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#1
Posted September 12th 2009, 8:24am
Since the total derailment of the previous L2O thread got locked, here is a new thread to discuss the restaurant/experience.

I went yesterday and was absolutely amazed by the quality of the meal - a full review is in the works, likely later in the week. If anyone goes between now and then, however, the current summer tasting menu is incredibly balanced and the Foie Gras with Cotton Candy, added as a supplement, is perhaps the finest version I've yet encountered - certainly the best roasted/seared version and potentially on a level of "wow" with Keller's at TFL.

Off to experience more of Chicago today - but for the moment I'd put L2O on par with Providence in LA, Aqua in SF, and Le Bernardin as the best haute-seafood experiences available - and the service, bread service, and dining area is better than all three.
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#2
Posted September 14th 2009, 11:02am
Dinner at L2o differed substantially from my expectations in both style and execution.

I anticipated a cooking style that emphasized pristine seafood prepared exquisitely but simply, with fresh, clean flavors taking precedence over robust, exotic, in-your-face excitement. I was thrilled to get much more of the latter than the former. An amuse bouche of smoked eggplant with cured octopus really sang – the deep smokiness penetrating through but not overwhelming the ocean-fresh flavor of the octopus. A second amuse had a tiny shrimp served atop fantastically acidic and spicy salsa verde that would convince even legendary Mexican grandmothers to request the recipe. Cold smoked escolar “jamon” was rich, peppery, and bursting with exciting flavors that had me longing for seconds. House-made tofu was like nothing I’d ever had – the powerfully nutty soybean flavor obliterating any notion that tofu is a mere sponge for other ingredients, and the cooling, intense cucumber water serving as a perfect, complementary component.

The above Asian, Mediterranean, and Latin inspired dishes were really memorable, and I was surprised at how much global influence there was on chef Gras’ menu. The truth is that I liked those dishes way more than the four French-seeming dishes that came next. Lobster bisque, peekytoe crab with foie gras emulsion, arctic char, and and tai snapper could have instead been titled, “Butter 1, Butter 2, Butter 3, and Butter 4.” The richness was expected, of course, with the bisque and the crab with foie gras, but I wasn’t ready for dishes called simply “Artic Char, Champagne, Zucchini,” and “Tai Snapper, Smoked Crispy Skin, Lettuce, Dijon Mustard” to be so full of butter. Turns out the char was very slow poached in butter, which just oozed out of it with every forkful. Ditto for the snapper, which received some grill marks “a la plancha” after the butter poaching, and was also served with a tasty but very rich Dijon-romaine-brown butter aioli. I cried mercy after a few bites.

While the globally influenced cooking style surprised me in a positive way, there were some disappointing failures in culinary execution that were even more surprising. The foie gras emulsion in the peekytoe crab dish had broken, so the delicious crab was swimming in a pool of grease droplets, the thought of which is still making me a little queasy today. I also bit into piece of hard shell amidst the otherwise well-picked-over crab meat, which was quite surprising for a dish coming out of a kitchen of this caliber.

Service was spectacular: friendly, knowledgeable, and unobtrusively dancing around like a well choreographed troupe. I loved the room, where the lighting, furniture, and other elements all seemed designed to let chef Gras’ creations be the stars of the show. And those stars shone so brightly that I’d recommend L2o even though there were some fairly major disappointments as well.
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...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

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#3
Posted September 14th 2009, 7:07pm
One thing I meant to add... in the other L2o thread, ulterior epicure asked:
So, I read about the canelé production on the blog. How were they? A good canelé is peerless. Sadly, it's also highly uncommon.


We received a canelé as a part of the mignardises, and it was the best I've ever had. Beautiful, crunchy, practically burnt sugar outside giving way to creamy, egg yolky, custardy pastry inside. When the nasty, greasy foie gras oil droplets came to mind today, I tried hard to shift my thoughts to that dreamy canele.
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...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

Fuckerberg on Food
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#4
Posted September 16th 2009, 7:09pm
The blog in my signature has all the pictures. Sorry about the word-length, but it was worth it. :-)

An obvious fan of food blogs, French chefs, and seafood I will fully admit that I've been a stalker of Chef Laurent Gras' L2O Blog and Facebook page since shortly after the restaurant actually opened for business - hype, smart marketing, call it what you like - the concept was and still is intriguing and the restaurant's progressive approach to seafood is something to behold as the chef discusses his methods and concepts. Having trained with legends of French Cuisine from Ducasse to Savoy and having already spent time in San Francisco, New York, and Japan it also happens that Gras is an exercise fanatic and competition-level bicyclist who is more than willing to share with the world the way he eats on a daily basis - much healthier than the average chef, for sure. Given his accolades (most recently 4 stars from the Tribune and nominations from The Beard Awards for best new restaurant) plus the above it was an obvious choice to visit L2O after already experiencing Tru, Moto, Spiaggia, Alinea, and Charlie Trotter's - the "veterans" of Chicago's haute dining scene. As a backdrop to the visit - a weekend celebrating my sister's birthday that would also include a U2 concert the following night.

