Named after the West Coast town that laid the groundwork for chef Justin Smillie’s lifelong love of cooking, STARR Restaurants’ Upland is a beacon of stunning California-inspired cuisine in the bustling heart of New York City.
Born and raised in San Bernardino County, Smillie has long hoped to translate the ingredients, flavors and techniques of contemporary California cooking to a polished East Coast setting. After years of impressive success in the Big Apple, including a three-star review from the New York Times during his time at Il Buco Alimentari, Smillie earned the opportunity to open his dream restaurant.
Built around a culinary philosophy that takes heavy cues from the seasons, Upland balances a familiar rusticity with a smart global approach and a New Yorker’s eye for detail. The menu offers an artful array of starters, entrees and sides, each plate accented with Smillie’s enticing and urbane touch. The wine program, overseen by beverage director Chantelle Pabros (Chicago’s L20), matches the excitement coming out of Upland’s open kitchen, with a worldly 500-bottle list and a clever by-the-glass selection that’s remarkably food-friendly.
To match the unparalleled food and drink, designers Roman and Williams capitalized on specific materials to capture the true spirit of Upland. Touches of natural oak, elegant leather, custom-blown glass and patinated copper implemented throughout the airy open space call to mind heritage and utility, two key virtues of the approach. Acclaimed artist Wayne Pate has created original murals featuring classic California produce, like figs, artichokes and citrus, to usher New York’s open-minded diners into unexpected territory.
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