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  • Courtesy of the Peninsula Chicago
  • Winter squash salad

Waiting for my date outside the Lobby, a restaurant in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, I pondered some jewelry on display in a glass case. This one? That one? Turns out it was outside my price range. But the experience was a fun little preview of the meal to come, which was so opulent as to make a humble restaurant reviewer forget that he’s not a vice president at Boeing.

Foodwise, the Lobby is the work of chef de cuisine Lee Wolen, who comes to Chicago from New York’s much-celebrated Eleven Madison Park, where he was a sous chef. (Before that, in Chicago, he worked at Butter and Moto.) He follows Curtis Duffy, who’s gone on to try to catch Michelin’s eye at Grace, and Graham Elliot, who’s gone on to name some restaurants after himself. Both those chefs cooked at the erstwhile Avenues, which the Peninsula closed in favor of the Lobby, which, again, is in the lobby.

It’s a really nice lobby: high ceilings, chandeliers, tall windows that overlook a skating rink. It looks like the kind of place to have afternoon tea. (There’s afternoon tea.) After we were seated, a cello somewhere started warming up. It was joined by an acoustic guitar. A classical duet? The pair opened with a cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” which is a country song about a jealous woman who fucks up her philandering boyfriend’s car. (You know the one: “Right now, he’s probably slow dancing with a bleached-blonde tramp / And she’s probably getting frisky.”)