Nisos Mediterranean - Chicago
"Nisos" means "island" in Greek, and the intent of owner Brad Parker and chef Avgaria Stapaki is to make your entry into Nisos Mediterranean feel just like you stepped off the plane in the Greek islands. Mediterranean cuisine has been big for some years now, and there are lots of restaurants serving bright, healthful and delicious Mediterranean food; Nisos stands out from the rest with a sophisticated and hip vibe, while still serving deliciously Mediterranean dishes.
As explained on their site, "Bright, airy, and welcoming, Nisos is meant to serve as a respite from daily life. The restaurant is a verdant oasis in the heart of the West Loop, where the team employs a European approach to hospitality, making guests feel welcome and relaxed." Hospitality is critical, but it's not enough for a great restaurant, which also needs to serve food that's genuinely delicious. Mediterranean food is marked by lots of veg and fish, and on those points, Nisos is exceptional.
The veg-forward selections begin with appetite-stimulating starters, including tiropita (feta, Gruyere, mint, and honey), horiatiki salad (whipped feta, tomato, dehydrated cucumber, and koulouri), and and horta (beet root). For entrees, there are many outstanding fish and seafood options, including caviar, king crab legs, scorpion fish, bottarga and bream.
As reported in the Tribune, "Along with serving dishes traditional to the Mediterranean, Stapaki is importing around 40% of the food from the area. 'I’m bringing in all of the fish from the Aegean Sea,' she said. 'It’ll be caught in the morning, flown over here, and the next morning, it’ll be in my kitchen.' This catch will be presented in a fresh fish station, where guests can choose their own fish and watch it be weighed and cooked in front of them."
If you're in the mood for something meatier, there's a whole chicken with wild mushrooms and truffle butter, lamb shank, and Wagyu beef tagliata.
Eating super clean food does not preclude the possibility of dessert, and Nisos Mediterranean serves up spectacular after-dinner sweets, like Pavolova's Cheesecake (white chocolate monte, pistachio crumble, strawberry sorbet, meringue, and raspberry powder) and Rizogalo (mango in vanilla syrup, mango passion fruit sorbet, cinnamon crumble, and cinnamon tuile).