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Grace Finds Its Heart, Gets a Fourth Star

The food at Curtis Duffy’s restaurant continues to be amazing—now with a warmer experience.

1. Rhubarb dessert 2. Putting the finishing touches on English peas 3. Service captain Amy Cordell photographing a new dish 4. Chef-owner Curtis Duffy 5. Alaska king crab 6. Kitchen crew having staff meal Photos: Jeff Marini

As good as Grace has always been on paper, a cold impersonality long hovered over it: the food gorgeous yet clinical; the staff aloof. The enterprise had the chops of a four-star restaurant—but the soul of a Fortune 500 company. I gave it three and a half stars in 2013—a stellar debut, if not in line with the restaurant’s ambition. Three years later, the edges have softened enough to let the spot’s true identity emerge.

During a recent visit, partner and general manager Michael Muser treated every guest warmly, staffers seamlessly choreographed the meal, and irresistible tales of vineyards and personalities accompanied each of sommelier Valerie Cao’s inspired wine pairings.

Chef-partner Curtis Duffy and his laser-focused crew proved their creativity anew with two 10-course, $235 prix fixe menus—one flora, the other fauna—that playfully mirrored each other. The impressively complex dishes will turn even jaded diners into true believers: Trout roe, cucumber juice, lemon mint, and edible flowers arrive perched on a sugar tuile “window” inside a glass. Break the tuile and those ingredients land atop citrus-poached Alaska king crab, resulting in a burst of color and ethereal flavors.

Few restaurants aim for this kind of magical experience, and even fewer achieve it. Grace has always had a beautiful brain. Now it has a four-star heart to match.

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