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  • Post #31 - May 18th, 2008, 12:46 pm
    Post #31 - May 18th, 2008, 12:46 pm Post #31 - May 18th, 2008, 12:46 pm
    Absolutely gorgeous.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #32 - May 21st, 2008, 12:30 am
    Post #32 - May 21st, 2008, 12:30 am Post #32 - May 21st, 2008, 12:30 am
    adding to ronnie_suburban's post...
    and trying to to write like this guy...
    following is my experience...
  • Post #33 - May 21st, 2008, 12:31 am
    Post #33 - May 21st, 2008, 12:31 am Post #33 - May 21st, 2008, 12:31 am
    L.2O Restaurant
    2300 N Lincoln Park West
    Chicago, IL 60614
    (773) 868-0002

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    Finally, opening night. After having read Chef Laurent Gras (and his team) post bits of information on their blog, we get to see all the pieces assembled and experience the machine.

    Prior to L.2O, Chef Gras has worked in France, and in the east and west sides of the U.S. Today, the Heartland will play host to his, and Richard Melman's (aka Mr. Lettuce Entertain You), visions.

    THE ENVIRONMENT
    L.2O is located in the Belden Stratford Hotel, in the space that Ambria occupied, ten and one half months ago. Since Ambria was part of the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) group, it was easy to move into the space. Not having been to Ambria (but many times to Mon Ami Gabi, located just across the hall), I cannot elaborate on how much work was done to transform the space into, the now, ultra clean and modern aesthetic, but I can say that that it looks like a complete make-over.

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    Experiencing the restaurant begins with the valet service. Once you tell the valet that you are dining at L.2O (remember that Mon Ami Gabi share the same building entrance), it is like going through the first class, express check-in at the airport. They take your car, with no ticket given, and radio in your arrival to the host staff.

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    You then go through (unassisted) the hotel lobby and find your way to the entrance of the restaurant. It is quite easy to find the doors to the restaurant, as the wall of ebony wood are quite different from the look and feel of the hotel lobby. And just in case you are not sure, there is sign on the door.

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    As you enter, Katie, the maître d' / hosttes, who was at Alinea and Tru prior, greets you by name. Here you can start to piece some of the elements of the restaurant. The current website illustration is a perspective drawing of the entry vestibule. The area is dark, yet warm, made comfortable by an always smiling group of FOH staff. These wood monoliths, are irregularly spaced, providing one with different glimpses into the main dining room. Sort of reminds me of the Tadao Ando room at the Art Institute. I wonder if there will be a mini shop, like at Tru's entry, promoting those little Laurent Gras products -- I want mine with an engraved signature, please.

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    Having arrived very early, I decide to have a beverage while I wait for the rest of my party. To the left of the entry vestibule, there is a lounge area, designed as a waiting area. On a first come first serve basis, you can come in enjoy their lounge menu of food and drink. In fact there were a few people there already way ahead of the game. As this area was full, I decided to wait in the hotel lobby, and ordered the L.2O gimlet. Gimlet, you say, but why does it have an orange hue, you ask? The gimlet part is the standard recipe; gin (a not so dry version, can't recall the name), and lime juice. The L.2O addition is Aperol, Italian aperitif, made by Campari. This was a tasty beverage of citrus and bitters; "adult candy." This cocktail, along with the Mediterranean Breeze, are shaken table side with Alessi Cocktail shaker.

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    This was served by our captain for the evening, Alyson (not the one pictured above). I bring this up because of how the restaurant operates. As soon as the hostess greets and welcomes you, they introduce you to your personal captain, who takes you down to your table. Although there are other staff members assisting in your evening's experience, through out the whole evening, the captain and the sommelier are primarily the ones you will be interacting with. Not to say that the general manager, floor manager, and any of the head honchos will be stopping by to check in.

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    As our party has arrived, we decided to have a cocktail in the lounge area. Most everybody had the house aperitif, a champagne cocktail. I, the caipirinha. Although the lounge is in the same room as the main dining room, a frosted glass panel hinders your view into the main space. The tables and chairs are slightly different from the main space, providing one with more a 'lounge' atmosphere. As we sat comfortably, enjoying our beverage, I noticed the only piece of wall art.

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    1945 (7:45 pm), and we were ready to be seated. We have been enjoying the space, beverages and hospitality for 45 minutes, that we almost forgot the main reason for coming in this evening.

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    As you move from the lounge area into dining room, you take a couple of steps down into a more grandiose space. The walls of the room is clad with wood veneer panels, and series of tensioned cables provides a visual dispersion of the space. There is music in the air, not classical, but hip and modern. I was informed that the harmonic selections were made as a collaboration between Chef Gras and DJ Timka (Buddha Bar, NYC).

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    We were seated at the only six-top in the main ding room, behind the floral arrangements, which were sandwiched between two pieces of clear glass. The three private dining rooms can hold much more. The main dining room has about 18 tables. Although tonight the restaurant will operate under capacity, filling around 10 of 18 tables, with no tatami and private party seatings. This will ramp up in the coming weeks.

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    The table is an ebody veneer, similar to the wood monoliths in the entry. On the table is your linen napkin, a blue (O-Ridel?) stemless glass, bread plate, silverware on top of a thin and slender slab of onyx, and a short plastic cylinder. The custom, leather wrapped chairs are cantilevered, proving a stiff and springy feel. It was very comfortable. And we are going to need comfort as we were going to be seated there for almost six hours.

