As a go-anywhere, drink-anything nightlife reporter, I’ve pretty much seen it all. But when I entered the 12,000-square-foot Nuevo Latino restaurant-lounge DeLaCosta (465 E. Illinois St.), I was floored. Suhail, the designer responsible for high-concept digs Del Toro and Sonotheque, >>>>

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created the colorful, winding space-and you’ll recognize his handiwork the second you step inside.

“It’s designed like a Latin theatre; every­thing is about presentation,” co-owner Matt Stoen told me (so that’s why there are masks and puppets hanging from the walls). Stoen honed his chops at L.A. hot spots Xes, Pearl, Sutra Lounge, Fever, and the dining-in-bed concept Couchéz; you might even remember him from Refine the Paradigm, a party he cohosted at the W Chicago City Center in March 2005 that drew celebs such as Hilary and Haylie Duff. The 29-year-old North Carolina native, who splits his time between Chicago and L.A., opened his first bar, Dublin’s Pub, on the Sunset Strip at 23; upcoming projects include transforming that space into a new spot called Sunset Beach-reportedly with Lindsay Lohan as a partner. Stoen knows a thing or two about courting A-listers.

But it’s chef Douglas Rodriguez who gets credit for DeLaCosta’s original seviche bar, which features nine varieties of fresh fish and specials that change weekly; think sushi with a Latin twist. On opening night in September, well-coifed clubsters were in their element, striking poses around the large center bar and sipping DLC’s signature “poptails,” alcoholic popsicles designed by London mixologist Jamie Terrell. The real VIP scene, though, was the lounge’s solarium, which overlooks the Ogden Slip of the river via floor-to-ceiling windows. There, those looking to imbibe and im­press can reserve one of five custom-designed cabanas; each seats about 15 and comes complete with its own bar and beautiful bartender-for the hefty fee of $2,000 to $5,000 per night. But, I ask, can you really put a price on decadence?

Photography: Chris Guillen

Celebrity Beat

I need a remedy for my crush on Chris Robinson-yes, that Chris Robinson. During his fall tour, the sexy Black Crowes frontman stopped in Chicago, and dined with brother and bandmate Rich Robinson, guitar player Paul Stacey, and hometown pal and editor John Thomas at David Burke’s Primehouse. Afterward, the guys met me at DeLaCosta, where we downed cocktails in one of those private cabanas. Chris and I hit it off right away, sharing our love of The Grateful Dead and talking about his separation from Kate Hudson. Later, we all piled into a private car and headed to Le Passage, where we sipped cocktails in the kitchen, and then danced and drank more in a roped-off VIP section up front. The night didn’t end there: a couple of us headed back to the Four Seasons and drank beers out of Chris’s minibar. Talk about partying like a rock star. . . . Glamorama was a blast this year, thanks to Beyoncé, who ended the fashion show with two of my favorites, “DeJa Vu” and “Crazy in Love.” The diva du jour made a quick appearance at the Macy’s afterparty, but she was so swamped by handlers that stylist Phillip Bloch complained about his lack of access to her, someone he’s “known since she was this big! ” He and his date, Lauren Holly (wearing Missoni from three seasons ago, she said), left the party in a huff. Too bad for them, because the real fun was downstairs, where 2,300 partygoers danced to DJ Cassidy and tasted treats under the guidance of Food 911‘s Tyler Florence. Prison Break‘s Rockmond Dunbar and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child were also among the revelers. So was Bobbie Thomas, style correspondent for The Today Show and E!, who gave my outfit for the evening a thumbs-up.


Photography: Chris Guillen