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By Ariel Cheung | Photo: Courtesy of Restaurants | February 14, 2018
New Chicago restaurants are upping the “wow” factor and bringing back the days of true opulence.
We won’t attempt to determine what caused it, but there’s no denying a rise in restaurants sporting massive chandeliers, glossy wood bars and velveted accents around Chicago. These beacons of grandeur pair their lush surroundings with equally decadent dishes—think seafood towers, big steaks, caviar service. Just what is driving this efflorescence? We don’t know. But we like it. So let us take a leaf out of Tennyson’s book and say this: Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to summon a special bottle of something bubbly and toast to the opulence all around us.
In Amsterdam, there’s simply no need for dinner and a show. “Going out for dinner, that is the show,” explains Karen Herold, principal for Studio K. She applied that philosphy to the recently opened BLVD, where old Hollywood meets Midwestern supper club and a sweeping staircase makes for a dramatic entrance. The seasonal menu boasts gems like foie gras-topped filet mignon ($58) and octopus with black hummus ($21). Not hungry? The cozy Champagne room, every bit as luxurious, is a prime spot to sip on cocktails like the Chrome Plated ($14), made with Mars Iwai whiskey, spiced pear and amaretto. 817 W. Lake St., 312.526.3116
The 80-year-old Pump Room—famous for hosting celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe—got a new name and a good polish during last year’s reinvention. “A lot of people come in and say it doesn’t feel like a change,” says General Manager Sue Kim-Drohomyrecky. “But it feels better—and that was the whole intent.” A new drink menu touts tempting cocktails like Her Majesty’s Holiday, a tart swirl of gin and 12-year rum, Campari, grapefruit and lime ($14). Recently, the restaurant also started offering lunch options like black truffle scrambled eggs topped with butter-poached crab ($22). In terms of scenery, Champagne-bubble light fixtures and cream-colored booths provide a dreamy setting that remains evermore fit for the stars. 1301 N. State Parkway, 312.649.0535
It can be hard to spot from your table, but part of what makes Gibsons Italia shine is the work that goes on behind the scenes. Handmade mozzarella di bufala ($19) is flown in from Italy daily and pairs perfectly with 24-month-aged prosciutto di San Daniele ($18). Expanding beyond the flagship’s Gibsons USDA Prime offerings, Gibsons Italia offers silky slivers of wagyu sirloin ($35 per ounce)—making it one of 16 restaurants in the nation to carry the highly sought-after Japanese steak—and a lean, grass-fed Australian bone-in filet ($60). “These days, the audience is looking for more attention to detail,” says Gregg Horan, director of operations at Gibsons Restaurant Group. “They’re looking for the ‘wow’ in presentation as well as flavors.” One of the most gorgeous river views in Chicago anchors the dining room, while a private roof deck offers quieter elegance and a retractable glass ceiling. 233 N. Canal St., 312.414.1100
In keeping with the celebrated extravagance of the sensational Italian Marchesa Luisa Casati, this new River North restaurant honors the spirit of its namesake with ornate fixtures and walls brimming with gold-framed art. “The trend of bourbon, bacon and beer had its moment,” says partner Jason Clark, “but we wanted to get back to classic design and elegance.” On a menu that dips its toes into French, Italian and Spanish cuisines, find grilled Rambouillet lamb chops ($60) and coquilles Saint Jacques served with purple Peruvian potato puree ($29). Top any dish with shaved Perigord truffle for $50, and you’ve got elegance at its most delicious. 535 N. Wells St., 312.527.9535