alt= The interior of Orla by Michael Mina, with dark blue walls, warm lighting, and greenery][end: article-img-container]

The culinary approach: A three-course prix-fixe menu is available for the table at $97 per person; it includes a handful of starters and entrées, with sides to share and two shareable desserts. The à la carte menu is also designed for sharing and is broken into several sections: cold and hot mezze dishes, grains and pastas, fish and grilled meats and accompaniments.

Many dishes tap into Mina’s heritage and have been years in the making, according to Shanker. “When I see the food come out, I’m reminded of the dishes that the chef was coming up with in 2018 and 2019,” Shanker told Wine Spectator, pointing to the evolution of one dish in particular, Mina’s Egyptian-influenced stew of mulukhiyah (jute mallow) with tomato-shellfish and leeks.

Shanker also highlighted the New York strip prepared with hawaij (a Yemenite spice blend) and served with matbucha (a Moroccan dish of cooked tomatoes and red bell peppers), charred scallions and white yam—a new take on steak and potatoes.

What’s on the wine list: Orla opened with 1,600 labels on the wine list assembled by Shanker, who has worked with Mina Group since 2015 when he joined the team at the now-closed RN74 in San Francisco. (In 2017, Shanker became lead sommelier at Mina’s flagship San Francisco restaurant, Michael Mina, which closed in 2021.) Shanker’s program is a treasure trove for wine lovers, with vertical depth and regional breadth, especially from countries around the Mediterranean, including the Levant.

[article-img-container][src=2024-03/turning-tables-orla-dishes-030724_1600.jpg] [credit= (Anthony Mair)] [alt= Plates with macaroni Béchamel with mushroom duxelle and crab fregula alongside a glass of red wine][end: article-img-container]

In addition, California is well represented, particularly Napa Valley. These wines range from newer vintages made by Shafer and Caymus to older and rarer bottlings such as 1980s Grace Family Cabernets.

Aficionados of aged wines can find an extensive library of Montrachet from Burgundy and older Bordeauxs like a 1947 from Pichon Longueville Lalande and 1949s from Cheval Blanc and Latour. Shanker’s list also features older bottles from Chateau Musar in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, including 1997 and 1975 blends of the Obaideh and Merwah grapes. “In the right vintage, it’s one of the great wines of the world,” said Shanker.

The design: New York firm Parts and Labor Design created an inviting and earthy space at Orla. The dining room features white, pink, blue, gold and orange accents. Two large olive trees tower over the center of the room, while vaulted ceilings and woven chandeliers lend a Mediterranean vibe. A private dining room, dubbed the Odyssey, can accommodate groups of up to 22 in an area partially separated from the main space.—Aaron Romano

New French Restaurant Amour Comes to West Hollywood

Who’s behind it: Located along Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood, Amour is a new endeavor from restaurateur Thomas Fuks, who owns nearby restaurant and nightclub Members; Fuks is also a co-founder of 111 Agency, a marketing agency operating in Los Angeles and Paris. The restaurant’s executive chef is Dani Chavez-Bello, formerly of Spain’s famed El Bulli and New York’s Bouley (both now closed). Thibaud Duccini, formerly of Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Wally’s in Beverly Hills, is the general manager and wine director.

When it opened: Amour opened its doors on Dec. 22, 2023.

Why you should know about it: Amour offers an elevated French brasserie atmosphere with a combination of French culinary classics and Japanese influences across its two tasting menus and à la carte menu. The concise wine list is a Francophile’s dream, and guests can also enjoy a lively bar area and a lounge with a fireplace.

The restaurant is located within the space formerly occupied by Dominik’s, an iconic West Hollywood eatery that shuttered in 2015; the space has largely remained empty since 2018, when successor restaurant Verlaine closed.

[article-img-container][src=2024-03/turning-tables-amour-fireplace-03072024_1600.jpg] [credit= (111agency)] [alt= Two leather chairs next to a fireplace, surrounded by wine bottles.][end: article-img-container]

The culinary approach: Fuks described Amour’s cuisine as classic French dining with lighter and more approachable options. “The Los Angeles consumer can be tricky,” he explained, noting that Angelenos are known for following healthful dieting trends. “We wanted to accommodate [them] but still offer a full experience.”

For example, the à la carte menu offers two tartare dishes: One is based around beets and the other, more traditional, features steak and a quail egg. A carpaccio made from celery root also leans toward the lighter side. Alongside the five- and eight-course tasting menus are separate vegetarian and vegan tasting menus, which include dishes like vegan chawanmushi (traditionally an egg-based custard) and a kohlrabi “steak” with mushrooms in a truffle glaze.

