“Wherever I go, I always dine in the hotel because I want to experience what they do,” Carrie Nahabedian says. “Let’s bring back hotel dining and the guest experience.”
With her new restaurant Kostali, soon to be opened in The Gwen Hotel on Michigan Avenue, Nahabedian aims to do just that. She and Michael Nahabedian, her cousin and partner at Brindille (and the now-closed formerly-one-MICHELIN-starred NAHA), have been approached by hotels in the past, but it wasn’t until The Gwen reached out that they felt they’d found the right fit.
“The hotel has a great feel,” Nahabedian says. “They have a young, well-traveled, upmarket clientele, as well as the luxury traveler who wants a different experience.”
She says the hotel has the feel of being on vacation in the middle of the city, which inspired her to create a Riviera-style restaurant (Kostali means “coast” in Maltese) with coastal cuisine spanning Spain, Portugal, Malta, the Italian and French rivieras, Croatia, North Africa and even the Black Sea.
“You’re going to get the feel of very vibrant, textured, very flavorful cuisine,” she says. “The menu is going to have a very striking riviera, Mediterranean, Greek, Middle Eastern feel.”
That means a lot of seafood, dishes like a tagine of baby chicken with Moroccan bread and couscous, a jammy braised lamb shank with blistered tomatoes, a rib eye with Roquefort fondant and small bulb onions, a pasta with octopus and clams, an oxtail with root vegetables and bone marrow, and much more.
As part of her goal to bring back her idea of hospitality, Kostali will offer an extensive, complimentary bread service in partnership with Publican Quality Breads. There will also be free bar snacks for those focused on exploring the drink selection.
“That’s a rarity these days,” Nahabedian says.
Like at their other restaurants, Michael Nahabedian is in charge of the wine list. It will be made up of wines from coastal regions on the Mediterranean and Black Sea, as well as cocktails inspired by those areas, and Greek liqueurs.
“We’re going to have some things people might not have experienced,” Nahabedian says.
Tom Nahabedian, who won a James Beard Award for his Brindille design, will be in charge of the interiors, which will bring “the same level of comfort and luxury” as the hotel and evoke a coastal feel. While the design will be high-end, it definitely won’t be stuffy.
“It’s paramount that a guest feels welcome, always, and especially in the hotel where they’re staying,” Nahabedian says. “Yes, Chicago is greatest restaurant city in America right now, but sometimes you don’t need to leave your hotel to have great food. A hotel should be proud of what they’re doing first, then they can make you reservations all over town. Our number one priority is capturing the guest and making sure every part of their stay is spectacular.”
Kostali will open sometime before Thanksgiving this year. It will serve dinner only, though some menu options will be available for all-day dining through room service.
Image courtesy of The Gwen Hotel/Facebook.