Having contacted the restaurant ahead of our visit to inform them of the special occasion my e-mail was fielded graciously by a Mr. Anthony Cournia (who actually stopped by to say hello during the meal) and service from e-mail to the end of the meal was stellar - on par with the best of the best in Chicago and elsewhere in the United States. Arriving early we valeted the car at the Belden Stratford hotel in Chicago’s Lincoln Park district with ease. Making our way in we took a couple of pictures before entering the restaurant and were promptly greeted by the gorgeous dining room, subtle music, and pleasant hostess - within moments we were led to a nice 4-top where we were seated side-by-side with a full view of the room currently almost empty but soon to be filled with a refined energy (not loud at all - well spaced tables to be sure) and full house.

Greeted shortly after seating by our pleasant yet unobtrusive (think Providence or Alinea versus The French Laundry or Trotter's) server, Kara, our water was filled and the menus were presented and explained - extraordinarily unique rubberized menus featuring "Happy Birthday Erika" on the bottom left that were later signed by Chef Gras. Left to decide between the tete a tete, autumn tasting, or 4-course prix fixe we quickly decided on the tasting with one substitution and one additional item for myself - making sure this was okay with the Chef our server returned shortly and handed us a card describing some of the fishes we'd be experiencing and refilling our water.

Within moments of placing our orders a man emerged from the kitchen with a first unannounced course described as mussel with microgreens, basil, sesame oil. Amusingly the amuse confused my sister who'd never experienced such a thing stating "I thought the first course was salmon?" After explaining the practice to her we both got our first taste of what was to come. Appropriately briny and perfectly trimmed the mussel was well accented by the potent basil yet smoothed out significantly by the hearty oil - simple and intelligent the dish highlighted each ingredient without allowing any specific flavor to overwhelm the others.

Our second amuse (my sister liking this concept of "free" food) was delivered shortly after the first and this time featured a perfect fresh-water shrimp resting in a pool of spicy salsa verde and topped with micro cilantro. Spanish in influence and actually quite hot on the tongue I was impressed that the taste of the shrimp managed to emerge amongst the spices and while I didn't like it as much as the mussel I was suitably impressed by the presentation and quality of the shrimp - a variety I'd never tasted in the past.

Following the amuses the bread server made the first (of many) visits to our table. As many have noted before (including Gras via his blog,) the bread program at L2O is a source of pride and each bread is made freshly in house 2-3 times per dinner service with different options sometimes appearing later in service. During our evening the initial breads included a buttery pain au Lait, a savory Asiago, a crunchy mini baguette, a hearty wheat epi (similar to the version at Bouchon,) and a bitter and rustic country bread - later in the service this selection was joined by the much praised (and absolutely incredible) rosemary croissant - likely as much butter as choux. The butter, served inverted and flipped over at presentation, was a hearty and grassy blend made from local artisan cow's cream - not quite as good as The French Laundry's famed option, but a close runner up - and the quality of breads was hands and feet above that at TFL or Alinea.

Kicking off the tasting was "Salmon" featuring Line caught salmon, Earl Grey, Ginger Gum, Brioche Crouton, Roe. Reading the description on the blog I assumed we'd receive this dish and was not disappointed. Featuring Earl Grey and sugar cured salmon that is finished in a cold smoker the result dish is as meaty and heavy as one would expect from salmon yet well balanced by accents of pepper, smoke, and bergamot. Accompanying the fish was a cube of gingered brioche and "gumdrop" of ginger topped with a single egg of roe. Intriguingly the gum was largely flavorless until consumed with the roe at which point the salty egg released the potent tones. Well executed and beautifully balanced I found this to be a great opener.

The second dish, "Tuna" was deemed the favorite of the entire meal by my sister. Featuring crimson Ahi cubes each dotted or splashed with either dashi, crunchy black olive, nicoise gelee, or yuzu and topped with "Tuna Snow" (frozen toro run through a snow cone machine) the overall effect was a sampling of at least 5 different flavors of tuna with each maintaining the familiar taste of the fish but accenting it in a new and unexpected manner. The snow itself literally melted in the mouth and gave the dish a silky smooth feel that one does not usually associate with fish.
For course three the listed item was "Tofu" - a texture I tend to avoid (though I do enjoy Tempeh) and as such I requested the chef make a substitution at his whim. The dish my sister received consisted of Tofu, Cucumber, Jalapeno, Shiso, Itogaki and from my one small bite all I can say is that I made a wise choice. Per my sister the dish was actually quite good with the dried tuna interacting well with the spice and minty tones. I was glad she enjoyed it - I enjoyed looking at it.

