Neighborhood: West Loop
Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★1/2
Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★1/2
Affordability: ★★1/2 (worth it, but pricey)
Food Quality: ★★★★★
Overall Rating: ★★★★★
- Cocktails: Daq Attack (curry) and Killer Tofu (beet infused tequila)
- Small Plates: Burrata, Smoked Pumpkin, Bhel Puri, Coal Roasted Oysters
- Larger Plates: Special Shrimp Rolls on a Sugar Cane and Fried Skate Wing over a Thai Chili – Garlic Sauce
- Dessert: Mexican Chocolate Semifreddo
Proxi represents the best of fine, creative, and adventurous cuisine in Chicago. Their concept is eclectic twists on global street food served tapas style in an open, beautiful, and modern dining environment. I love how open this restaurant is without it feeling overwhelming and chain-like. High-ceilings, chic lighting, and a rustic decor create a refined, but not stuffy ambience. Over-sized leather booths and brass mirrors give it a funky, yet sophisticated feel. It was a special occasion so we were seated at the Chef’s Table with a lovely view of the chefs and all of the live action in the kitchen.
We started off with some cocktails as the descriptions looked quite unique. I had the Daq Attack, which is their “tiki” style drink with crushed ice. I was intrigued by the curry, Thai Basil, and smoked banana, and I was not disappointed. The aged rum paired perfectly with the charcoal roasted banana. It was the perfect balance between sweet and savory in a cocktail. So many cocktails can be syrupy, but this was the furthest thing from being syrupy. My dining companion had the Killer Tofu, which had beet infused tequila, agave, and Nori salt on the rim. I loved the Nori finish. This was also another unique and delicious tasting cocktail with prominent savory elements to it. These cocktails in themselves were five stars and I’ve sampled many cocktails at this point in Chicago.
The hostesses were very friendly and our server was very helpful and on top of everything. He pointed out what was pescatarian and vegetarian on the menu. While there was an entire page of the menu we couldn’t eat, we still had quite a few pescatarian options. Though I would not recommend this place to pure vegetarians and vegans since there are barely any options. Since we eat fish and seafood, we had some options. I love tapas style because it enables me to try as much as I can and share the dining experience with my dining companion in a more intimate way than just having our own entrees.
We started off with the Burrata, which came with crispy sourdough, sunchokes, pickled red onions, and leeks. It was drizzled with an amazing olive oil (but tasted more intense so I’m not 100% that it was olive oil). The burrata was soft and creamy and the onions added a nice kick to the savory comfort of the cheese on the crispy sourdough. We also ordered the Smoked Pumpkin, which came with walnuts, paratha, and pomegranates sprinkled on top and garnished with microgreens. I have never been too big of a fan of pomegranates and pumpkin when it’s not dessert, but the smoked pumpkin gave it an amazing savory flavor with a special olive oil drizzled on top. The pomegranates added a nice crunchy texture on top. The salted paratha had a complex flavor that soaked up the pumpkin and oil perfectly. You know there are talented chefs when they make a dish that you typically aren’t that excited about quite remarkable.
Our third dish was the bhel puri, which is something you don’t see on menus outside of Indian restaurants. It is usually sometimes served on top of samosas. It’s a crispy, savory dish with crispy rice, vegetables, and a tamarind sauce. It had a refreshing mint chutney served throughout with fresh radishes and microgreens on top. The Bhel Puri was a nice transition into the seafood portion of our meal. We ordered the Coal Roasted Oysters, which were oysters grilled with a light cheese, butter, and herbs on top. It just melted in your mouth with one bite and the coal flavor was very prominent. This dish was definitely a highlight of the night.
We did want to try one of their specials, so we had the shrimp lettuce wrap special. I believe the original came with meat, but they were able to take it off and it was a very remarkable dish. It consisted of minced shrimp and vegetables on a sugar cane stick that was breaded and served on a lettuce wrap. I really haven’t had anything like this before. The sugar cane paired with the shrimp flavor seamlessly and it was fun to suck on the sugar cane since we don’t really get to do that in Chicago.
To conclude the tapas part of the night, we ordered the Fried Skate Wing with a Thai garlic chili sauce. The skate wing was breaded to perfection and the sauce was absolutely mouthwatering. It was the ideal balance between sweet and savory. The lime drizzle also added a nice invigorating finish to the fried skate wing. At this point we were full but since it was my birthday dinner, we couldn’t pass on dessert. We had the Mexican Chocolate Semifreddo. It came with kataifi – a vermicelli-like pastry shredded on top of what seemed like chocolate ice-cream with horchata foam. It was quite a distinctive dessert as I have not had anything like this before.
The remarkable flavors, excellent service, and sophisticated interior is what makes Proxi stand out from many restaurants in Chicago. They pair heterogenous cuisines in extremely palatable ways. They are not afraid to be innovative and adventurous with their flavors. Proxi goes beyond the conventional New American style that is quite popular in the West Loop. I cannot wait to come here again. Though this place is pricey, it is was worth every penny in my opinion.