First look: Stephan Pyles Flora Street Café – June 17, 2016

Although Stephan Pyles hasn’t had a restaurant on The Strip since his game-changing Star Canyon, the superstar chef got his start in the gayborhood 40 years ago when he started working at the now-shuttered The Bronx. Since then, he’s become one of the acknowledged masters of high-end cuisine (the James Beard Foundation even created a Southwestern category for its awards due to his pioneering work).

Last month, he officially closed his namesake Downtown restaurant — because it was time. “I don’t miss it one bit,” he tells me. “It was time.”

But he didn’t have to go far to feel creatively revitalized. Already, he has emerged a few blocks away with a whole-new concept … of sorts.

Stephan Pyles Flora Street Café, across from the Meyerson Symphony Center, takes its name and inspiration from his Routh Street Café, which was launched in 1983 as his first solo venture. Old-school fans still remember its appeal, which included classical music wafting on the airwaves. Flora Street pipes in a combination of classical and ’80s trash rock as a kind of tribute to its roots in the 1980s.

The menu takes a few cues from past Pyles concepts as well (including the deliriously dextrous blue corn muffins), but it’s so far-reaching and ambitious as to seem like nothing we have seen before. Pyles is famous for traveling the world extensively, incorporating new techniques, ingredients and flavor profiles into his culinary creations. The menu descriptions read more like poetry than components. “Poblano infladito, black bean mousse, Tennessee wild paddlefish caviar” could be a new form: haikuisine.

He divides the offering into raw bar, starters, mains and a chef’s tasting, but even the desserts sound like a seduction of sweets. Equally beautiful are the platings of dishes and the space itself, whose 70 seats are bathed in soft natural light. All the details promise to make Flora Street Café the most talked-about restaurant of the summer.