CORRECTION: RPM Seafood is opening Thursday night.
RPM Seafood, the final phase of a giant four-floor restaurant multiplex along the river in downtown Chicago, will open Thursday night. It’s a glitzy restaurant from Chicago’s largest hospitality group, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. They’re collaborating with celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic, the partnership that also produced RPM Italian and RPM Steak’s success in River North.
The complex, on the northeast corner of Clark Street and the Chicago River, debuted over the summer when Pizzeria Portofino opened. A private event space, RPM Events, debuted later. While Portofino is more casual, RPM Seafood is fancy. The RPM restaurants have a reputation among Chicago’s scenesters and celebrities traveling from out of town, and RPM Seafood continues that formula.
Rockwell Group, the globally known firm, handled design duties. Locally, the company has designed Hotel EMC2, Travelle, Virgin Hotels Chicago, and Tao. The space includes floor-to-ceiling windows and a 2,000-square-foot terrace. The interiors occupy about 11,000 square feet total with another 2,500 square foot outside. The second floor is designed for private and semi-private events with three board rooms equipped with flatscreen TVs to get business done. The board rooms can hold 12 to 20 guests.
Lettuce Entertain You gave Eater a glimpse of a rough draft of the menu. Details, including pricing, are subject to change. A $180 seafood tower sits in the center of the menu. It’s filled with prawns, Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab, and East and West Coast oysters. A smaller tower costs $90. Scanning through the other appetizers, RPM Seafood pays homage to a Chicago classic — shrimp DeJonghe — while subbing out the shrimp for Peekytoe crab. Another highlight is a section for seafood steaks: a bone-in swordfish ribeye, tuna au Poivre, and a turbot T-bone. These are seafood dishes with the texture of beef steaks.
Customers who don’t like seafood can order pastas or a selection of chops similar to what Lettuce offers at RPM Steak. A dry-aged beef Porterhouse, at $250, is the priciest item on the menu.
The project, initially known as RPM on the Water, was announced with fanfare and the assistance of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. One of the mayor’s goals was to turn the riverwalk into an attraction where tourists and locals could hang, dine, and shop. Bringing Lettuce Entertain You into the fold was a coup for the city. One estimate priced the complex at $50 million.
RPM Seafood was initially to debut in 2019. The company has since seen construction delays and the loss of a key partner, Doug Psaltis. “RPM” stands for “Rancic,” “Psaltis,” and “Melman,” the latter being the founding family behind Lettuce Entertain You.
City officials see the RPM project as a crown jewel along the river. The general public can check out the full space starting on Thursday, when Lettuce Entertain You opens its first restaurant of 2020.