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Balsan Takes Tables While Waldorf Astoria Chicago's Ria in Limbo

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  Site Where: 11 E. Walton St. [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60611
January 15, 2013 at 12:49 PM | by | Comments (0)

Inside the cozy, casual Balsan at Waldorf Astoria Chicago

Ever since chef Danny Grant left Ria at Waldorf Astoria Chicago last July (mere months after being named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2012, we've wondered about the future of the restaurant, which also closed in sync with Grant's departure for "reconcepting." Six months later, and the former Ria remains in an odd sort of limbo.

One would think the deserted dining space would weigh heavily on the shoulders of a hotel just named last year as the #1 Large City Hotel in the U.S by Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards. But as far as we can tell, no one seems to be in a hurry to do anything with Ria. An insider tells us it's currently being used for private events and meetings, and may remain that way indefinitely.

Another idea we caught wind of several months ago was transforming Ria into a partially-enclosed rooftop space, a great move given the Rush Street/Gold Coast views below. But no official word has been released yet from Waldorf Astoria.

A huge, custom-made charcuterie and cheese plate at Balsan

Speculation aside, what's happening at the moment is a renewed focus on the hotel's more casual American bistro, Balsan. In September, the hotel appointed Executive Chef Herve Cuyeu, a native of Bordeaux and most recently at the helm of Florida's Waldorf Astoria Naples. Cuyeu will also oversee cuisine in the hotel's bar (Bernard’s Bar) as well as the cuisine for catering, in-room dining and the spa. Quite an undertaking.

We stopped by recently to give Chef Cuyeu's menu a whirl, discovering we may actually love Balsan even more than before. Balsan has long been known for its rockstar raw bar and Super Sundays, but this time the rest of the menu did not disappoint. A super robust and well-crafted charcuterie and cheese board, seared scallops with rutabaga cream, a ridiculous honeycrisp apple fritter -- each was better than the next. And sitting there dining at our secluded, banquette-like table with a "Blood and Sand" scotch cocktail, we found ourselves blissfully unaware of Ria.

So, what will become of Ria? We'll keep you posted, as always. In the meantime, we hope Balsan keeps killing it on the culinary front.

Room rates at Waldorf Astoria Chicago currently start at $325.

[Photos: Nina Kokotas Hahn for HotelChatter]

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