Proxi offers more casual dining experience than older sibling, Sepia

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Hungry Hound: Proxi (WLS)

After a decade of fine-dining in Chicago's West Loop, the team behind Sepia decided it wanted to make its second restaurant much more casual.

The result is Proxi, just a few doors down and the kind of place where you can roll up your sleeves and dig in.

The sheep's milk feta, pine nuts and mint, scattered among a tangle of thinly-shaved zucchini, shows the kitchen at Proxi loves to cook seasonal, and light. But this behemoth, straddling the corner of Randolph and Jefferson, is a younger, more casual sibling to the decade-old Sepia.

"The style of service is also different, in as much as we don't do the sort of tasting menu or stock appetizer, entree, dessert format that we do at Sepia, we have a more sort of shareable, small plates-inspired menu," said Chef Andrew Zimmerman.

That could mean sturdy fish collars, dredged in rice flour and then fried, their meatiness balanced with a bright Thai-garlic-chili sauce laced with tamarind, palm sugar and fresh lime juice.

"A couple people have referred to them as the chicken wings of the sea," he said.

Black pepper pork is ground and cooked with salted radish and cilantro roots, but paired with bright, fresh ingredients that complement the texture, especially good when wrapped up in butter lettuce.

"A lot of fresh flavors like green apple, cilantro, mint and sriracha," said Zimmerman.

You decide how hot or sweet to make it. Wagyu short ribs are braised until fork-tender, served with a Malaysian curry, containing coconut milk, peanut butter, pandan leaves and chiles.

To balance the mild heat, how about an intriguing avocado mousse, inspired by the pastry chef's childhood in Southern California.

"She's just grown up with avocados her whole life, and she really wanted to work avocados into a dessert and she's also really interested in things like avocado bubble tea and things like that so her avocado mousse is I guess, her homage to avocado bubble tea," he said.

Zimmerman's food does jump all over the globe. That means sometimes food is raw, like the zucchini salad, or there's fire involved, like the fish. Or you use utensils, or my favorite way, you get to use your hands.

EXTRA COURSE: ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky took a closer look at one section of the drink menu, where they offer four types of Spanish-inspired gin and tonics.

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Extra Course: Proxi

565 W. Randolph St., Chicago
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foodhungry houndChicagoWest Loop
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