After almost four years in, Embeya's run in the West Loop has ended. Co-owner Attila Gyulai confirmed the closure on Wednesday at the restaurant on Randolph Street. Executive chef Mike Sheerin also said that the pan-Asian restaurant closed, and several customers emailed over the weekend to say that staff told them that Saturday was the restaurant's final service.
In calmer times, Embeya (which means "little one," in Vietnamese) opened in fall 2012 as a partnership between Gyulai and chef Thai Dang. Dang, 27 at the time, brought Vietnamese flavors and executed a unique upscale menu while Gyulai helped fine-tune the atmosphere in the swanky space, resulting in Esquire placing it on the magazine's 2013 list of the best new restaurants in the country.
But those good times were short lived. Gyulai and Dang endured a well-publicized split, leading to Dang's departure in March 2015. Dang and his brother then slapped Embeya with a pair of lawsuits, one resulting in a ruling where Dang won $100,000 in May after a judged agreed that Embeya breached their contract after the chef's dismissal. After Dang's departure, Embeya brought on chef Sheerin, and his new menus were well-received by critics.
There's no signage indicating a closure at the restaurant. It's unclear what Gyulai's and wife Komal Patel's next step will be. Gyulai asked to check back on Friday for more details.
Right now, Dang is focusing on opening up his own restaurant —HaiSous in Pilsen. He did return a text message on Monday morning about Embeya: "Friday our HaiSous inbox received messages from Embeya staff asking for jobs because they were closing after Saturday service. We have no other information."
The Tribune also spoke with Gyulai, and he told them: "The lawsuit ruined us." Lawsuits have played roles in restaurant closures, as shutters of Japonais and Karyn's Cooked have recently shown. It's unclear how much of a role that lawsuits played in the closing of Embeya.
UPDATE: Embeya sent out the following email blast shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday informing customers of the closure:
It is with bittersweet sentiment that we announce the closing of our beloved Embeya as of this past weekend.
We had the pleasure of celebrating many of life's greatest moments with our Embeya family and friends and enjoyed countless conversations about the innate beauty and diversity of Asia's varied cuisines. Of all our achievements, we are most proud of the fact that Embeya provided a loving, family-oriented work environment for 100+ staff members over four years. We have done some amazing things together and are so lucky to have had the opportunity to take it this far.
And to the most loyal guests and friends, Thank you. You gave us all a platform to be able to do what we love each day- That in itself, is a gift.
For those of you who are concerned about us, please don't be - we love Embeya, and are incredibly proud of what we created. We had the opportunity to build and operate the restaurant of our dreams, and create truly fantastic guest experiences in Chicago's most prominent dining district.
Now, We plan to take some time to decompress and catch up on some R n R with our babies, Paloma and Serena (FYI We are now accepting invitations for wine dinners, movie nights, gallery openings, weddings, birthdays, Oscar parties, ski-trips and even camping)!
Thank you for all your love and support, and we look forward to seeing you outside of Embeya!