James Day, former executive chef of Streeterville's under-the-radar Saloon Steakhouse, has taken over the kitchen at Nia Mediterranean. Day started at the West Loop tapas restaurant about a month ago and after working at Saloon for three years was ready for a change. His first order of business was to overhaul the menu.
"It's a small restaurant and the amount of items on the menu didn't make any sense to me," said Day, a Beverly native who spent a number of years working at restaurants in Colorado and who also worked at China Grill and Francesca's on Taylor. "I changed the plating on everything."
He first changed the lamb and feta meatballs dish ("they were smothering it with cheap mozzarella"), introduced charcuterie. Ultimately, a smaller menu, he says, is less overwhelming and enjoyable for diners. "You can make smaller batches and have the freshness we're looking for," he said.
One of the more exciting menu changes is that Day is making his own sausages. He has already made merguez (lamb), chaurice (like chorizo) and a sweet Italian sausage, which he served with roast peppers. He plans to introduce a new sausage every couple of weeks to keep the menu fresh.
Nia will have five specials that will change each week and will have one vegetarian dish each week on Meatless Mondays. So it looks like Day's neighbor who favors goat may have a little friendly competition on her hands.
Nia Mediterranean [official website]