Coastal Mediterranean vibes from one of Chicago’s most lauded chefs arrive Tuesday night off downtown Chicago’s Mag Mile. Kostali, the new restaurant from James Beard Award winner Carrie Nahabedian (Brindille, Naha), opens tonight inside the Gwen hotel in River North, a news release announces.
If Chicagoans daydream on a cold day about the beach, few could blame them. Kostali may ease their pain, as the restaurant’s focus is coastal cuisine from a variety of countries in the Mediterranean region. A news release lists Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Tunisia, Lebanon, Israel, and Morocco as the restaurant’s influences.
Nahabedian, again flanked by cousin Michael Nahabedian, unbridles a menu tonight with seafood delights such as whole-roasted loup de mer, garganelli with clams, prawns, and feta cheese butter, plus a special hummus with lamb, radishes, and walnuts that blends the Nahabedians’s Armenian and Greek roots. Another Beard winner, Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread, supplies loaves for Kostali’s bread service, which also includes tahini spiral rolls made on premises.
The Nahabedians are hospitality legends. Naha, their once-Michelin starred restaurant in River North, opened 19 years ago and closed in 2018. They’re not billing Kostali as a replacement for Naha, although the Gwen hotel and the restaurant’s websites call the new venture “Kostali by Naha.” The cousins, who have a devoted following and strong branding, continue to tease that they’ll eventually find a new space for their beloved restaurant. Their second restaurant, Brindille, opened in 2013 just up Clark Street from Naha.
Michael Nahabedian, a well-known sommelier, assembled Kostali’s wine list by region. He encourages customers to explore the wines available by the bottle — if one intrigues them, servers will pour them a glass. Lesser-known regions, like Croatia, are also represented. Peter Vestinos, a partner at Footman Hospitality (Sparrow, Little Victories, Bangers & Lace), consulted on the cocktails. A full drink list is not yet available.
A third family member, Tom Nahabedian, handled the look of the restaurant. His work on Brindille earned a Beard Award for design. A unique element is bronze-toned metal screens, described as inspired by satellite imagers and nautical maps. The former Circa space, which lasted under two years, seats 68. The restaurant sits on the fifth floor in the McGraw-Hill Building, which is attached to the Shops at North Bridge.
As 2019 winds down, Kostali could be the final big restaurant opening of the year. Winter doesn’t officially start until later this month, and Kostali was one of fall’s most anticipated debuts. Stay tuned for a photo tour through the restaurant. In the meantime, Kostali opens tonight.