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  • Post #34 - May 21st, 2008, 12:32 am
    Post #34 - May 21st, 2008, 12:32 am Post #34 - May 21st, 2008, 12:32 am
    THE MENU

    There are going to be three type of menus that planned once everything is up and running; lounge menu, main dining room menu, and the tatami room menu. The main dining room menu, will be presented in their private rooms. The menu offerings for the main dining room are:
    12-course tasting ($165)
    4-course prix fixe ($110)
    à la carte, snack size (range $15-$110).
    à la carte, super sized (range $45- $140)

    Note that the staff responded affirmatively when we inquired about the possibility of a party having a 12 and 4 course menu.

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    For those that can't read it...

    12-course tasting
    - Hokkaido Scallop
    - Shimaaji
    - Tuna-Hamachi
    - Octopus
    - Morels
    - Codfish
    - Lobster
    - Halibut
    - Black Bass
    - Medai
    - Mango
    - Praline


    4-course prix fixe
    RAW (course 1)
    - Salmon, Ginger, Parsley, Cantaloupe
    - Fluke, Lemon Vinegar, Caviar, Basil Seeds
    - Vegetable Consommé, Parmesan, Pistachio, Zucchini Strip
    - Sashimi Platter, Kinmedai, Fluke, Kampachi
    - Kinmedai, Cherry Wood Scented, Shiso Flowers
    - Medai, Shiso Leaf, Preserved Lemon
    - Peekytoe Crab, Avocado, Kaffir Lime, Lemon Oil
    - Geoduck, Citrus, Wasabi
    - Tuna, Hamachi, Yuzu, Soy Sauce, Olive Oil
    - Escolar Jamón, Espelette
    - Shimaaji, Red Miso, Radish, Soy Salt

    WARM (course 2)
    - Kampachi, Mojama, Balsamic Vinegar, Raspberry
    - Octopus, Coconut, Sea Bean, Olive Oil
    - Salted Cod, Fingerling Potato, Smoked Gelatin, Caviar
    - Lamb Tartar, Ebi Shrimp, Pickled Peach, Tarragon
    - Scallop, Sassafras, Hibiscus, Tomato
    - Lobster Bisque, Chestnut, Lobster Dumpling
    - Burrata Cappelli, Nepitella Mint, Cherry Stone Clam, Jamón Bouillon
    - Gold Egg Yolk, Kampachi, Kurobuta Pork, Sake

    MAIN (course 3)
    - Lobster, Tahitian Vanilla, Chanterelle, Watermelon Radish
    - Skate Wing, Bordelaise, Asparagus
    - Ivory King Salmon, Pea, Chorizo Bouillon
    - Cod Fish, Green Olive, Lemon, White Grits
    - Black Bass, Shellfish Bouillon, Saffron, Rhode Island Mussel
    - Pork Belly, Truffle, Potato
    - Lamb Loin, Rhubarb, Tomato, Cu beb Pepper, Zucchini
    - Shabu-Shabu Medai, Kombu Bouillon, Citrus, King Trumpe

    DESSERT (course 4)
    - Soufflé, Orange, Grand Marnier
    - Soufflé, Praline, Praline
    - Cheese (pre-selected by the house)
    - a selection from the dessert menu


    à la carte
    - Sashimi Platter, Ishidai
    - Shellfish Platter, Oyster, Clam, Scallop, Lobster, Shrimp, Octopus, Uni
    - Miyazaki Wagyu Beef, Lettuce, Heart of Palm, Beetroot
    - Kindai Toro, Green Apple, Miso, Olive, Sudashi
    - Amadai, Crispy Scale, Ginger Bouillon, Tapioca Pearl
    - Dover Sole, Champagne, Scallop, Watercress, Sorrel
    - Ossetra Caviar, Toro, Avocado
    - Ossetra Caviar ( loz) , Toast, Crème Fraîche


    The wine list was huge and selections were varied and excellent. Today, we were going to leave all of that decision making to our sommelier, Chantelle (Ritz-Carlton Buckhead Café, Atlanta). The other sommelier also on the floor is Doug (Spring Restaurant Group, Chicago). The wine pairing for our 12-course menu was $85.
    Last edited by yellow truffle on May 21st, 2008, 12:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #35 - May 21st, 2008, 12:32 am
    Post #35 - May 21st, 2008, 12:32 am Post #35 - May 21st, 2008, 12:32 am
    OUR COURSES

    Our brigade, was ready for the kitchen's. Joining us this evening; Ron (aka ronnie_suburban), on the back-up camera; Kevin, talking about the latest in modern jewelry design; Dirk, the architect of the space; with Chris and Patrick, providing the chorus line for Dirk.

