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Ace is the place



Ace Hotel (600 Carondelet St.;, the Portland, Oregon-based boutique hotel chain, opens in the Warehouse District this week. Inside is Josephine Estelle, the Southern-inspired Italian restaurant from Memphis chefs and James Beard Award finalists Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman.

  Occupying the bottom floor of the rennovated 1920s art deco building is the roughly 5,000-square-foot restaurant. Amenities include an open dining room, high ceilings, ornate light fixtures, light green booths, a wraparound bar and ample outside seating.

  In Memphis, Ticer and Hudman run the high-end restaurant Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, the more casual Hog & Hominy and butcher shop Porcellino's Craft Butcher. The pair oversee operations at the New Orleans restaurant, and they tapped former Dominica Chef de Cuisine Phillip Mariano to be executive chef.

  "It's been a nice, easy transition with Phillip," Ticer says. "His flavor profile is spot on with ours."

  Named after Ticer and Hudman's daughters, the restaurant focuses on Italian food with an emphasis on the flavors of the American South. House-made pastas ($12-$14) anchor the menu, and regional ingredients, including Gulf seafood, feature strongly in pasta dishes and entrees.

  "We wanted it to be a place where people in the neighborhood could come a few times a week," Ticer says.

  The menu includes sourdough toast topped with fava beans, mint, farmers goat cheese and sorrel. Focaccia toast features mushrooms, asparagus, leeks, fontina cheese and a fried egg. There are small plates of red snapper crudo topped with brown butter hazelnuts, lemon rind purree and celery leaves. Stratciatella is topped with a colorful medley of vegetables tossed with Bibb lettuce and citrus vinaigrette.

  Breakfast will skew more American with dishes including house-made granola with yogurt and fruit, pastries, buttermilk biscuits, quiche and a dish of roasted pork belly with a fried egg over grits.

  Josephine Estelle provides room service and an abbreviated menu of salads and light snacks for the rooftop bar, Alto.

  Beverage manager and former Sylvain bartender Lucinda Weed is in charge of the wine and cocktail programs at the restaurant and all three of the hotel's bars. There's a separate cocktail list at the lobby bar near the hotel's music venue, Three Keys. At the rooftop pool lounge, Weed says guests can expect frozen drinks, cocktails on tap and what she's coined "patio pounders," including canned beers, cocktails and wines.

  Next door to the hotel at 630 Carondelet, a still unnamed seafood and cocktail bar is in the works from restaurant group comprised of New York restaurateurs (and New Orleans natives) brothers Alex and Miles Pincus and Adrien Gallo. The project is a partnership between Ace Hotel and the restaurant group and is slated to open in May.

  Chef Kerry Heffernan, who is the chef at floating oyster restaurant Grand Banks in New York, will consult on the menu, and a local executive chef will oversee day-to-day operations. Bartender Lauren Schell, who once managed New York cocktail bar Milk & Honey, will curate its cocktail program.

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