For my third course I received "Escolar," one of the raw menu items featuring "Escolar Jamon," Espelette, and Ice Lettuce. Featuring three slices of meaty butterfish prepared "ham-style," by curing with espelette pepper. Unexpected for sure, the dry curing of the fish actually mellowed out the rich mackerel-like nature of the fish while texturally very much resembling a quality sliced ham. While largely unnecessary, the crystal ice lettuce did add a degree of contrast and presented a flavor I'd not really experienced - somewhere between endive and cabbage.
Course four was named "Shimaji" and was a new one for myself. Apparently a species of jack-fish imported from near Brazil the extremely rich fish was paired with Red Miso, Breakfast Radish, Daikon, and Soy Salt in what was the most "traditional" of the nights dishes - and also the weakest in both mine and my sister's opinion. While there was nothing wrong with the preparation, I just felt it lacked the inspiration of the other dishes and the bitter/earthy tones of the Breakfast Radish overwhelmed any nuance that may have been offered by the miso. An attractive dish for sure and the last of the "raw" courses, this dish was served with Chopsticks, further emphasizing it's roots in traditional sushi/sashimi.

Dish five "Scallop" was our first foray into Chef Gras' warmed fishes and it was a great success - potentially my favorite part of the tasting menu. Featuring a large and perfectly prepared diver scallop (cooked outside, barely warmed within) accompanied by Blueberries and Blueberry gelee plus Sorrel and finished tableside with a ginger jus each flavor met the tongue and palate with great aplomb yet entirely without overwhelming the other complimentary flavors. Sweet and ripe berries, acidic and leafy sorrel, smooth and spicy ginger, and fleshy but briny scallop were each well represented and a wonderful melange of textures and flavors left us in awe - given the opportunity I could've eaten this by the bowl.

Dish six, entitled "Tagliolini-Lobster," was a suitable follow-up to the Scallop and continued a series of sweet yet savory dishes that marked the midpoint of the menu. A flawless sous-vide tail perched atop chestnut noodles and resting in a salty broth the dish was further enhanced and balanced out by the addition of a bitey yet smooth Port and foie gras reduction. Another exploration of divergent textures and flavors I found the pasta an extremely interesting texture as its al dente texture gave way to a smooth yet nutty note when chewed.

Dish seven, a segue of sort into the heavier finishing dishes, was the much praised Arctic Char. Coupling the flakey and light fish with a Champagne and Brown Butter broth I felt the dish was very well composed to highlight the trout-like taste while the preparation paid attention to the more "salmonesque" texture by coupling the fish with a zucchini and pea "flan" topped with millimeter thick slices of zucchini skin for texture. Unctuous without being heavy I think this was my second favorite tasting menu item of the night and my sister agreed.

As my sister noted she was starting to feel "a little full" she was fortunately given a break in the action when I received my supplemental dish from the prix fixe menu. Having seen the dish presented to other tables already I have to admit I'd been looking forward to it from the beginning of the meal and when the spacer dish appeared in front of my sister I couldn't help but smile. "Foie Gras, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Bee Pollen, Crystallized Butter" arrived and it was simply a sight to behold - both the dish and the smile on my face. Featuring a large spun-cloud of sweet cotton candy forming a "cave" of sorts over a melody of seared foie, poached asparagus, crunchy rhubarb, rhubarb gel and then covered with bee pollen, edible flowers, and crystallized butter - to date it is my favorite savory presentation of all time and also my favorite foie dish since The French Laundry.

Eating slowly - mostly out of a desire to savor the dish but also because cotton candy is hard to cut with a knife - I think the dish took me a good 25 minutes to consume and while my sister was glad for the break she had to chuckle at my reaction as a lady across the restaurant rose a forkful of cotton to me with a smile as a sort of "toast." Having had cotton candy foie gras at the Bazaar in LA earlier in the year I must say this presentation was vastly superior and worth every penny of the $35 supplement with the perfectly prepared foie gras soaking into the base-layer of the cotton candy and marrying perfectly with the crispy/snappy vegetables - even the bee pollen and flowers added to the dish with their unique tones blending well with the cotton candy to create an aromatic essence on the palate.