    Everything that was on the menu sounded interesting and we wanted it all. Instead we went with the 12-course tasting and ordered 3 additional items. Following is our menu for the evening:

    - Oyster (amuse 1)
    - Fluke (amuse 2)
    - Crab Ceviche (amuse 3)
    - Ossetra Caviar (extra course ordered by us 1)
    - Hokkaido Scallop (course 1)
    - Shimaaji (course 2)
    - Tuna Hamachi (course 3)
    - Octopus (course 4)
    - Morels (course 5)
    - Codfish (course 6)
    - Lobster (course 7)
    - Halibut (course 8 )
    - Black Bass (course 9)
    - Shabu Shabu Medai (course 10)
    - Pork Belly (extra course ordered by us 2)
    - Cheese Course (extra course ordered by us 3)
    - Carrot Meringue (pre-dessert 1)
    - Green Tea Shaved Ice (pre-dessert 2)
    - Mango (course 11, aka dessert 1)
    - Marshmallow (dessert 2)
    - Soufflé, Praline, Praline (course 12, aka dessert 3)
    - Macaroons (mignardise 1)
    - Coffee Ganache (mignardise 2)

    Now you might say that the list is a little more than 15. And I might say that the kitchen does not know how to count (yeay for us). But in reality the kitchen decides on a daily basis how many extra dishes are brought out. Perhaps that since the dining room was not a full capacity, the kitchen had an opportunity to bring out some extras.

    Chantelle, our sommelier provided us with a progression of fine wines. Since there was six of us, we got the whole bottle to ourselves, except for the magnum. Following is our wines for the evening:

    - Gonet-Medeville (80% pinot, 20% chardonay)
    - Vouvray, Le Haut Lieu, Sec, Domaine Huet, 2006
    - Manotsuru, Four Diamonds, Junmai-Ginjo, Genshu, Niigata
    - Grüner Veltliner, Smaragd, Reid Loibenberg, Knoll, Wachau, 2006 (Magnum)
    - Bourgogne Blanc, Francois Jobard, 2001
    - Nerello Mascalese, Passopiciaro, Sicily, 2005
    - Cremant D'Alsace, Albert Boxler
    - Jurancon, Gourmandise, Cancaillau, 1995
  • Post #36 - May 21st, 2008, 12:33 am
    Post #36 - May 21st, 2008, 12:33 am Post #36 - May 21st, 2008, 12:33 am
    Oyster (amuse 1)
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    Fluke (amuse 2)
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    Crab Ceviche (amuse 3)
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    Ossetra Caviar, Toro, Avocado (extra course ordered by us 1)
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    Hokkaido Scallop (course 1)
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    Shimaaji (course 2)
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    Tuna Hamachi (course 3)
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    Octopus (course 4)
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    Morels (course 5)
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    Codfish (course 6)
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    Lobster (course 7)
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    Halibut (course 8 )
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    Black Bass (course 9)
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    Shabu Shabu Medai (course 10)
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    Pork Belly (extra course ordered by us 2)
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    Cheese Course (extra course ordered by us 3)
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    Carrot Meringue (pre-dessert 1)
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    Green Tea Shaved Ice (pre-dessert 2)
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    Mango (course 11, aka dessert 1)
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    Marshmallow (dessert 2)
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    Soufflé, Praline, Praline (course 12, aka dessert 3)
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    Macaroons (mignardise 1)
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    Coffee Ganache (mignardise 2)
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  • Post #37 - May 21st, 2008, 12:39 am
    Post #37 - May 21st, 2008, 12:39 am Post #37 - May 21st, 2008, 12:39 am
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    As we look over the menu options, the staff hands out towels in preparation for the dinner service. Although the towels look ordinary the pedestal for discarding them are custom made. In fact you can see a lot of things on the table that are custom made. A few people had their hand in the design and production for some of the custom service ware pieces; from the architect, to Crucial Detail, and of course your European stock houses.

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    Unlike some fine dining establishments, L.2O has no water sommelier. I find it a welcome change, when they just pour the water in your glass and don't even bother to ask you what kind of water you would like (last thing I want to do is think about what kind of water to have). Thanx for making it easy for me, and thanx for bringing me that sparkling water.

    We start off with a couple of one-biters, the Oyster, made with ginger and vinegar, and the Fluke, with its smoky flavor (although no smoke smell) is encapsulated into a frozen half shaped dome. Flavorful, but not rich, and complemented with an 80% pinot champagne (Gonet-Medeville).

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    After the amuses, Alyson offers us a selection of half a dozen types of breads. These were made in house and varied in flavor, from a plain demi-baguette, to a bacon demi-epi-baguette, and an anchovy croissant. On the table is the house churned butter. As tasty as the butter was, I did not find it necessary to add to the bread's already zesty flavor. We went through multiple servings of bread, and with the compliments of the house, were given a to go bag of breads -- sadly I was not the lucky person taking then home.

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    One of my favorites was the Ossetra Caviar. The eggs coated the outermost shell of the dome, followed by tuna belly, and avocado in the core. The three just worked well together to make a wonderfully decadent dish. The Shimaaji (horse mackerel) was a tender, almost meaty texture, that I could not get enough of. Finishing off the cold starters is the combination Tuna Hamachi. Seasoned only with a little soy and olive oil at the base. Chef elevates these humble ingredients to new heights.

    Taking a break from the fish, chef brings out the most heavenly Morels I have ever had. Simple in preparation and presentation, these morels, not the most dominant item on the dish, take center stage. The Codfish and the Lobster are two smaller courses prior to the big three; Halibut, Black Bass, and Medai. Big in that they are thickly cut and large portions. Although the portions were larger than the previous dishes, I did not find it too difficult to take down.

    And then there was the extra meat option. We ordered the Pork Belly as an extra dish just to see how chef prepares a meat dish. Crispy, juicy, meaty, and not too fatty, is what best describes this wonderful creation. And to make things even richer, a brown sauce with black truffles. Simply, wow.

