Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Nomi blog.

I had an elegant lunch today, an artfully prepared and presented meal -- a (relatively) expensive meal. Of course someone else paid for it, or rather it went on someone else’s expense account, for which I am always appreciative. It was also that best of business lunches, during which you can talk about things besides business, though you do not neglect it.

I’m a caveman when it comes to fine dining, but at least it’s summer, so I didn’t have to leave my animal skins at the coat check. Actually, I was quite presentable in my gray suit, though the really stylish thing to wear would have been something else. It always is. I never bother to learn what (I think I would have to relearn it too often).

Anyway, it was also a new place for me, which I’m almost always game for. The name of the establishment was Nomi, though I think they style it NoMi, which will not fly in this account, since editors like me are usually adverse to cutesy-pie capitalization in names unless they derive from a language that’s hard to transliterate.

The description of the place on MetroMix.com, a Tribune site devoted to leisure-time activities, follows:

“Located in the new Park Hyatt Chicago, Nomi serves upscale French cuisine with a global twist. The seventh-floor restaurant boasts views of Michigan Avenue and the lake and even has a 50-seat outdoor terrace; the entire restaurant, including the 120-seat main dining room, is designed by Tony Chi. The adjoining lounge features a Wenge wood bar, Bolivian rosewood floors and backless eelskin stools.”

Wow, backless eelskin stools. I should have sat on one, just for the novelty value. Tony Chi isn’t a familiar name to me, but that not bother Og. The Park Hyatt has an interesting backstory, too interesting really. It used to be an ordinary Hyatt at the corner of Chicago St. and Michigan Ave., but in the late 1990s, the hotel mogul Pritzkers undertook a major redevelopment of the property, tearing down the sizable existing hotel and replacing it with a hotel/condo combination.

I toured the topmost condo in mid-2000, and it was jim-dandy even unfinished, in the multimillion-dollar league. The developer who undertook the job for the Pritzkers was named Bruce Kaplin, a rising young star in Chicago development, about my age; this was his biggest project until that time. In December 1999, for reasons only known to the successful Kaplin, he jumped to his death from another building he had developed.

“Chef Sandro Gamba, a finalist in the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef award in 2000, has put together an innovative menu that includes sushi/sashimi that is flown in daily, and risotto Milanese (one of Gamba's signature dishes) served with shrimp and clam. For breakfast, Gamba serves a whopper of a meal, inspired by those prepared by his grandmother in France: authentic hot chocolate, baguette, fruit tart brioche and apple compote. A lighter menu featuring brochettes is offered on the rooftop garden from June through mid-September.”

I declined the sushi, as fine as it might be. Guess I’m jaded when it come to sushi, for obvious reasons to those who know me. Also, I missed breakfast, and I didn’t have Gamba’s signature dish. What did I have? Duck in the appetizer, bass in the main course. I couldn’t possible describe them without referring to the menu I took with me, which I left in the office. So I’ll get to that tomorrow.


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