Aldino’s in Chicago; Boston’s Menton; Hibiscus in Oakland; and Other New Reviews

Reviews and previews of restaurants on the OpenTable network…

* Diners will like the “mom-and-pop touches” at Aldino’s in Chicago, says Phil Vettel. [Chicago Tribune]

* Denver restaurant reviewer Tucker Shaw revisits a restaurant a second time for the first time, and he finds Black Pearl to be a true “gem.” [Denver Post]

CAV Winebar and Kitchen chef John Maher is a star, according to Michael Bauer.[SF Gate]

Elements Kitchen in Pasadena has “all the elements of success,” according to S. Irene Virbila.[Los Angeles Times]

* Carol Ness calls Oakland restaurant Hibiscus “fine dining that’s fun.” [SF Gate]

* New New York City restaurant Leona’s, located in The Helmsley, promises to offer “the best service in the city.” [The New York Times]

* Sam Sifton calls The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges “a welcome addition” to New York’s Upper East Side. [The New York Times]

* Patrick Main digs the scene and the food at Menton, Barbara Lynch’s latest Boston restaurant. [WeeklyDig.com]

Continue reading…

OpenTable for Nokia Is Now Available for Symbian S60 5.0 touch Devices

We are pleased to announce that OpenTable for Nokia is now available on Ovi Store by Nokia, allowing diners to reserve tables instantly and for free at thousands of restaurants in the UK, U.S., Canada and Mexico. Key features include the ability to:
* Find restaurants around your current location with availability and book on the spot
* Refine search results by cuisine, price and points
* Read fresh and relevant reviews by recent OpenTable diners
* Manage upcoming reservations
* Send SMS messages with reservation details to the rest of your dinner party
OpenTable for Nokia is available  for Symbian S60  5.0  touch device users residing in the UK, U.S., Canada and Mexico. Users of non-touch Nokia devices such as the Nokia E72 will be able to download the app in the coming weeks.
OpenTable for Nokia is the company’s latest smartphone application, following the releases of applications for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm.

Nokia1 OpenTable for Nokia Is Now Available for Symbian S60 5.0 touch DevicesWe are pleased to announce that OpenTable for Nokia is now available on Ovi Store by Nokia, allowing diners to reserve tables instantly and for free at thousands of restaurants in the UK, US, Canada, and Mexico. Key features include the ability to:

* Find restaurants around your current location with availability and book on the spot

* Refine search results by cuisine, price and points

* Read fresh and relevant reviews by recent OpenTable diners

* Manage upcoming reservations

* Send SMS messages with reservation details to the rest of your dinner party

OpenTable for Nokia is available for Symbian S60 5.0 touch device users residing in the UK, US, Canada and Mexico. Users of non-touch Nokia devices such as the Nokia E72 will be able to download the app in the coming weeks.

OpenTable for Nokia is the company’s latest smartphone application, following the releases of applications for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm.

Kelly Liken Talks ‘Iron Chef’; Marc Forgione Shows a Patron the Door; and More

Chefs in the news…

* Sacré bleu! Daniel Boulud (Bar Boulud) is planning a new NYC restaurant — and it’s not going to be French. [Eater]

* Marcus Samuelsson exits the kitchen at Aquavit. Officially. [Slashfood]

* Chefs of the future may not even have — gasp! — restaurants. I’m not sure that’s a world I’m ready for. [Eater]

* R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to Dirt Candy chef Amanda Cohen. [Grub Street New York]

* Tom Colicchio (Craftbar), David Chang, Wylie Dufresne (wd-50), and Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin) walk into a bar…. Well, not really. They actually walked onto the set of HBO’s Big Easy-themed show Treme. [Eater New York]

* Colorado-based chef Kelly Liken, whose eponymous restaurant is highly regarded, talks about the mettle it takes to appear on “Iron Chef.” [NRN]

Continue reading…

‘The Restaurateur’ Danny Meyer Is Ready for His Close Up

Danny Meyer The Restaurateur Danny Meyer Is Ready for His Close Up
Photo: Ellen Silverman

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to open a restaurant in Manhattan? How about two — at once? Wonder no more. Eater reports that a new documentary about Danny Meyer, one of New York’s most esteemed and successful restaurateurs, is about to hit the big screen. Thanks to The Restaurateur, for the first time, you can see what it took to bring Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park and the stylish Tabla to life — at the very same time. The film follows Meyer, who serves on the Board of Directors for OpenTable, and the evolution Eleven Madison Park, from its brasserie origins to its current four-star status, which was a result of the arrival of chef Daniel Humm.