    For the back 8, we have a cheese course (no cheese cart, yet), 2 pre-desseerts (intermezzo), 3 desserts, and 2 mignardise. These course transitioned into each quite nicely, with each building in flavor richness. Coffee service is made possible with the pre-Starbucks Clover machine.

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    This was a masterful fine dining experience. But this was also a fun and un-intimidating one. Chef can bring out dishes prepared traditionally, then come out with a dish of gelees and foam crackers. There are a few playful interactions going on throughout the 12-course tasting; such as harpooning the Marshmallow and the Shabu Shabu. The FOH folks were always smiling and jovial, yet carried themselves in a very professional manner. For me the evening was about these, and other, juxtapositions; details such the traditional coupe champagne glasses, and the silver dome warmers, to the individual shabu shabu, and the acrylic butter dish.

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    In the midst of the juxtaposition, one thing that I was impressed with is the equal attention give the all things that left the kitchen. The desserts were just as good as the savories. The breads, as well as the beverages, also had an opportunity to shine. Chalk up another one for Mr. Melman and his LEYE list of establishments. This international, top tier, fine dining restaurant is sure to make waves with Chef Gras at the helm. Everything is well conceived and executed. I can't wait for my next visit.

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    In the interest of full disclosure... This experience was totally paid for by me. I made the reservations myself. My connection to the restaurant, is primarily through the architect.
  • Post #38 - May 21st, 2008, 4:54 am
    Post #38 - May 21st, 2008, 4:54 am Post #38 - May 21st, 2008, 4:54 am
    I don't think I have ever seen food photography better than Ronnie's in this thread.

    I appreciate the multifaceted contributions by yellow truffle as well.

    Time to rob a bank and hit L.20.
  • Post #39 - May 21st, 2008, 5:34 am
    Post #39 - May 21st, 2008, 5:34 am Post #39 - May 21st, 2008, 5:34 am
    Ronnie,

    Thanks for the beautiful post. It's hard to believe it's the same room as Ambria. They have completely redone the space. Although I'll miss Ambria for its notalgia, it looks like L.20 is a worthy replacement. I can't wait to have dinner there.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #40 - May 30th, 2008, 8:43 am
    Post #40 - May 30th, 2008, 8:43 am Post #40 - May 30th, 2008, 8:43 am
    In a word: wow

    We had a simply stellar meal at L2O last night. Stellar in every way possible. Food, service, presentation, everything.

    We did the 12 course tasting menu. I'm glad we got to try so many dishes, but honestly when (not if) I go back I'm going to do 4 courses. As great as everything was, I actually found myself getting seafood fatigue towards the end of the savory portion of the menu. I don't know if it was the portion sizes or getting confronted with staggering greatness on almost every course or what, I just couldn't take any more.

    Anyway, we had a number of the same dishes that Ron and yellow truffle have already posted about. The pork belly was included on our tasting menu instead of being an add-on. The codfish was sent out by the kitchen and did not appear on our tasting menu. The other dishes we had that were the same were:

    Hokkaido scallop (which was actually proceeded by another scallop dish...both were fantastic)
    Morels - I don't like mushrooms and I loved this dish
    Halibut - Our halibut came with a side of emulsified potatoes that were probably the best mashed potatoes I've ever had (I'm talking Robuchon mashed potato good)
    Bass - Good, but very rich
    Pork belly - Honestly, I wasn't as over the moon about this dish as I thought I would be. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that it was our second to last savory course and I was getting full. I still managed to eat the whole thing though.
    Shabu shabu - The placement of this dish in the tasting menu is nothing short of brilliant. Last night this was the last savory course (following the pork belly and coming right before the carrot/orange pre-dessert). It's brilliant for three reasons. First, the reappearance of raw fish brings the savory portion of the meal full circle, which is really neat on an emotional level. Second, the fact that you do lightly cook the fish provides a nice bridge out of the more substantial courses that you're served immediately prior. Third, the flavors of the last couple of savory courses are so strong and distinct that the delicateness of the shabu shabu provides you with an opportunity to "come down" if that makes any sense.

    As to the dishes that were different, I don't have our menu in front of me but there are three dishes in particular that I found particularly striking:

    Tuna and foie gras - See what happens when a chef gets to work with all clubs in the bag? This was a perfectly formed, solid cylinder of absolutely beautiful finely chopped tuna served alongside a torchon of foie gras. When combined, the slight saltiness and the fattiness of the foie gras played perfectly off of the richness and sweetness of the tuna. Stunning
    Kinmedai - Big eye snapper served raw that had been lightly cold-smoked in house. Not only did this taste great (you're not going to get better raw fish in Chicago than what you get at L2O, it's not even close), but this was one of the more visually striking dishes we had. The meat of the raw fish was faintly purple. Small edible purple flowers were scattered over the top of the fish. This is probably one of the few times I wish I had a camera with me because it really was a beautiful plate.
    Sea urchin, sea urchin - Uni served in an uni/lobster sauce and/or emulsion (sorry for the crummy description, the person who presented this dish didn't seem to know a whole lot about it). Just insane. The wife had never had uni before. After her first bite she looked up at me and said, "this tastes like the ocean." It did, and it was wonderful.

    Service was just about perfect. I would have liked some additional explanation of some of the dishes, but that's just me being geaky. The sommelier Chantelle could not have been more engaging and picked a perfect bottle of Chablis that took us through our entire meal (it was a school night, so we took it easy).

