TAO Group brings its renowned dining and nightlife experience to the Midwest with TAO Chicago, opening September 17. Following the transformation of the historic 1892 landmark, which was originally home to the Chicago Historical Society, TAO’s takeover of the 34,000 square foot space is sure to make its mark in the River North neighborhood.
“We’re thrilled to bring TAO to Chicago after many years of searching for the perfect location,” says TAO co-founder Rich Wolf. “The city’s incredible culinary and entertainment scene is a perfect fit for our ever-growing concept and we think that Chicagoans and visitors alike will love the unique experience that TAO has to offer.”
TAO Group founders Rich Wolf, Marc Packer, Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss have nurtured the TAO brand through openings in New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles since 2000. TAO Chicago, only the fifth iteration of the brand in eighteen years, will incorporate the city’s elevated-but-approachable mentality into its dual concept: a distinctive culinary destination and a supercharged nightclub.
TAO Chicago’s restaurant combines an intimate, yet lively ambiance with elevated Pan-Asian fare for a unique “vibe dining” experience. Diners enter the 275-seat space through a dramatic grand staircase that leads to the subterranean main dining floor. A 16-foot-tall Quan Yin statue overlooks guests as they dine on offerings from the sea, sky and land, featuring signature dishes like the Satay of Chilean Sea Bass, Lobster Wontons, Peking Duck, Crispy Snapper in “Sand” and highly-lauded Tuna Sashimi Pringle.
The kitchen is helmed by TAO Group Partner and Chef Ralph Scamardella and Chicago’s Executive Chef Michael Armstrong. Both chefs have immersed themselves into Chicago’s dining landscape and have worked to incorporate new steak and omakase sushi dishes onto TAO Chicago’s menu. TAO Chicago’s beverage program caters to Asian tastes with creative, approachable craft cocktails, such as the Phuket with whisky, aperol, plum nectar, lemon and a hint of Chinese 5-spice, along with the Tokyo Rose made with a tequila and mescal blend, fresh cucumber juice, aloe vera liqueur, cold pressed lime, and finished with a togarashi rim.
“Chicagoans know great food and have plenty of choices, so for us, it’s about bringing together our top chefs and exceeding guest expectations,” says TAO Chicago Executive Chef Michael Armstrong. “A lot of thought went into every dish we’ve created new for the Chicago menu, from our carefully-crafted sushi and omakase to bold meat-centric offerings. And we were sure to add all the TAO classics from each existing city to Chicago’s menu.”
Upstairs houses the second half of the TAO concept: the 7,000-square-foot nightclub. Late-night guests enter the club through 100-year-old, massive Chinese doors and down a lantern-lit exterior alley. Inside, club-goers can enjoy cocktails, bottle service and a spectacular scene within the intimate front nightclub space or the expansive rear space underneath a massive 10-foot bell and disco ball. The two nightclubs are separated by an operable wall that transforms the space into a one-room venue. The club draws upon TAO Group’s extensive background in nightlife and connections to top-tier artists and DJs.
TAO Chicago restaurant and nightclub were designed in collaboration with award-winning architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, which has worked with TAO Group on 14 previous projects. Rockwell Group celebrated the architectural significance of the Romanesque building and its striking design, preserving the exposed brick walls, soaring ceilings, arched windows and special geometry and sightlines. The material palette combines raw and industrial details with rich, luxurious Asian influenced elements, including murals by the notorious artist Hush.
“Rockwell Group is thrilled to take our collaboration with TAO Group to Chicago and offer a distinctive dining and nightlife experience in one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks,” says Shawn Sullivan, Partner, Rockwell Group. “Maintaining the building’s iconic Romanesque Revival façade, we are completely transforming the interior with an exciting set of spaces that contrast old and new. The new restaurant and nightclub weave through multiple levels, infusing TAO’s Asian-influenced sensibility within the historic envelope.”
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