Rohini Dey's story as a former McKinsey and World Bank executive-turned-restaurateur of Vermilion in Chicago and New York showcases how a female entrepreneur can realize her big vision with both smarts and verve.
Vermilion melds Indian and Latin culinary worlds - which though worlds apart makes a lot of sense, not only in concept but in experience. There's also the Peninsula Hotel for an elegant evening and a dependable stalwart, South Water Kitchen. And, by the way, see below about a really excellent car service in the Chicago area.
In town for a conference, we heard about Chicago's Vermilion at 10 W. Hubbard in the River North/Gallery District from the concierge at our hotel not far off the Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile. To keep things easy, we retained a most attentive, clean and comfortable car service to drive us to and from O'Hair Airport as well as around town - Home James Chicago & Citation Limousines (773.709.5419 or 708.236.9231). In this Uber-age, his fresh, entrepreneurial motivation was a leap up from the traditional tired old buggies that often are little different from taxis.
We selected several tapas-style appetizers and shared an entre plate - a wonderful sampling, consisting of such beautifully presented dishes as cilantro mint seasoned whitefish, Venezuelan duck vindaloo arepas brushed with pomegranate molasses and curry leaf mango, multi-citrus fennel salad with kalamata olive and Peruvian blue corn crusted scallops with calabasa squash, chipotle sauce and goat cheese.
Note how the after-dinner candies arrived in a cute little bicycle. Our server gently guided us through some options, including the right wine to match, and was warm and attentive. It was early, so it likely is pretty loud later on, but tables are situated far apart and semi-circle booths along the back encourage convivial exchanges too.
The Lobby at the Peninsula Hotel: Tucked back from North Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile shopping district, the Lobby Restaurant is renowned for its Afternoon Tea. But for dinner, literally violins played up in the balcony - soft European charm accenting the property's gracious Asian elegance. A table overlooking the courtyard below opens the view even more with 20 foot floor-to-ceiling windows. Don't be reluctant to call at the last minute - the room is very spacious but not loud - except perhaps on Friday evenings when the Chocolate Bar is jammed with the neighborhood's professional office worker crowd.
South Water Kitchen: Located along the northern boundary of The Loop adjacent the trendy Monaco Hotel, South Water Kitchen serves up comfort food and respectable wines for an easy and relaxed dining experience - from chicken pot pie to local fresh water fish. If you're in that part of town, it's a good bet.