    At the end of our meal one of the partners in the restaurant gave us a full tour of the space. The tatami rooms are really cool. One is set up to only seat two people. My guess is that this will become a highly sought after spot for marriage proposals. The kitchen also has all sorts of cool gadgets.

    So, the inevitable question is where does L2O fit in the pantheon of Chicago fine dining establishments? I think it's hard to say. In the top 5? Absolutely. In the top 3? Probably. I liked L2O way more than Tru and Charlie Trotters. Probably not as much as Alinea and I haven't been to Avenues under Duffy yet.

    One of the things that makes L2O so impressive is that for the food to be at the level it's at, the ingredients have to be perfect. Not just very good or excellent, perfect. With a lot of these dishes, there's nowhere for an inferior piece of fish to hide. In that regard L2O is dealing with a very high degree of difficulty that has to be recognized when evaluating the restaurant.

    One final thought - I went into this dinner prepared to compare L2O to Le Bernardin in NYC. Now having eaten at both, the comparison can be made only to the extent that they are both 4-star restaurants that specialize in seafood. That is where the comparison stops. L2O is far more modern and takes the aesthetic portion of the dining experience far more seriously than Le Bernardin. It's actually pretty difficult to compare L2O to any restaurant I'm familiar with (maybe Alinea, maybe Per Se, but there are problems with each comparison).

    The bottom line though is that this is a spectacular restaurant and we are extremely fortunate to be able to add L2O to the already outstanding roster of restaurants in this city.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #41 - June 15th, 2008, 9:43 am
    Post #41 - June 15th, 2008, 9:43 am Post #41 - June 15th, 2008, 9:43 am
    I didn't think I'd be able to add much to the reviews/comments posted above, but Chef Gras has obviously toyed with the menu such that there were a few dishes offered last night which appear to be new. I'll start by saying that L.20 exceeded my expectations . . . yes, exceeded . . . even after having read the comments and viewed the pictures already posted here.

    First, the service at L.20 is outstanding -- knowledgeable, attentive, extremely precise and yet relaxed. The dining room is a bit loud for a fine dining experience of this type, such that it was a little hard to hear across a table of 6, and that might be my biggest gripe of the evening. Also, over four hours for the 12-course meal was long -- maybe this was as much our fault for easing into the meal slowly with some drinks.

    As for the food: bread service is spectacular. My favorites were the anchovy brioche and the most perfect miniature baguette.

    Our first amuse was a peanut foam with a dab of wasabi. The peanut foam was more of a solid, yet airy pillow-like cylinder of perfect peanut flavor and the wasabi delivered the palate wake-up intended.

    The meal was amazing, but four pre-dessert courses really stood out to me (in no particular order):

    First, the halibut was sensational. And I'll concur with Josh with respect to the potatoes -- delicious, rich, buttery, smooth. And the halibut itself was the best preparation I have ever tasted.

    Second, the pork belly with truffle and potato (pictured by Ronnie). Pork belly when done right is good enough, but the one crackling side of this belly, combined with the sauce, made this dish into a work of art. I have never tasted a better pork belly dish anywhere.

    Third, the Amadai (sea bream - described in the chef's blog). The fish was fried, scales and all (in the blog, Chef Gras explains that it's too difficult to remove the scales), and then baked. The result was a beautifully crisp and crunchy exterior, a delicate mild and smooth fish, and it was about as good as fish can get. While the menu refers to an Amadai dish with ginger and tapioca, I'm not sure I recall those elements of the dish. I seem to recall a citrus flavor, but I could be wrong. In any event, the Amadai was amazing.

    Fourth, the morels, asparagus and parmesan. All of the flavors were beautiful, and I particularly loved Chef Gras' use of air-like cylinders, here parmesan (in another dish, carrot) which appear to be freeze dried.

    One dish not previously mentioned but which was on our menu last night was Columbia River Sturgeon with the carrot cylinders, coffee and passion fruit. This was also excellent. Really, there were no misses on the menu, just certain dishes that were not as memorable as others. I have to say that I was not as excited with the Shabu Shabu as others, perhaps because it came right after the pork belly and I just don't think I was able to transition back to the lightness of the fish after the ultra-rich pork belly.

    Desserts: We started with a small watermelon palate cleanser (watermelon ice and a spicy watermelon soup?)

    The mango dessert, with the lemongrass marshmallows and pineapple, papaya and mango and passion fruit seeds was outstanding.

    We were also given a disk described as effervescent chocolate and blood orange. It was just as described -- a tasty combination of blood orange and chocolate that fizzed in a pop rocks-like fashion in your mouth.

    A small taste of a vanilla panna cotta with blueberries preceded the wonderful souffles. I liked the praline praline, but preferred the Grand Marnier-Orange. I was impressed by the fact that each souffle was almost exactly alike in height.

    And yes, the pistachio macaroon which ended the meal was perfect. My only complaint about the food? Too much of it. I could have done with one or two less courses, or maybe a couple of smaller portions. I was getting very full even before dessert, so limit your bread intake (not easy) and make sure to go there hungry.

    Finally, a tour of the restaurant including a peak inside the fish prep room. It was great to see the magnificent kitchen and watch the team at work plating some of the dishes.