Diners seeking French fare can find dishes such as sole meunière, steak au poivre and boeuf Bourguignon.

[article-img-container][src=2024-03/turning-tables-amour-carpaccio-de-gambas-03072024_1600.jpg] [credit= (111agency)] [alt= Plate of shrimp carpaccio, dotted with green herb oils][end: article-img-container]

What’s on the wine list: Duccini has compiled a list of about 100 selections, 80 percent of which are French. “There’s little California and Italian, but it made more sense, [considering the food], to focus on French,” he said. The by-the-glass program’s two dozen offerings give attention to smaller wineries and lesser-known regions such as Saumur in France’s Loire Valley. “It allows for more curiosity and education,” explained Duccini. Meanwhile, the bottle list explores primarily Burgundy and Bordeaux, with aged bottles such as Château Cheval Blanc St.-Emilion Le Petit Cheval 2011 and Château Palmer Margaux 2012.

The neighborhood and design: West Hollywood is known for its lively atmosphere and buzzy restaurant scene. Fuks’ wife, Abbie, designed the restaurant, which drips Parisian elegance with 18th-century French wood floors, antique lights and tapestry chairs in a candlelit space featuring gold, emerald and earth tones. “We really wanted it to look authentic and feel like you’re in a French house,” said Fuks. Outside, the restaurant’s brick-lined, garden-like courtyard offers a chic yet cozy vibe.—A.R.

Award-Winning Restaurant Group Opens Acadia in New York

Who’s behind it: Acadia is a new restaurant from leading New York City restaurateur Simon Oren and his Chef Driven Hospitality group.

Why you should know about it: Acadia is the fifteenth restaurant in the Chef Driven Hospitality portfolio, which includes Grand Award winner Nice Matin, Best of Award of Excellence winner Barbounia and Award of Excellence winners Dagon, Isabelle’s Osteria, Marseille and Nizza.

When it opened: Acadia opened Dec. 13, 2023, on West 57th Street and Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

[article-img-container][src=2024-03/turning-tables-acadia-vegetables-030724_1600.jpg] [credit= (Acadia/Chef Driven Hospitality)] [alt= Different Israeli mezze dishes with glasses of wine.][end: article-img-container]

The culinary approach: Acadia draws its menu ideas from the open-air markets and the spices of the Levant region of the Eastern Mediterranean. “[It] was inspired by my memories of growing up in Haifa in Israel,” Oren told Wine Spectator via email. “I wanted to bring something from my roots into New York, the city that I love and live in now.” Chef and restaurant partner Ari Bokovza offers mezze options like chicken liver mousse and hummus with braised leeks, along with smaller plates like eggplant carpaccio, pastas like squid ink tagliatelle and entrées such as duck-merguez cassoulet and black bass tagine. “I hope Acadia will provide a space for Levantine cuisine to grow and flourish in the city,” Oren added.

What’s on the wine list: As at Oren’s other restaurants, beverage director Aviram Turgeman leads the wine program at Acadia. The roughly 175 selections on the list (representing a 2,000-bottle inventory) include 20 Champagnes and sparkling wines, plus more than 20 wines served by the glass. France is a main strength, with options from leading wineries in Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc-Roussillon and the Rhône Valley. Those picks include bottles from Château de Beaucastel, Chandon de Briailles, Château Gloria and more.

[article-img-container][src=2024-03/turning-tables-acadia-interior-03072024_1600.jpg] [credit= (Acadia/Chef Driven Hospitality)] [alt= The interior of Acadia, decorated with green and orange tiles, plants, and spherical lights.][end: article-img-container]

Selections from other Mediterranean countries cover Spain, Portugal, Italy, Israel and Lebanon, while California choices touch on Sonoma Chardonnay (Kistler), Napa Cabernet (Mount Eden Vineyards and more.)

“I think we are bringing [Levantine] flavors with a translation to the people who are new to it or not familiar with it,” said Turgeman, who came to New York from Israel in 2001. “One can try a Moroccan Syrah with a shawarma-spiced lamb neck; I think it is a first for many!” Turgeman hopes the wine experience at Acadia will be “the easiest-going and friendly,” with selections fit for all guest preferences.

The design: Scott Kester designed the two-floor, 100-seat restaurant, which boasts an open kitchen, a brass rotisserie and a tabun oven for making bread. The space also features a 2,500-square-foot mezzanine, two bar areas and three private dining rooms.—Collin Dreizen

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