Getting back to the program I must admit that I was impressed by the chef's decision for placement of the foie - just prior to beginning the heavier savories. Dish eight, "Halibut," arrived shortly and my first thought was - wow, that is pretty darn big for a tasting portion. Featuring an extraordinary piece of soft and supple halibut atop snappy and sweet white Asparagus, the dish was topped with a "brioche toast chip" and four discs of chorizo gel. While half of the dish was bathed in a smoky chorizo stock, the dish was finished tableside with the addition of a creamy sweet corn puree to the other half. Clearly meant to raise thoughts of the grill I found this dish to be a brilliant balance of vegetal flavors and smoky savories and was additionally impressed by the manner in which the clean halibut was enhanced in one way by the pork stock and in a totally different manner by the corn - the dish ate like two separate dishes in one and the portion allowed one to "mix and match" various flavors and textures quite nicely.

For our ninth dish, “Pork Belly,” I figured it would be met with mixed approval. While I myself love a well prepared pork dish of any sort, my sister generally does not enjoy fatty pork and much prefers bacon textures. Sure enough, the pork belly with crispy Skin fried in duck fat, with Yukon Potato and Black Truffle was delivered as expected – salty, savory, fatty, and flawless. After a bite my sister noted that she would eat the skin but deferred on the rest of the pork and passed it to myself. Feigning an apologetic look I indulged happily on the dish. Potentially a tad over salted with the pork reduction I was pleasantly surprised by the manner in which the earthy tones and aromas of the truffles shined through. While my sister didn’t love the pork, we both agreed that the accompanying potato was a work of genius – essentially a caramelized cylinder of buttery potato paste made crispy on the outside and piped full with creamy emulsion of potato and cream.

Finishing the savories on a lighter note, course 10 was “Hiramasa.” Served raw on a wooden bridge along with accompanying chopsticks and a heated bowl the second jack-fish of our menu was delivered as a traditional Shabu-Shabu with Konbu Chicken Bouillon. Accompanying the fish and broth were sesame bonito sauce, king oyster mushrooms, shiso, and onion. Here the focus was entirely on the texture and flavor of the fish and a “how you like it” approach. Three slices of Amberjack allowed ample opportunity to experiment with varying cooking times, additions to the broth or bite, and textures. While my sister preferred her fish more thoroughly cooked, my ideal turned out to be a piece of fish and a mushroom in a single bite cooked for ~5 seconds and dipped in the sauce. Focusing so much on French and Italian cuisine in recent dining trips I nearly forgot how amazing a simple fresh fish can be.

Once again my sister noted she was getting pretty full – and once again I informed her that we had a minimum of two courses…and likely more to come. Sure enough, shortly after collecting our Hiramasa plates a young lady emerged from the kitchen with our first “pre-dessert “ a 1 inch cylinder of Chocolate Ganache with Olive Oil and Soy sauce. Sweet, savory, smooth – wonderful. I can honestly say I consume more soy sauce than the average person and I’d never thought before to pair it with chocolate – in the future I will most certainly do so.

Pre-dessert number two was substantially larger than the first and easily could’ve served as a dessert itself – described as a Floating Island, with Honey, Pollen Crisp, and Limoncello the dish featured a crisp and tangy meringue with subtle floral notes floating in a pool of light honey and creamy limoncello. Adding further texture and flavor was a crispy chip that tasted like a bee pollen peanut brittle. Personally, I’d not have minded at all of this masterpiece was served as a dessert itself – it was possibly the best floating island I’ve ever tasted.

The first proper dessert, “Raspberry,” was visually stunning – I’m still not sure whether it was the lighting, the accoutrements, or the combination of the two but the dish glinted and glowed like nothing I’ve ever eaten. Featuring fresh raspberries, raspberry pearls, Mascarpone Ice cream, White Chocolate, flaked gold, and Yuzu consome the dessert married the fructose sweetness of the fruit with the smoothness of the mascarpone while finding a balance with the creamy crisp of chocolate and the acidic bite of the yuzu. With each bite offering a somewhat different experience I quite liked the dish, though not quite as much as the item that preceded it.

The final dish, a soufflé simply entitled “Praline-praline” was flawless – the best soufflé I’ve ever tasted, topping the more “famous” versions at Gary Danko and Le Cirque as well as my previous favorite at Wolfgang Puck’s CUT. Standing tall the fluffy cloud of sugar and egg was opened tableside and filled with rich praline and dark rum cream. Showing great technical skill this dish admittedly felt a tad out of place given the progressive style of Gras menu, but given his range – from “mg” technique to traditional Shabu-Shabu I thought the dish was a fitting close – and I thought it a second time as I finished my sister’s portion because she was nearing a food-coma.