    What a wonderful evening -- amazing food and service. And while L.20 must certainly be immediately placed near the top of Chicago fine dining experiences, it's their delivery of outstanding seafood (and often more exotic seafood) to the Chicago dining scene that makes L.20 unique and really excites me.
  • Post #42 - June 16th, 2008, 3:01 pm
    Post #42 - June 16th, 2008, 3:01 pm Post #42 - June 16th, 2008, 3:01 pm
    After a couple weeks of being open, I had another opportunity to try out some more Chef Gras' creations. This time around we (a party of six) are going with the four-course menu, and order a couple of items to share. The four-course is separated into; Raw, Warm, Main, and Desert. Each of these offers a wide range of selections numbering from 8-12 dishes. Although the items on the four-course sounded great, I was interested in the a la carte selections. The restaurant was ever accommodating and allowed us to create our own four-course menu, at (I believe) an extra charge. In substitution for the Raw and Main courses, I went with the Shellfish Platter and the Miyazaki Wagyu Beef - both of which were amazing choices. But before we got to those we had to wade through 4 amuses and an extra course. In total we ended up having 15 courses.

    - Hokkaido Scallop (amuse 1)
    - Foie Gras (amuse 2)
    - Monk Fish Tail (amuse 3)
    - Oyster and Caviar (amuse 4)
    - Ossetra Caviar (extra 1)
    - Shellfish Platter (course 1)
    - Burrata Cappelli (course 2)
    - Miyazaki Wagyu Beef (course 3)
    - Green Tea Ice (pre-dessert 1)
    - Chocolate Effervesce (pre-dessert 2)
    - Soufflé (both grand marnier and praline) (dessert 1)
    - Passion Fruit Marshmallow (dessert 2)
    - Chocolate Raspberry (dessert 3)
    - Pistache Macaroon (mignardise 1)
    - Canelé (mignardise 2)
  • Post #43 - June 16th, 2008, 3:07 pm
    Post #43 - June 16th, 2008, 3:07 pm Post #43 - June 16th, 2008, 3:07 pm
    - Hokkaido Scallop (amuse 1)
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    - Foie Gras (amuse 2)
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    - Monk Fish Tail (amuse 3)
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    - Oyster and Caviar (amuse 4)
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    - Ossetra Caviar (extra 1)
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    - Shellfish Platter (course 1)
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    - Burrata Cappelli (course 2)
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    - Miyazaki Wagyu Beef (course 3)
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    - Green Tea Ice (pre-dessert 1)
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    - Chocolate Effervesce (pre-dessert 2)
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    - Soufflé (both grand marnier and praline) (dessert 1)
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    - Passion Fruit Marshmallow (dessert 2)
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    - Chocolate Raspberry (dessert 3)
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    - Pistache Macaroon (mignardise 1)
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    - Canelé (mignardise 2)
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  • Post #44 - June 16th, 2008, 3:08 pm
    Post #44 - June 16th, 2008, 3:08 pm Post #44 - June 16th, 2008, 3:08 pm
    The Foie Gras amuse was atop a half sphere of raw tuna and served with brioche toast points on a toast rack (I just love toast racks). The buttery smooth foie provides a wonderful contrast to the tender tuna, that brings a wonderful combination to the second one bite'r. The Monk Fish Tail is another new item on the amuse and it does not disappoint, with a tomato meringue and concassé. This time around, Chef brings out the Oyster (winter point variety) amuse with Ossetra caviar and a lemon grass gellee. Speaking of Ossetra caviar, we had another go at their caviar, tuna and avocado dish. Same great taste as before, but twice the price from opening night. Definitely worth getting as a splurge item. If these amueses have not enticed you, their bread service sure will. This has not changed from opening night.

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    Now the big'ies. The Shellfish Platter was chosen, from the a la caret menu, as a substitution for my first course. This dish is a display of "shock and awe." On one, Martin Kastner designed dish, Chef brings 12 (that I could count) different shellfish items. From what I can recall they are; sea urchin, winter point oyster, penn cove oyster, maine lobster, santa barbara shrimp, stone crab, soft shell crab, hokkaido scallop, mussels, little neck clams, and octopus, all of which are topped over a lemongrass oyster foam. The items on this dish change depending on availability, so your mileage may vary. It was enjoyable trying out various shellfishes and the portion was just right so as to not make one jaded by the experience. If you are a shellfish aficionado, this one is for you.

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    Burrata Cappelli, a fish course with clams and mint leaves. This already wonderful combination is brought together with a broth of Jamón. The flavor combinations were very refreshing - spring like. The cappelli is so very light and delicate that the texture is reminiscent of a folded gnocchi. For me the experience of the dish was, the flavor and texture of the fish, followed by slight hit of the Nepitella mint, and finishing with the smooth subtle flavor of the broth of smoked Spanish ham.

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    And for the last savory dish, the Miyazaki Wagyu Beef blows everything out of the water. L.2O has a focus on seafood, but has not left the land lover out of the picture. Last time we had the Pork Belly as an extra course, and that experience left me wanting to try out Chef's other non-fish items. This Japanese beef was just out of this world. First of all the quality is superlative. And the technique was, IMHO, one of the best that I have ever had. This small portion, maybe 4-6 ounces, was just seared and then plated with the garnishes (which although tasty, paled in comparison to the beef), and sushi (vinegar'ed) rice. The searing was done so well that each bite seemed to have a very thin crispy skin to it. Even tough there was a layer of fat at the outer most part of the meat, the fat marbled itself into the rest of the cut. Every bite was succulent.

