Friday, as you know, is all about fashion in flashback, fashion now and future fashion and with a bit of a twist on the theme I am starting to do posts on my favorite restaurants, established, dearly loved and exciting new ventures in one of the greatest food cities anywhere, Chicago. I do not intend to be a food critic but I am, most certainly a foodie. One of the definitions of fashion is “to form something into something else: to make something from something else” isn’t that exactly what we do with food….Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony have “fashioned” an exciting new concept in food with their brand new restaurant PROXI, the new kid on the block (Randolph to be exact) which, along with Fulton one of the hottest, happening places in the City (but you will see in future posts, not the only area in this ever changing food story.)
The evolution of the Randolph Street restaurant saga began many years ago with a single pioneering restaurant, Vivo (no longer with us, and of course, the beloved Ina‘s) and look at the area now, not only restaurant heaven but total gentrification. I remember taking cabs during the beginning of the Vivo era and the drivers thought I was mad and said: “Lady, there isn’t anything there but warehouses, I can’t leave you there!” I would explain it was okay and they could wait for me and I would wave to them from inside. Well, those days are long gone, now the Uber and Lyft drivers and certainly all the cabbies know exactly where to take locals and visitors for the excitement that is now “Restaurant Row”! I’ll address other restaurants throughout the City in future food posts, there are so many but, of course, I do have my favorites and I have added Proxi to that list!
This was our table and I was facing a wall of wine bottles, how appropriate!
The place setting, my photo.
A few weeks ago I got a call from a long time friend, Emmanuel Nony, we go back to his Park Hyatt days, and, of course, who doesn’t love Sepia! Always the gracious host, Emmanuel invited me and a guest to come to Proxi for dinner. I was delighted to accept the invitation and extend my guest invitation to my cooking buddy, Tom Mantel. Emmanuel greeted us in his usual charming manner escorted us to our table where he explained the extraordinary menu and it’s interesting concept. I asked what he recommended for the evening and after saying he couldn’t choose proceeded to choose everything! Don’t you love it! He turned us over to our fabulous server, Jordan, who walked us through the unique menu with suggestions along the way, he was the best. The menu is divided into three sections (all of which will change on a regular basis), the first page was very interesting starters, which were quite substantial, the middle page was all seafood and the last page all meat.
I think this was the Farmer’s Market Bhel Puri my photo, absotutely delicious.
Tempura Elotes amazing!
Salad of Sugar Snap Peas and Carrotss, yuzu kosho, sesame, miso brûlée my photo
The concept is to share everything and pick at least one item, each, from each page, which we did. Actually three (see above photos)from page one and the whole fish (which, by the way, was probably the best fish I have ever eaten!) the only fish we tried and two from page three.
Our whole grilled fish “Pescado Zarandeado”. My photo.
One of our meat courses, BBQ Lamb Ribs with mango pickle and cashews. Our other choice was Wagnyu Beef Short Ribs with Malyasian curry, sort of a medley of ribs….also my photo
We had interesting wines, I chose a Gamay which I don’t think I have seen on a menu since I was in Paris (this month the wine selections are from the Loire Valley). Dessert was a dream. The exciting news was that with all the food and wine I didn’t feel at all stuffed…it was superb! We then opted to have a lovely after dinner drink in the gorgeous bar. The place was packed, but not uncomfortably so, and it had only been open a few weeks. It will be a HUGE success, of that I am sure. It was fun to see and have a quick chat with my old friends Bill Zwecker, Tom Gorman and Vicki and Bill Hood. I’m sure they enjoyed their evening as much as we did. The food was interesting, delicious, the wine extraordinary and the service perfection. Didn’t hurt that I was with a dear friend who loved it all as much as I did.
I asked Emmanuel to send me detailed information on the restaurant. I have culled it down a bit but wanted to share it with you. I am hoping to have a recipe or two to share with you later.