In addition to Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group includes Blue Smoke, Gramercy Tavern, Maialino, The Modern, Union Square Cafe, and others, a pre-”Top Chef” Tom Colicchio (Craft) also appears in the film.

Have you eaten at a Union Square Hospitality Group restaurant? Which one is your favorite? Share your opinion here or over on Facebook.

Food Allergies and Preferences Put Even the Best Chefs to the Test

Food Allergies Food Allergies and Preferences Put Even the Best Chefs to the Test Lately it seems as though you can’t dine out (or in) with a group of friends without dining with someone who has food allergies — or strong food preferences. Be it an allergy to dairy, gluten, nuts, or seafood or a preference for raw foods or vegan cuisine, diners are testing the mettle of many chefs with extreme special requests. Janny Hu, of the San Francisco Chronicle, visits the issue, talking with chefs at Coi, La Mar Cebicheri­a Peruana, and Saison to find out how they handle multiple special requests — often from the same individual.

Find out if the diner is ALWAYS right, and let us know what you think about folks who make multiple special requests relating to ingredients. Should someone who is allergic to dairy and gluten expect to be accommodated at a pizza place? Should chefs be ready to prepare raw foods on a moment’s notice? Weigh in here or over on Facebook.

Michael Bauer Defines Fine Dining; Colicchio Recommends It; and More

This week in dining trends…

* A reader asks San Francisco Chronicle restaurant reviewer Michael Bauer talk about what “fine dining” means  — leading him to wonder if it means anything anymore. [SF Gate]

* Tom Colicchio (Colicchio & Sons) is (shocker!) a fan of fine dining, and he debunks some myths about the experience to CNN. [CNN]

* The stroller set has plenty of eating options in the Big Apple, as high-end restaurants embrace little foodies. [The New York Times]

* Speaking of kids, child and parenting behavior expert Priscilla J. Dunstan has her own tips for taking the little ones out to dinner. [KansasCity.com]

* The size of your server is directly related to the size of your order. [Slashfood]

* Your server’s tableside manner is directly related to your enjoyment of your order. [Seattle Times]

Chef Michael Mina Talks About His Mother’s Middle Eastern Recipes on His Menus

Chef Michael Mina Chef Michael Mina Talks About His Mothers Middle Eastern Recipes on His Menus
Photo: Courtesy of Mina Group

It may be hard to picture some of today’s most influential chefs in tiny toques, but they, too, were small children at one time, with big appetites and big dreams, both of which were likely fed by their mothers. This week, OpenTable checked in with four famous chefs to find out exactly how their mothers have influenced their careers, their kitchens, and even their menus. Our series concludes with the gifted Michael Mina, whose restaurants include the eponymous and Michelin-starred MICHAEL MINA as well as RN74 in San Francisco.

Born in Cairo and raised in Ellensburg, Washington, chef Michael Mina’s mother helped shape his palate early in his life. Says Mina, 42, “My mom is a fantastic cook of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine, and a couple of the recipes I use in my restaurants are hers, from my childhood meals at home.”

Of these very personal dishes diners can delight in, Mina, reveals, “A few of my mom’s recipes that I incorporate into some of my restaurants include the falafel recipe for my falafel burger, which has been on the Bourbon Steak bar burger menus for more than a year, as well as a traditional Middle Eastern dish of chickpeas, lentils, rice, peppers and onions, called kusheri, which has been served at my Seablue restaurants for many years.”

Falafel Burger1 Chef Michael Mina Talks About His Mothers Middle Eastern Recipes on His Menus
Photo: Courtesy of Mina Group

He continues, “Both of these dishes she made for me, and our family, when I was young. I loved them so much and am so pleased to be able to use them today in my restaurants.  It really is to honor her.”

“Iron Chef” Jose Garces on Inheriting His Love of Cooking from His Mother

Chef Jose Garces Iron Chef Jose Garces on Inheriting His Love of Cooking from His Mother
Photo: Courtesy of Garces Restaurant Group

Jose Garces wasn’t born an “Iron Chef” but this top competitor, James Beard award-winning chef, and master of Latin cuisine’s culinary ambitions took shape from an early age. An American chef born to Ecuadorian parents and raised in Chicago, Chef Garces began his culinary training in the kitchen of his paternal grandmother and mother.

