"Top Chef" alum C.J. Jacobson brings a dose of California cool to River North as Ēma, his new restaurant backed by Rich Melman and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, opens today. Jacobson has found a niche with LEYE, as he previously served as the inaugural chef at their revolving-chef restaurant Intro. The TV alum now has plenty of room for himself inside the Hyatt Place hotel.
There's two bars inside the 140-seat restaurant, with light wood throughout. It appears there's some ivy on the ceiling, crawling down by the window. Check out the woven baskets and rustic white brick inside. There's also a 36-seat patio opening later this summer.
Jacobson has developed a menu of Mediterranean small plates with partner Marc Jacobs. A variety of spreads start the menu off. Grilled octopus with fried kale and plenty of kebobs —including chicken, plus a lamb and beef kefta combo— highlight the rest of the menu. There's also a to-go concept, slated to open later in July, that shares its kitchen with Ēma and will serve rotisserie chicken and frozen Greek yogurts. It sounds a bit like Avli Estiatorio in Winnetka.
LEYE's Ryan Arnold put together a wine list full of California and Mediterranean selections, while the group's beverage director, Julian Cox, developed the cocktails. Check out Ēma's menu and wine list below and the photos that follow.
Ēma at the Hyatt Place hotel, 74 W. Illinois St., open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday. Lunch coming soon.