At Nico, Paul Kahan Is Poised to Strike Again

The chef and owner at Blackbird, Publican, and Big Star plans to work with chef Erling Wu-Bower at Nico, a new restaurant in a Rush Street hotel.

Photo: Alex Garcia / Chicago Tribune

Paul Kahan at Publican last year. Nico is next. 

To the band that includes Blackbird, Publican’s beer hall and butcher shop, Big Star, and Avec, the Midas-touch impresario Paul Kahan plans to add Nico (Thompson Hotel, 1015 N. Rush St., no phone yet), named for the single-monikered singer who famously collaborated with the Velvet Underground.

Photo by derek Richmond

Erling Wu-Bower is currently developing the menu at Paul Kahan’s new restaurant, Nico.

Chef Erling Wu-Bower has moved on from Avec to head the kitchen at Nico. (Perry Hendrix, formerly of Custom House, fills his space at the small-plate pioneer.) The menu will be fish-focused Italian. “I’m going to call it elegantly rustic,” Wu-Bower says. “We pride ourselves on value. It will not be incredibly expensive.”

Meals will follow the classic Italian progression from antipasti and crudo through primi, secondi, and desserts. Among the antipasti are fett’untas—heavily grilled, olive-oil-covered bruschettas. Changing-daily fish and shellfish selections will highlight the crudo, the pastas, and the secondi, prepared simply with maybe one seasonal accompanying ingredient. Amanda Rockman (Bristol, Balena, L2O) heads the sweets.

Doing the hotel-restaurant thing, Nico will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as room service when it opens, possibly as early as December. And you better believe Kahan will put the same effort into this project as he does with everything else. “He cares about every dish made at every restaurant,” Wu-Bower says, “from the tacos at Big Star to the dates at Avec to the duck at Blackbird.”

Successful restaurateurs have tripped over the requirements of hotels before, whether from having hotel management as bosses, a different clientele, or lower visibility. But every past Kahan project has come up roses, however, so he might be the one to square the hotel circle.

 

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