Today I took myself out for lunch to Nico Osteria, the Italian, seafood-centric restaurant located inside the Thompson Chicago Hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood.
Nico Osteria opened last December and it has been enjoying great buzz which is not at all surprising to me. Paul Kahan, Executive Chef, Erling Wu-Bower, Chef de Cuisine and Amanda Rockman, Pastry Chef are rockin’ the kitchen over there! All three have stellar reputations in Chicago’s restaurant scene. Yesterday was my birthday and since I am celebrating all week (as one should), I figured that I deserved to bask in the glow of their collective culinary talents. Here’s how my lunch went down:
I began with the Dungeness Crab appetizer with chick pea puree, bottarga and radishes. It is an incredibly flavorful dish and the perfectly light starter to enjoy on this unusually hot, humid, Spring day (86 degrees in Chicago today!). The presentation was also beautifully executed.
For my main course, I chose the Grilled Swordfish with shrimp ‘nduja vinaigrette, artichokes, cucumber and mint. This was one of the most delicious and extraordinarily balanced seafood dishes that I have ever eaten…anywhere. The swordfish was perfectly cooked and extremely moist. The mint, which is often used in Italian cooking, was such a refreshing touch to this dish. When I finished devouring the primary components on the plate, I continued to sop up the remnants of the vinaigrette with the tasty, olive-filled bread which Nico sets on the table. With every bite, I was contemplating how to recreate this dish in my own kitchen. Of course, I will try. And, as soon as the disappointment washes over me, I will return to Nico’s loving kitchen for the real thing. I pray it will remain a staple on their menu.
I usually skip dessert (or just nibble on a friend’s choice). But, I was celebrating my birthday, so I was not about to miss out. While I would normally choose a lemon or berry-based dessert, I decided to have Nico’s Chocolate Bonet, in memory of my mother who was a huge chocoholic and who I missed on Mother’s Day. I was not let down. This dessert made me so incredibly happy. You know, like a child. Inside a harder outer shell was a light yet decadent chocolate mousse. Nestled alongside this little bonnet were pieces of apricot, tiny oatmeal sandwich cookies slathered with a thin layer of chocolate on the inside, toasted oat crumbles and a scoop of Nutella-flavored ice cream. The many layers and textures of this dessert, its sweetness, and its tartness will remain a delicious memory for me. It was just so different.
The main room of Nico Osteria is modern with plenty of light filtering through its tall, street-level windows. I enjoyed my lunch at a table adjacent to a window looking out onto the patio. There is also seating at the bar which looks directly into the open kitchen where the chefs are working hard for you. I will definitely be back again with friends and family for dinner and brunch.
The staff at Nico Osteria was terrific. A special shout out goes to my server, Henry, who was so attentive, helpful and nice to me during my afternoon here.
I highly recommend you get yourself over to Nico Osteria as soon as possible.
(1015 N. Rush Street. For more information, visit www.nicoosteria.com).
ROAM. REVEL. REPEAT.