Andrew Zimmeman and Emmanuel Nony
” Proxi (565 W. Randolph St.), the second restaurant from the acclaimed team of Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant, Sepia, opens on Tuesday, June 13. Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony are thrilled for this project to come to fruition after years of searching for the perfect location. Housed in a former print shop right beside Sepia, the restaurant is located at the beginning on Chicago’s renowned Restaurant Row. Proxi takes guests on a ride to the world’s most culinary rich corners. Using elemental cooking techniques and pristine ingredients, the menu celebrates the bold flavors of street foods.
The menu at Proxi takes inspiration from Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s lifelong fascination with the vibrant, emphatic flavors most commonly seen in street foods. Including snacks, small plates, raw selections, entreés, and large-format dishes for the table, the restaurant’s cuisine captures the vivacity of such foods in approachable, Modern American presentations using primary cooking techniques showcased on the restaurant’s wood-fired hearth. Meat, seafood, and vegetables remain balanced throughout the menu, with dishes focusing on bold tastes, including an array of exotic ingredients, wood fire, and worldly spices.
Pastry Chef Sarah Mispagel unleashes her award-winning talent on Proxi’s dessert selection to offer a range of whimsical and nostalgic sweet dishes balancing familiarity with experimentation.
Josh Relkin leads the cocktail program at Proxi, crafting a menu with an emphasis on globally influenced libations to complement the kitchen. Relkin embraces the hearth, incorporating the live fire cooking into the cocktail list, with a goal of blending familiar ingredients in an unconventional way. Proxi also offers a selection of beers from across the world, with hopes to bring guests unfamiliar brews that they‘ve only sipped during their travels.
The Wine program, led by Beverage Director and acclaimed Advanced Sommelier Arthur Hon, boasts a succinct, dynamic wine list that converges on a central theme to unique wines from around the world. Hon, who travels often to taste new wines and experience unfamiliar flavors, was thrilled with the challenge of creating a wine list to stand up to the kitchen’s bold, vibrant, and global flavors. Hon’s wine list will have a rotating theme, that will be changed seasonally with the menu. To start, he’s transporting guests to the Loire Valley of France to experience the wines from that region.
Notice the original barrel ceiling and the custom fixtures, a great blend of old (read original) and the new, stunning.
Developed by James Beard Award Winning design firm, Meyer Davis, Proxi’s elegant, welcoming aesthetic reveals a mid-century American brasserie. The space calls out to its worldly influences while preserving existing architectural elements from Werner Printing Company, which formerly occupied the expansive restaurant. Inset with brass-framed mirrors, lightly washed wood covers the walls and rustic wood planks form the floor, though custom designed cement tiles differentiate the bar and lounge space from the dining room. A long, central leather banquette stretches out to anchor the dining room, flanked by additional tables and more leather booths along the walls. The central bar, with its stone top, leather upholstered front, and cerused wood accents, sits opposite a chef’s table donning Noir St. Laurent marble and overlooking an exhibition kitchen. Overhead, eye-catching custom light fixtures hang from the original barrel-vaulted ceiling.
Two views of the bar, adore all of it, but especially the tile floor!
Through a fresh and innovative American lens, Proxi, a sister restaurant to Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony’s Sepia, scours the most culinary-rich corners of the globe to inspire a menu that celebrates the bold flavors of multicultural street foods through pristine ingredients. Located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood along Restaurant Row, Proxi unites an award-winning team to transport its guests around the world, beginning with cuisine and extending to an eclectic beverage program focused on worldly inspirations and diverse, exotic ingredients. Developed by New York City-based design firm Meyer Davis, Proxi’s elegant, welcoming aesthetic reveals a mid-century American brasserie that calls out to its global influences while preserving existing architectural elements.” www.proxichicago.com.
All photos unless otherwise noted provided by Proxi.
Do go you won’t be disappointed, it is not only fabulous food but a wonderfully glorious space! Thanks so much Emmanual and Andrew for brnging this concept to Chicago, I love it, could you tell! Cookbook please!!!!