The Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles Debuts Sendero from Chef Kevin Luzande

The new restaurant encompasses four concepts inspired by the chef's travels through Mexico, Argentina and beyond, with a wine list to match; plus New York's Eli Zabar reopens Eli's Table on the Upper East Side

The Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles Debuts Sendero from Chef Kevin Luzande
Corteza aims to capture some of the magic of enjoying fresh seafood along Mexico's Baja coast, though with stunning views of the L.A. skyline instead of the Pacific Ocean. (Don Riddle)
Apr 20, 2023

There’s a new restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles. Actually, that’s an understatement: The floor has multiple new restaurants. Earlier this year, chef Kevin Luzande—formerly of Acre Restaurant in Los Cabos, Mexico—debuted Sendero, a project encompassing four culinary concepts. These join a global portfolio of impressive restaurants in the Ritz-Carlton family, including 13 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners.

The four restaurants draw from Luzande’s experiences traveling the Pan-American Highway to Latin American countries along the Pacific coastline; indeed, Sendero translates to “path” in Spanish, and the concepts are connected by a literal pathway. “As a native Angeleno, and surrounded by the Latin community, I've always been excited by the cuisine and culture in Mexico, Central and South America,” Luzande told Wine Spectator via email. “It's an honor and privilege to share my interpretation.”

The first two concepts to premier are Corteza and Leña. Inspired by Mexico’s coastal Baja region, Corteza puts the spotlight on seafood with dishes like Peruvian-style ceviches and a Portuguese stew of clams, shrimp and octopus. Leña, a steak house, draws influence from Argentina and offers Wagyu steaks as well as seafood platters, carpaccio and grilled provolone-style cheese (aka provoleta). “Creating a unique menu for four dining concepts has been the most exciting challenge of my career,” Luzande explained. “We hope guests will enjoy discovering dishes that they might not find in another restaurant in Los Angeles.”

Next to open will be Sendero’s Agave Library, a semi-private space for guests to enjoy a collection of agave-based spirits like tequila and mezcal, including rarer bottlings. Complementing these drinks are food pairings like a flaming chocolate skull. Later this year comes Volante, the fourth concept, a chef’s table where Luzande will offer a tasting menu.

 The dark-hued dining room of Leña, with views of the L.A. skyline
Inspired by elements of Argentina's steak houses, Leña offers a different atmosphere. (Don Riddle)

Erik Intermill, assistant director of food and beverage at the hotel, has put together Sendero’s growing, 220-label list. There’s plenty from Argentina, California, Chile and Uruguay, including Mendoza Malbec, Napa Cabernet and white wine from Casablanca Valley. “The journey starts in California and ends at the southern tip of Chile,” said Intermill, noting the wide range of wines available along that route. One of the list’s main focuses is on winemakers from California and Europe who have established wineries in South America, represented by the likes of Paul Hobb’s Viña Cobos.

Additional options from France (particularly Burgundy and the Loire), Germany, New Zealand and beyond add even more diverse options. “Our wine list will continue to evolve as we procure those rare, allocated wines and library vintage releases,” Intermill explained. “But we are confident that our patrons will always find the perfect wine for a personalized and memorable experience.”

EDG Interior Architecture + Design has given each space a distinctive look: Corteza features a turquoise bar, terracotta tiles and lively colors and textiles. In contrast, Leña, which combines influences from Argentina’s Gaucho culture and Art Deco design, is adorned with charcoal walls and draperies. Volante’s design draws from the bars of the upscale Recoleta neighborhood in Buenos Aires, with gold elements and brass lighting fixtures. Uniting all these spaces are impressive views of the Los Angeles skyline.

“We want Sendero to fulfill a taste for wanderlust across the Latin cuisines and cultures,” said Luzande. “We invite guests to take this journey with us.”—C.D.

Eli Zabar Reopens Eli’s Table on Manhattan’s Upper East Side

 Portrait of Eli Zabar in front of shelves of wines, with more wine bottles in front of him
Gourmet grocer and restaurateur Eli Zabar doesn't believe in serving any wine before its time. (Courtesy of Eli's Table)

In late March, following a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Eli’s Table reopened in its longtime Third Avenue location, attached to the flagship Eli’s Market boutique grocery, on New York’s Upper East Side. A former Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner, from entrepreneur Eli Zabar, it remains a destination for wine lovers.

Eli’s Table first opened as Taste in 2003, followed by a revamp under its current name in 2014. Other Eli Zabar projects on the Upper East Side include Bar 91 (a casual wine bar and dinner spot), Eli’s List (a wine shop), Eli’s Night Shift (a beer bar) and E.A.T. (a café and takeout spot), home of the recently noteworthy $30 ham-and-cheese sandwich. (Zabar's, on the Upper West Side, is run by a different set of family members.)

Chef Moctezuma Garcia, who has worked with Eli Zabar for more than 20 years, retains his focus on the season’s best ingredients, many of which are from Eli’s rooftop gardens. The current menu spotlights early spring’s bounty with dishes such as white asparagus, Maryland soft shell crab, homemade pappardelle with rock shrimp and polenta with morel mushrooms. Fans of Eli’s Table classics can expect to see veal Milanese and matzo ball soup, along with the restaurant’s variety of desserts.

Wine director Kilian Robin, who oversees wine for all Eli Zabar ventures, has put together a rotating selection of around 30 by-the-glass offerings, six poured using a Coravin preservation system. This includes older vintages from Burgundy’s Arlaud and Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey.

Altogether, the bottle list boasts more than 1,000 selections, with wines from Eli Zabar’s own cellar (now approaching 60,000 bottles) added as they reach maturity. “We’re not going to sell anything that we don’t think has reached the beginning of its drinking window,” Sasha Zabar, Eli’s son, explained to Wine Spectator. (Guests can read more about this philosophy in the list’s introduction.) “At Eli’s Table, we’re definitely ‘ageist’ in that we believe age matters.”

 The front dining area of Eli's Table with light coming in through the windows facing the street
While some elements of Eli's Table have been refreshed with the reopening, and the wine list has been updated with vintages reaching their peak, the focus on Old World wines remains the same. (Courtesy of Eli's Table)

Eli Zabar continued buying wines during the pandemic, “protecting the integrity of the verticals and maintaining the allocations of rare wines,” and many wines that reached maturity during the restaurant’s closure are now in the Eli’s Table lineup. The program boasts particular depth in Burgundy, represented by leading domaines: Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, Simon Bize and Marquis d’Angerville, among others. Guests can find rare offerings from the rest of France (especially Champagne), Italy and other European countries as well. “We also care a lot about the other places where we can have fun discovering who’s new and exciting,” said Robin. “[For instance], we believe Spain is the most exciting place to discover precise, well-made wines … from a new wave of winemakers.”

Per Sasha Zabar, the restaurant remains “faithful to our original philosophy: seasonal, pristine ingredients, prepared and presented in a simple, unfussy way accompanied by Old World wines from growers respectful of their land.” With the reopening, the restaurant’s glassware, cocktail selection and dining room have been updated; still, the focus on creating a fun, relaxed and educational wine experience endures. To that end, Eli’s Table will host wine events, including tastings with food pairings and region- or producer-focused wine dinners.—K.M.

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