Wave at W Lakeshore Makes a Splash
By Ari Bendersky
It’s been more than a decade since Wave first opened its doors at the W Lakeshore. With sweeping views of Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive, the restaurant has seen its share of international coolness bob and weave through its sunken dining room, from power players holding court in the warm Miami-meets-Midwest setting to rockers and fashionistas tossing back martinis and Champagne at the slate-topped lobby bar. Over the past few years, though, other restaurants have caught up; other hotel destinations—such as NoMI, David Burke’s Primehouse and, most recently, the rejuvenated Pump Room—have become hot competition for Wave.
Now Wave is back on the rise, thanks to new Executive Chef Gregory Elliott. Most recently at Lockwood at the Palmer House, Elliott comes from the “fresher is better” school of thought, with the majority of ingredients for his Italian- and French-influenced fare sourced from farmers within a few hundred miles of the property.
Elliott’s approach is a shift from that of his predecessor, Kristine Subido. Whereas Subido (who left in the spring to open her restaurant Pecking Order) enticed diners with global street food and Asian-inspired dishes, Elliott brings the flavors squarely back to the Midwest. “We’re keeping it casual, rustic, and approachable,” Elliott said. “People have been really receptive. [They say] it’s like a breath of fresh air, and it’s good to see fresh blood pumped into the menu.”
His first menu, a late-summer experience, was the epitome of freshness. Local heirloom tomato salad tasted just-picked, dressed up with silky buffalo mozzarella and decorated with anchovy herb pesto and aged balsamic vinegar. A bowl of toothsome house-made bucatini mingled with crisp rock shrimp, tender baby squash, pecorino, and a hint of chili flakes. And now that it’s fall, Elliott is really hitting his stride.
“I’m a November baby—this is my time,” Elliott said. “There is something special in the air during autumn that I really can’t put into words.” Instead, Elliott is putting it into dishes, like a porcini mushroom risotto appetizer teeming with smoked chicken thigh or a roasted Slagel Family Farm half chicken served with sweet potato fries and Elliott’s admitted favorite ingredient, Brussels sprouts.
Elliott isn’t the only one adding new flavor to the scene. New GM and beverage director Lucas Chapman joined the Wave team following nine months at Paris Club and two years at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Vegas—both hot spots that exude high energy and a cool factor in tune with the zeitgeist. Chapman came in understanding the Chicago market and is ready to shake things up.
“I want it to be a fun, hip, energetic restaurant and lounge,” says Chapman, who is also a certified sommelier. “We’re reenergizing the bar operations to create that vibe and get it back into the hotel lobby and restaurant.”
Chapman pays homage to Elliott’s style of letting ingredients shine by incorporating seasonal flavors into his cocktails. “The holidays are here and seasons are changing,” Chapman says, and his autumn drink list expresses that, using “pumpkin, spices, cinnamon, and things that entice the palate and give you those warm feelings.”
Other changes are afoot at Wave. To keep pace with the transformation in the dining room, the W’s owners are investing in a top-to-bottom makeover that will include a renovation of the restaurant. For Elliott, it means an even greater opportunity to keep Wave from being just another hotel restaurant. The chef and his team are ready. Says Elliott, “The timing is right to breathe new life into this place and get it back on the map.” 644 N. Lakeshore Dr., 312-255-4460
photography by katrina wittkamp; andrew h. walker/getty images for food bank for new york city (sedgwick & bacon)
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