5.9
CHI

Proxi

Perfect For: Big Groups Birthdays Small Plates
PHOTOS: Sandy Noto

Some restaurants seem like a sure thing. Maybe because of the chef, or because of the area they’re in, but even before you’ve gone there, they’ve managed to earn your trust. Proxi is one of these places - it’s the kind of spot that seems like a safe bet for dinner. With the head chef from Sepia (which has a Michelin star) and a location on Restaurant Row, you’re at the very least confident it’s not going to be bad. But unfortunately this is not the case - eating a meal here is a confusing and unpleasant experience.

The confusion starts right when you walk in, because even though you’re in the West Loop, the space feels like a sceney River North spot. There’s loud music, huge ceilings, and giant booths that could fit half a sorority. In the center of it all is a weird lounge that looks like the lobby of a Howard Johnson.

The “global street food” menu lists ingredients rather than dishes (you’ll find ash, turmeric, and roasted rice powder) and it’s all over the place. The food isn’t terrible, and some things, like the smoked oysters are pretty good, but most of it’s unmemorable and contains unnecessary weirdness. For example, the secret ingredient in the raw tuna dish is “ice cream” (technically a coconut sorbet but still, WTF), and the black pepper pork is served with odd little plastic squeeze bottles marked “Sriracha” and “Hoisin” with a DIY label maker. Any doubt we had that this restaurant was trying too hard disappeared when, while ordering dessert, our server told us that the avocado mousse is “their take on bubble tea.” The cocktail list also feels overwrought (there are coffee ice cubes in the negroni), and there’s a serious wine list with a rotating theme. It’s a cool idea in theory, but Zach Morris doppelgangers are bartending, and they don’t seem to know much about all those wines from the Loire Valley.

The whole thing feels like a bunch of trendy ideas thrown together, like a focus group’s Frankenstein’s Monster, and the experience leaves you feeling confused and ultimately disappointed. You walk away feeling very aware of the trust you misplaced in a “safe bet”.

Food Rundown

Burrata

This dish is tasty, though we’re not convinced burrata is a street food. It also has “leek ash,” which we’re not convinced actually tastes like anything.

Roasted Oysters

These are really good. The butter they’re roasted in is garlicky and tasty. If you’re here, you should get these.

Tempura Elotes

This looks like a waffle fry from Arby’s and tastes exactly like a funnel cake from the carnival.

Raw Tuna

Poke is a trend, and this raw tuna dish is just like it, but with the addition of a coconut sorbet. So this is basically a ice cream poke bowl. Which is disgusting.

Fried Fish Collars

The fish is bland, but the Thai chili sauce helps give it some flavor.

Black Pepper Pork

The pork is served with butter lettuce, and is meant to be made into little lettuce wraps. The pork isn’t very memorable, and the “hoisin” and “sriracha” bottles that come with seem like an amateurish attempt at being cute, and do nothing to make it worth ordering.

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