Grand Award–Winning Wally’s Goes All In on Vegas


Wally’s, the retail-restaurant hybrid with a Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning location in Beverly Hills, Calif., has arrived in Las Vegas. This is the second expansion for the brand, which also has a Best of Award of Excellence winner in Santa Monica, Calif.

The newest outpost opened along with the encompassing Resorts World property on June 24, the first resort to be built on the Strip in over a decade. It’s a home that co-owner Christian Navarro says perfectly matches the Wally’s ethos thanks to its inviting, all-inclusive layout and feel. “It had to be Resorts World, and it had to be Las Vegas.”

Like the other Wally’s, this location combines a full-service restaurant with an interactive and experiential retail component selling quality provisions like meats, cheeses, specialty food items, wine and beer. “I’m trying to blur the lines between stores and restaurants—I’m just trying to create lifestyle,” Navarro said. “You like it, you eat it, you drink it, you buy it.”

At 3,500 selections, the opening wine list is already a similar size to those at the other locations, but Navarro expects that to grow to about 5,000 or 6,000. That’s in addition to about 1,500 spirits that are currently available, and that list will grow as well.

Wine director Michael Rone, formerly of Grand Award winner Joël Robuchon Restaurant, runs the program. The offerings maintain the hallmark strengths of Wally’s wine lists: Namely California, France and Italy, with specific emphasis on California’s Napa Valley and Central Coast, France’s Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône, and Italy’s Tuscany and Piedmont. As with the other lists, the wines are sourced based on long relationships with properties that go back generations.

There are highlights like aged selections from Château Latour and Château Haut-Brion and a wide variety of vintages from big names like Colgin and Harlan Estate. But even with top picks like these, Navarro says the price model of adding $40 to retail prices creates a level of value that’s not available elsewhere on the Strip. “It’s allowing people to buy up [and purchase] things that they normally might not afford,” he said. “Now they can actually drink these things that they’ve never had a chance to, at relative bargains.” He says it’s even drawing local wine drinkers that tend to avoid the Strip due to often-inflated prices.

The by-the-glass program is inviting as well, with a broad selection of about 100 to 150 wines. “I want to give plenty of options, anything from Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc, which is $11 a glass, to Screaming Eagle at $1,000 a glass.”

The menu features signature items like an American Wagyu burger and steak frites, plus pizzas and starters like peach caprese and hamachi crudo. And this Wally’s has a larger kitchen with some extra, high-performing grills that can accommodate specialty meats and fish. “We’re able to create probably some of the best products that we have ever done,” Navarro said.

While Vegas was the ideal fit for Wally’s latest expansion (Navarro actually expects it to become the flagship) he says the brand is still “in growth mode,” considering locations around the world including Miami, New York, London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Tokyo—anywhere with “a density of cultured people.”—Julie Harans

Thomas Keller Opens Caviar and Champagne Lounge in Napa

Deviled eggs are among the caviar-topped menu items at Thomas Keller’s latest pop-up. (David Escalante)

Thomas Keller, the chef-restaurateur behind Grand Award winners the French Laundry and Per Se, opened a pop-up in Yountville, Calif., on June 26. Located just down the street from the French Laundry, Regiis Ova Caviar & Champagne Lounge is a collaboration with caviar entrepreneur Shaoching Bishop, who co-founded the Regiis Caviar brand with Keller in 2017.

“We felt a caviar and Champagne lounge could be a wonderful way for guests to enjoy something before or after dinner, whether to relax with a glass of wine and listen to live jazz piano or [to snack],” Keller told Wine Spectator via email.

Per Se beverage director Michel Couvreux and the French Laundry head sommelier Andrew Adelson oversee the lounge’s wine program. “[The list has] a small, curated selection of 20 Champagnes, 12 white and 12 red wines, with many available by the glass,” Couvreux said, adding that Champagne offerings include producers such as Krug, Ruinart and Dom Pérignon. The caviar-friendly list also has wines from Napa, Sonoma, Provence, Burgundy and farther abroad. There’s a range of bottle formats, as well as rarer bottlings like Moët & Chandon’s Brut Champagne Dom Pérignon Plénitude P2 2000. Wine from Modicum, a label co-created by Keller, is also available.

“Caviar can be an everyday luxury,” Bishop said in a statement. “With the lounge, we now have the opportunity to demystify caviar and invite guests to learn about our featured varieties and sustainable sourcing practices.” Working with Bishop, Keller oversees the lounge’s cuisine with chefs Devin Knell and Ross Melling. The menu is, of course, focused on caviar and its classic accompaniments, with several styles available (a flight of caviars is available for $95). But there are other options, like Daniel Boulud smoked salmon, oysters, French onion dip and bluefin tuna tartare. Highlighting the lounge’s main attraction, larger dishes are topped with a caviar quenelle. Desserts include chocolate bars from Keller’s K+M Extravirgin project.

“People are just excited to be out and about, regardless of the format,” Keller said. “The lounge provides a different type of social interaction outside of a restaurant.” Designer Ken Fulk is behind the lounge’s aesthetic, which evokes a garden environment with natural textures and a sea-green color scheme accented by handwoven seagrass, Belgian linen and gray Marquina marble. A series of musicians will be performing on the lounge’s piano several nights a week, with a DJ providing additional tunes. The lounge is tentatively slated to stay open through the fall.—Collin Dreizen

New York Indian Restaurant Junoon Reopens in New Location

 The bar area at Junoon

The bar area can accommodate 29 people at the relocated Junoon. (Courtesy of Junoon)

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close in March 2020, Best of Award of Excellence winner Junoon has reopened in New York City in a new location, with some changes to the wine program and menu. First opened in 2010, the destination serves modern Indian cuisine with a diverse wine list spanning 300 selections with strengths in Burgundy, California and Germany.

Like many restaurateurs, owner Rajesh Bhardwaj experimented with offering carry-out and outdoor dining last year, but later resorted to temporarily halting operations with plans to return. It soon became clear that reopening in the same space wasn’t a possibility, but then, a stroke of luck: A space became available just two doors away from the former restaurant in the Flatiron District. “We were going to rebuild and restart,” Bhardwaj said.

Following months of renovations and planning, the new Junoon debuted June 29. The dining areas are smaller and more intimate, with a fresh design, and there’s a private dining room with a glass-walled wine cellar. Departing from the former tasting-menu format, chef Akshay Bhardwaj’s cuisine is now available à la carte. Akshay has added several new vegetarian options as well as a new octopus dish and three chaats, which are a common Indian street food.

Wine director Amy Mitchell updated the 250-selection wine list as well, adding more selections from New York’s Finger Lakes region. “We wanted the wine list to be in the same spirit as the food,” Mitchell said. “Chef Akshay goes to the market weekly, and he buys fresh ingredients, and local ingredients, so I thought there’s nothing better than to add some local wines, in the spirit of ‘what grows together goes together.’”

While it’s been just a couple of weeks since the reopening, Bhardwaj is already feeling highly optimistic. “I would have never thought this last year, but I expect business to be better than the pre-pandemic days,” he said. “That’s how [much] the business has come back.”—Jessie Lauck

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