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Russian-French fine-dining brasserie coming to Wheeling

Wednesday, October 29, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kevin Brophy
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Russian-French fine-dining brasserie coming to Wheeling

October 29, 2014

A Russian-French fine-dining brasserie called Deka will open in mid-November in north suburban Wheeling.

Aleksandr Vaysman and his father-in-law, Igor Shtrambrand, are partners on the project. The menu promises a curious melange of frog legs with aioli, chicken Kiev, cassoulet and veal vareniki, along with plenty of caviar choices and long lists of wine and vodka. The place will have seating for 120 or so, white tablecloths throughout and a per-person check average above $50.

Most of the menu is dominated by French choices, a tradition among the upper classes of czarist Russia that always favored an escargot in Pernod cream (a Deka specialty) over such peasant fare as cabbage soup (not on the Deka menu). The vareniki is a case in point: It was more commonly stuffed with a poor cut of pork, but in the Deka incarnation it's got veal and foie gras.

“We're offering diners a more sophisticated take on dining in the Russian style,” says Mr. Vaysman, 35, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1992 from Belarus. He is an architect by trade, with degrees from the University of Illinois and the Illinois Institute of Technology, and is the designer of the restaurant. The Deka name, he explains, was hatched from his original art deco design concept that was later scrapped. “We liked the deco name, and from that came Deka,” he says.

For 13 years Mr. Shtrambrand, 60, an emigre from Ukraine in the early 1990s, has operated Shtram's Deli a few doors away in Wheeling's Riverside Plaza, catering in large part to an ethnic Jewish audience. Shtram's has moved and will share space with Deka, with the deli dominating the kitchen at lunchtime and the fine-dining business taking over in the evening, though later on Deka may offer lunch, too.

The chef is Michael Richie, 44, born in Germany and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who once worked with Jean Banchet nearby at Wheeling's landmark Le Francais. Most recently he was executive chef at the St. Moritz in Lake Geneva and the Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

An entire wall around the bar will be devoted to hard-to-find vodkas such as the Kauffman Jewish Standard along with some strange infusions, including one that puts a potent horseradish in the clear spirit. The wine list will have plenty of Bordeaux and Burgundy to go around, with many older vintages sourced privately, according to Mr. Vaysman.

—H. Lee Murphy

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