The winner of “The Next Iron Chef,” Chef Garces, whose Philadelphia restaurants include Amada, Distrito, and Tinto, notes, “My introduction to food came in our family kitchen, growing up in Chicago. My mother was always an amazing cook, and she loved to involve us in preparing meals. That was doubly true when her mother-in-law, my Mamita Amada, for whom my first restaurant is named, came to visit from Ecuador. She would stay for a week or longer, and it seemed as if she never left the kitchen.” He continues, “I was always drawn to the warmth of working beside the two of them to create hearty meals for our family, and that love of cooking is what eventually led me to culinary school and my career.”

Garces, who is now appearing on the 2010 season of “Iron Chef America,” says, “Even today, many of the dishes that we serve at my restaurants are inspired by their recipes. My mother was something of a wizard with empanadas, and I’ve re-imagined them on the menus of many of my restaurants, including a signature ‘Amada’s Empanada at Amada that has been a top-selling menu item since we opened in October 2005. It’s a plantain pastry stuffed with manchego cheese and spinach, served sliced open over an artichoke escabeche.  I also serve a jumbo lump crab-stuffed version at Chifa, with sweet chile reduction and shaved cucumber.”

“I’ve been privileged to work with some of the finest chefs in America and Spain,” says Chef Garces, “but my passion for cooking comes from my early memories…. Even when I was a child, I was drawn to the joy of cooking a great meal. I have always loved the way that food can transform a person’s whole outlook and really make their day.”

Chef Daniel Humm on What His Mom Taught Him About Sourcing Ingredients

Daniel Humm Chef Daniel Humm on What His Mom Taught Him About Sourcing IngredientsA native of Switzerland, Daniel Humm, executive chef at Eleven Madison Park, knew from an early age that his true passion was cooking. The son of an architect, Daniel took his inherited sense of structure and design and applied it to the kitchen, but he learned the importance of sourcing ingredients from his mother, Brigitte. “My mom was a stay-at-home mom and a great cook. Living in a small town surrounded by farms, she always paid a lot of attention to where she purchased ingredients. She knew who had the best milk, the best carrots, and the best eggs,” he says. “On rainy days, the farm-fresh lettuce would be kind of dirty, and, as a child, I didn’t understand the point of getting this lettuce you had to wash five or six times, and she would say, ‘When you taste it, you will it understand the difference.’ At an early age, then, my mother helped me understand the importance of where and how you shop — and today I appreciate that even more.”

While there’s not a particular dish on his current menu that comes from his mother, Chef Humm, who helped Eleven Madison Park earn its first Michelin star and who recently won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: New York City, says, “It’s the whole thing my mother showed me. We are so focused on letting individual ingredients shine. If a carrot or a leek is on a plate, we want to source it the best way and make sure that it really tastes like a leek. It’s about the pure taste of food.”

Growing up, Mother’s Day was a day for dining out. He remembers, “For Mother’s Day at our house, that was the only day when my mom wouldn’t cook. That was the day we would go out and enjoy a meal at a restaurant. My brothers and sisters and I would make breakfast that day, and then we would go out for lunch or dinner so that way my mom had nothing to worry about.”

James Beard Foundation Awards 2010 Winners: Congratulations!

James Beard Awards 2010 nominees James Beard Foundation Awards 2010 Winners: Congratulations!Earlier this week, the James Beard Foundation announced the winners of their prestigious awards for 2010. They include:

BEST NEW RESTAURANT:
* Marea, New York, New York
Chef/Partner: Michael White; Partner: Chris Cannon

OUTSTANDING CHEF AWARD:
* Tom Colicchio, Craft and Colicchio & Sons

OUTSTANDING PASTRY CHEF AWARD
* Nicole Plue, Redd, Yountville, California

OUTSTANDING RESTAURANT AWARD
* Daniel, New York, New York
Chef/Owner: Daniel Boulud; Owner: Joel Smilow

OUTSTANDING WINE SERVICE AWARD
* Jean Georges, New York, New York
Wine Director: Bernard Sun

RISING STAR CHEF OF THE YEAR AWARD
* Timothy Hollingsworth, The French Laundry, Yountville, California

BEST CHEFS IN AMERICA
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
* Jeff Michaud, Osteria, Philadelphia, Pennsyvlania

Best Chef: Midwest
* Alexander Roberts, Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Best Chef: New York City
* Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park

Best Chef: Northwest
* Jason Wilson, Crush, Seattle, Washington

Best Chef: Pacific
* David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, California

Best Chef: South
* Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami, Florida

Best Chef: Southeast
* Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, South Carolina