Proxi - West Loop Gem
By Amy Lively Jensen & W Peter Hoyne
Proxi is a new upscale restaurant project by owner Emmanuel Nony and his chef partner Andrew Zimmerman located in Chicago’s West Loop. Opened in June, 2017 Proxi is next door, the sister restaurant of Sepia, an iconic West Loop destination since 2007. Proxi has received a Bib Gourmand from Michelin Guide and portrays a youthful clientele and contemporary vibe along with a broad range of globally inspired cuisine.
Designed by New York based firm Meyer Davis, Proxi is situated in the former Werner Printing Company which was transformed into an open concept dining room with rugged leathers, metals and chic furnishings beneath sleek vaulted ceilings.
Proxi’s managing partner, Emmanuel Nony was raised in the French countryside and graduated from culinary school. Afterwards, he joined the Hyatt Hotel group and played an essential role working at their global locations in Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Fukuoka, Japan for 16 years. He then set his sights on Chicago, opening the Park Hyatt Hotel and their esteemed restaurant NoMi. He continued moving forward on his journey founding Sepia and 10 years later opening Proxi.
Managing chef and partner Andrew Zimmerman is the soul of Proxi creating global street food creations over open hearth cooking. After graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York, Zimmerman made his move to Chicago in 2003. He worked as chef de cuisine at Park Hyatt’s NoMi restaurant and in 2008 was introduced to Emmanuel Nony. He assumed the role as executive chef of Sepia in 2009 and has earned a Michelin star every year since 2011. At Proxi Andrew expresses his passion for travel and food through his creative street food inspirations from India, Mexico, Asia and the Middle East.
Wine director Alex Ring brings his own skill set and Michelin star experience to Proxi. His previous positions include working at two Michelin-starred Oriole in Chicago and as sommelier for Chicago’s one Michelin star Spiaggia and two-starred Lazy Bear in San Francisco. One area of focus for Alex is focusing on the talents of women in the wine industry. His philosophy as a sommelier is “to offer an approachable presence, encourage people to be open to new experiences, and make sure everyone is having a great time.”
Recently, Proxi coordinated a wine and food pairing with winemaker Louisa Rose of Yalumba Winery in South Australia. Yalumba Winery was founded by Samuel Smith of London in 1849, planting vineyards in Barossa Valley, Australia. Now with the six generation of family members, Yulumba has expanded its estate vineyard holdings throughout Australia.
The first course began with a 2020 Pewsey Vale 1961 Block Riesling from Eden Valley, Australia. This extroverted white revealed accents of lemon-lime citrus and minerality in what appeared to be a mirror image of a classic Alsatian Riesling. The wine flowed cleanly with the bright flavors from lightly charred, coal roasted mussels with a Korean ssamjang butter and grilled Thai herbal sausage.
The next offering was a rich and tender banana leaf wrapped striped bass alongside a delicately spiced Indonesian chili chicken. The flavors all coalesced and were in perfect balance with the star fruit and meringue undertones of the 2019 Yalumba Virgilius Viognier from Eden Valley.
The third course was an Indian lamb Biryani with pistachio and apricot blended with rice. The fragrant and aromatic spices in this presentation achieved gastronomic harmony with two densely fruit driven reds from Yalumba. A 2016 Yalumba Octavius Shiraz and 2017 Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon revealed an exotic assortment of black fruits and crushed pepper that stood their ground against the complex, melded flavors of the lamb.
The finale was an assortment of petite desserts of roasted Kabocha squash sorbet with coconut tapioca, a traditional French Marquise dark chocolate and Turkish coffee ice cream paired with a viscous tawny-styled Yalumba Muscat. The diversity and authenticity of each pairing showcased the talents of Andrew Zimmerman and Alex Ring in highlighting a global view of tastes and textures.