Nico Osteria | Gold Coast/Mag Mile/Streeterville | Italian, Small Plates, Seafood, Swanky Bar, Craft Cocktails | Restaurant
Gold Coast hotel venture from Paul Kahan and One Off Hospitality, an Italian restaurant simultaneously rustic and refined.

Our Review

Paul Kahan's new restaurant is simultaneously rustic and refined, a combination he and One Off Hospitality have successfully taken from Blackbird to Big Star. But can it really thrive across the river, inside a Gold Coast boutique hotel? You betcha. Under chef Erling Wu-Bower, dishes like squid ink bucatini will make you abandon all thought of your surroundings (which, by the way, are gorgeous, as befits a spot in close proximity to Prada and Hermès). Though I could only justify window shopping the Prada of pasta courses, a whole lobster split open and filled with spaghetti, I caved and went with the Hermès of entrees, a luscious, decadent salt-crusted branzino, one of several options for whole fish by the pound. Among the crudo and other starters are expertly executed plates like an octopus and white bean fettunta (bruschetta, essentially); a cold appetizer of Dungeness crab over fava bean puree with crudite and flatbread; or an ethereal, souffle-like sunchoke sformato, which disappointingly disappeared from the menu on my second visit. On both, the service left as great an impression as the food, the learned but unpretentious servers superhelpful in navigating the predominantly Italian and subordinately Greek wine list. Pastry chef Amanda Rockman's desserts include lighter options that would complement even the most filling meal; an affogato of hot buttered rum with maple ice cream, for example, was rich without being filling. And warming—I'd recommend partaking of that combo any time you have to head out into a blizzard. Read the full review >>

Mara Shalhoup

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Price: $$$$
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Bar Details

The bar at chef Paul Kahan's highly anticipated restaurant is gorgeous, a decadent departure from his signature minimalism—which makes sense, given its location in the Thompson Hotel. Brass lamps. Soaring ceiling. Wall of vegetation. A tufted gold-velvet couch that two tall people could lie on foot to foot. The drinks, on the other hand, can be just slightly off. The Snowbird, one of the "aperitif cocktails," was too sweet and icy for the season in which I sampled it, though I look forward to the arrival of weather that will suit such a concoction. Among the three "full-strength" cocktails is the Nico, a mix of gin, Amaro Braulio, Cocchi Americano, and mineral water that tastes, contrary to the promise of the header, like a watered-down negroni. But I was thrilled with the Chestnut: roasted-chestnut-infused bourbon with chestnut honey and lemon juice. It tasted like much more than the sum of those parts. And overall, I can't fathom a better place to pass the time in the Gold Coast. —Mara Shalhoup


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