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    After the display of savories, and before the desserts, the kitchen brings out some pre-desserts (intermezzo). The Chocolate Effervesce was a one bite item that had a 'pop-rocky' finish. Refreshing, but a little too bitter (almost medicinal) for me. My dessert was the Chocolate Raspberry. Made with Guanaja chocolate, this dish has over 10 components of chocolate and raspberry. Of the items that I could recall; raspberry gelee, raspberry sorbet, raspberry meringue, dark raspberry ganache, and cotton candy.

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    And just incase you were still hungry, they have the mignardise. A pistachio Macaroon and a Canelé. The macaroon was sooo good, that I was having a Ratatouille flash back moment to the Champs-Elysées, eating a macaroon by Pierre Herme. The Canelé is a traditional pastry item from Bordeaux, with a caramelized outer shell. Tasty, but I could have had another go at the Macaroon.

    Once again, another great L.2O dining experience. I was glad to go back and try out items that I had not had before, confirming the Chef's creativity and talent. This time around Doug was our sommelier, who provided us with a few great selections. As the restaurant's (somewhat) dynamic menu allows the diners to make their own tasting totally custom, the wine pairing program is catered similarly, with the sommelier providing a few recommendations throughout your meal. In fact, a few of us were having a junmai ginjo sake (can't recall the label), midway through our savory courses. Pretty tough on the FOH folks, but they pulled it off quite well. Our captain was Christina who performed her job in the most professional and expeditious manner. In the end (after being in the restaurant for 6 hours), she presented us with menus and breads for each of us (I believe these were ordered by our dinner host).

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    L.2O is a restaurant that is very professional, but has the ability to change gears and cater the experience to the diner. In the end we had a lot of fun, even though we were there for a while (at no fault of the restaurant). It has been said that dining with me adds an extra 30% time to your dinner... well I sure did not want to disappoint.

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  • Post #45 - June 16th, 2008, 3:59 pm
    Post #45 - June 16th, 2008, 3:59 pm Post #45 - June 16th, 2008, 3:59 pm
    Yellow Truffle - absolutely amazing photography and write-up - are you sure you're not related to Ronnie Suburban or Steve Z?
  • Post #46 - June 16th, 2008, 4:25 pm
    Post #46 - June 16th, 2008, 4:25 pm Post #46 - June 16th, 2008, 4:25 pm
    Great stuff, yellow truffle! That wagyu beef looks absolultely astonishing, as does the rest of the meal. I can't wait to get back to L.20

    BTW nr706, almost everything I know about food photography, I learned from the truffle, so there's a good reason my shots often approximate his.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #47 - June 16th, 2008, 4:27 pm
    Post #47 - June 16th, 2008, 4:27 pm Post #47 - June 16th, 2008, 4:27 pm
    Agreed on the artistry of the descriptions and images. Can they please be resized to 600 pixels in width for those of us viewing on mobile devices / restricted browsers?
  • Post #48 - June 16th, 2008, 4:30 pm
    Post #48 - June 16th, 2008, 4:30 pm Post #48 - June 16th, 2008, 4:30 pm
    Beautiful pictures, YT! Although I am scheduled to go to Graham Elliot this weekend and am excited about that possibility, L.20 is the place I most look forward to trying in the near future, based on your and Ronnie's posts.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #49 - June 16th, 2008, 10:36 pm
    Post #49 - June 16th, 2008, 10:36 pm Post #49 - June 16th, 2008, 10:36 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Unfortunately, by no fault of the kitchen, the lobster itself was a bit chewy but still very delicious.

    A question intended not to hijack this thread but to further my lobster education: I had always believed that when lobster was chewy, it was because it hadn't been prepared properly. Is it, rather, simply the case that some lobsters are chewy just because they're born that way, and that there's no way for a chef to know before serving the meat of a given lobster whether it will be chewy or not?
  • Post #50 - June 16th, 2008, 10:59 pm
    Post #50 - June 16th, 2008, 10:59 pm Post #50 - June 16th, 2008, 10:59 pm
    Even, if say a particular lobster was inherently chewy, which can be the case if you were dealing with a larger older lobster or a really unfresh sample, there is a responsibility on the part of the kitchen to taste their mise en place constantly as they bring in fresh product and as they cook (there's no cost excuse not to when you're charging as much per course at these high end places) to determine whether something should be served. I was there the same night as Ronnie and had the same criticism...whether it was an inherent quality problem or an overcooking problem, someone was consistently inconsistent.

    That being said, the whole of the meal was incredible, and that one moment didn't make me doubt the kitchen or the restaurant. Things happen, even at the highest levels of dining.
    MJN "AKA" Michael Nagrant
    http://www.michaelnagrant.com
  • Post #51 - June 18th, 2008, 9:41 am
    Post #51 - June 18th, 2008, 9:41 am Post #51 - June 18th, 2008, 9:41 am
    Following are some other images that my dining companions were having.

