When the Elysian Hotel was taken over by Hilton and rebranded as a Waldorf Astoria, we wondered what that would mean for RIA and Balsan, the acclaimed restaurants in the hotel. As the Peninsula’s experience with Avenues showed, hotels are good at spending the money to draw top talent to create top-drawer restaurants, but not always as good at drawing the customers to keep them going. There was the sound of a shoe dropping a couple of weeks ago with the announcement of Embeya, a new pan-Asian restaurant from RIA Chef de Cuisine Thai Dang and former Elysian VP of operations Attila Gyulai. Well, the other chef’s clog dropped Friday afternoon with a big thud: Eater reported that Danny Grant, fresh from being feted at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, is leaving the hotel as of July 27 and that RIA will close for “reconcepting.”
That news leaves a lot of open questions— like where Grant is going (he says he has something in the works, but won’t say if it’s in Chicago), what will replace RIA (something less expensive, we suspect), what will happen to Balsan, what this means for rising star pastry chef Aya Fukai, who Grant credited with a close working relationship in our recent interview, and who else in the kitchen might have an announcement to make in the coming weeks as Dang and Gyulai did. For now, we’re just sorry, if not entirely surprised, to see RIA go (even if a new RIA is “reconcepted,” the current one will be gone) and hope that Balsan manages to maintain its level of quality and creativity during the transition to… whatever’s coming.