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Restaurants: Birth of an Empire | Gaia

It's hard enough for some restaurateurs to open a second place across town. Marlon Abela, who just resuscitated the celebrated members-only Morton's in London, has plans to launch 30 restaurants in Europe and the United States. The success of Gaia, in Greenwich, Connecticut, his first venture in America, suggests that his plans might not be so grandiose after all.

To run Gaia's kitchen, Abela selected Bjorn van der Horst, formerly of New York City's Picholine, who trained with two legendary chefs: Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse in Paris. He also found a beautiful space designed by renowned turn-of-the-century architect Raphael Guastavino, with 25-foot, vaulted tile ceilings. There, Van der Horst cooks and serves many of his signature dishes—foie gras with Sauternes and figs, for example, and codfish with garlic cream—in airtight mason jars to seal in juices, aroma and flavor. His best seller is macaroni and truffles with Gruyère, which gives off an enticing scent the moment the lid is removed at the table. Look for more mason-jarred foods when Abela and Van der Horst open a Gaia near you (253 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich; 203-661-3443).

Published May 2004
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