    Santa Barbara Shrimp (red pepper, raspberry, cucumber)
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    Lamb Loin (rhubarb, tomato, cubeb pepper, zucchini)
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    Hawaiian Sea Bass (green olive, lemon, white grit)
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    Rhubarb (dessert)
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  • Post #52 - June 21st, 2008, 12:50 am
    Post #52 - June 21st, 2008, 12:50 am Post #52 - June 21st, 2008, 12:50 am
    i enjoyed waking up everyday and checking the l2o blog prior to it's opening and find it very exciting to have such a unique and special place here in chicago.
    i just love those stunning giant fiddlehead ferns submerged into clear glass cyliders,simple and easthetically sublime and beatufully lit as well.
    all the photos are wonderful thanks for sharing these ephermeral works of art with the rest of us!
    p.s. i agree regarding the comparison of the entrance to the fantastic tadao ando room at the art institute.
  • Post #53 - June 21st, 2008, 4:58 pm
    Post #53 - June 21st, 2008, 4:58 pm Post #53 - June 21st, 2008, 4:58 pm
    Tour d'force photography. Some stunning images. Well done.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #54 - June 21st, 2008, 7:07 pm
    Post #54 - June 21st, 2008, 7:07 pm Post #54 - June 21st, 2008, 7:07 pm
    LTH

    We had the 12 course menu a few nights ago, with three extra courses thrown in for each of us: 1 oz. of ossetra caviar, the braised octopus, and the geoduck clam.

    What can I say that hasn't been said already? For me the uni with grapefruit didn't work. I guess I prefer a simpler, more traditional Japanese approch vs. the grapefruit broth.

    Stellar breads as everyone has mentioned.

    And also, the lightness of the shabu-shabu after that succulent pork belly for me was anti-climactic. I'd would love to have about a quart of that potato emulsion next time I sit down to some nice fatty lamb chops.

    Having spent 30 years in kitchens, I am now quite hearing challenged, and it didn't help that our captain was a low talker. Ironically, I could clearly hear and understand the captain assigned to the next table.

    My only disappointment is that we weren't offered black napkins.

    :twisted:
    Last edited by Evil Ronnie on June 21st, 2008, 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "Bass Trombone is the Lead Trumpet of the Deep."
    Rick Hammett
  • Post #55 - June 21st, 2008, 7:56 pm
    Post #55 - June 21st, 2008, 7:56 pm Post #55 - June 21st, 2008, 7:56 pm
    MJN wrote:Even, if say a particular lobster was inherently chewy, which can be the case if you were dealing with a larger older lobster or a really unfresh sample


    Last year I came very close to pulling the trigger to purchase a 28 pound lobster. I did a lot of research and some talking around before coming very close to just doing it. While I don't shy away from a great story, which buying one alone would have been. I was just as concerned about whether the meal would be a tender, succulent lobster or a rubbery example causing me to regret the money spent. I learned if cooked properly, then a lobster giant would be as tender as a much smaller lobster. What was very likely served was an overcooked lobster.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #56 - June 22nd, 2008, 2:07 am
    Post #56 - June 22nd, 2008, 2:07 am Post #56 - June 22nd, 2008, 2:07 am
    According to the L2O blog the tatami rooms offer a 14 course meal.

    http://l2o.typepad.com/l2o_blog/2008/06 ... -room.html

    Does anyone know what the price for the tatami rooms are? I asked on the blog, but did not receive a response.
  • Post #57 - June 22nd, 2008, 10:32 am
    Post #57 - June 22nd, 2008, 10:32 am Post #57 - June 22nd, 2008, 10:32 am
    filbertman wrote:According to the L2O blog the tatami rooms offer a 14 course meal.

    http://l2o.typepad.com/l2o_blog/2008/06 ... -room.html

    Does anyone know what the price for the tatami rooms are? I asked on the blog, but did not receive a response.


    When we were there 2 weeks ago, our captain said it was going to be closer to a 20-course kaiseki meal. Didn't get details on the price, but they are training for it now and will apparently start offering it in early July. Probably best just to call and find out.
  • Post #58 - June 23rd, 2008, 1:51 pm
    Post #58 - June 23rd, 2008, 1:51 pm Post #58 - June 23rd, 2008, 1:51 pm
    I just called them to make a reservation. I'll be headed over on 7/5 with my parents and a fellow foodie. I can't wait.

    I asked about the Tatami rooms and they said they will start opening them this Thursday and that the price will be 225 per person.

    Not having read Puppy's post, I asked if everyone will automatically get the 14 course menu and the hostess said yes. She didn't say anything about the number, but I don't think she knew the details anyway.

    I'm still deciding if i should go for the tatami room since there's a limit to my ability to splurge...
  • Post #59 - July 1st, 2008, 10:02 am
    Post #59 - July 1st, 2008, 10:02 am Post #59 - July 1st, 2008, 10:02 am
    My wife took me on Saturday for my birthday. We did the tasting and added the beef and the lobster bisque. Dinner was amazing and very filling! My wife hit the wall on course #8. The only thing that didn't work for me was the lobster meat. Way too chewy. Talked to the hostess about the Tatami room as we saw people being led into it. She said it is 15 courses, $225, and all courses are cooked by the chef.

    The bill was obscene. Way more than even Alinea!
  • Post #60 - July 11th, 2008, 3:15 pm
    Post #60 - July 11th, 2008, 3:15 pm Post #60 - July 11th, 2008, 3:15 pm
    Has anyone eaten in the lounge? The Wife and I are considering going over there tonight to graze and I'm just wondering if there is a separate menu (I assume there is). Just curious about what kind of stuff might be offered.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat

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