Collecting our dishes our server was all smiles at our very satisfied looks and she stated we were “not quite finished.” Approximately 5 minutes passed and she once again emerged from the kitchen with our mignardises – a traditional French Canele prepared in beeswax, a Brown Butter and Caramel Macaron, and for my sister a small piece of Chocolate ganache with a candle. With a glazed over smile my sister blew out her candle and the server stated she’d take our menus to the chef for a signature and bring the bill whenever we were ready. Starting with the ganache we were both struck by how savory the chocolate was – that is until later when we were informed that It was Amadei 75% cocoa. Second, the macaron was perfect with its crisp and buttery shell giving way to a creamy interior – every bit as good as those at La Maison du Chocolat in NYC. Finally, the canele – sublime. Without a doubt the best I’ve ever experienced, topping another Chicago landmark (TRU) with its crunchy caramelized sugar exterior giving way to a yolky cream interior that seemed just barely cooked.

Paying our bill we each made a stop in the restroom to check out the fish tanks and then made our way to the door accompanied by our server who offered to take pictures. Chatting with her on the way out I was quite impressed by her descriptions of Chef Gras’ attention to detail – literally everything from the amuses to the mignardises, the music to the tables and chairs, even the cleaning schedule. Continuing with us all the way to the front of the hotel we found our car waiting and Kara wished us a good evening and presented us with our signed menus. A wonderful experience from start to finish and amongst my top 5 meals all time – all the better to have shared it with my sister on a weekend dedicated to her birthday.
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#5
Posted September 16th 2009, 7:47pm
uhockey,

Having heard so many mixed things about L20, this really makes me want to give it a go. As you probably saw in the other thread, I have reservations for my birthday dinner at Blackbird this Monday, but now I am having second thoughts having seen this writeup.
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#6
Posted September 16th 2009, 7:59pm
Stephen wrote:uhockey,

Having heard so many mixed things about L20, this really makes me want to give it a go. As you probably saw in the other thread, I have reservations for my birthday dinner at Blackbird this Monday, but now I am having second thoughts having seen this writeup.


I can't argue with Blackbird either, it was very good (albeit slow.) Oddly, there was a group of Japanese folks sitting at a table next to us who asked the server for recommendations in Chicago and the first place she mentioned was Blackbird (she also gave nods to Charlie Trotter's, Alinea, Avec, m.henry, Hot Doug's, and Green Zebra)
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#7
Posted September 16th 2009, 8:42pm
uhockey,

I'm glad to hear of your wonderful experience at L20 and thanks for the in depth review. I've been three times and my best meal was amazing and my worst meal was between very good and excellent.

But interestingly, the one constant in every L20 review seems to be the raves about the bread service. This once again leads me to wonder why we don't have an upscale bakery/boulangerie in town serving daily bread of this quality. I suppose Fox & Obel might be the best bet for bread, but it's nowhere near the level of L20 (and probably not intended to be). And although I suspect Corner Bakery (or at least Gale Gand) might have initially intended to take this direction, the quality of their offerings quickly headed south.
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#8
Posted September 16th 2009, 8:50pm
uhockey,

I too appreciate your excellent account of your meal at L2o. It sounds like you had at least a couple of the same things I had, including the wonderful escolar jamon, and this:

Dish seven, a segue of sort into the heavier finishing dishes, was the much praised Arctic Char. Coupling the flakey and light fish with a Champagne and Brown Butter broth I felt the dish was very well composed to highlight the trout-like taste while the preparation paid attention to the more "salmonesque" texture by coupling the fish with a zucchini and pea "flan" topped with millimeter thick slices of zucchini skin for texture. Unctuous without being heavy I think this was my second favorite tasting menu item of the night and my sister agreed.


This sounds exactly like what we had, right down to the zucchini pea flan, which I bet was shaped like a chess board, as ours was. I wonder about what you describe as a champagne and brown butter broth, though. Was it actually a broth? If so, that would be drastically different from the very heavy champagne butter emulsion we were served. You described this fish dish as light, but I actually thought it was an uncomfortably heavy, rich dish. I wonder if that's due to different preparations, or just different palates.
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...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

Fuckerberg on Food
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#9
Posted September 22nd 2009, 10:13am
Did the Summer Tasting last night. With a few exceptions, the menu was the same as uhockey's. One of the best dining experiences of my life. The flavors, the service, and the bread! I could have eaten a bucket of the little croissants. Absolutely wonderful.
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#10
Posted September 28th 2009, 4:52pm
I plan on taking my fiance there. I know it's expensive but without going overboard, how much should I expect to spend for a multi-course meal? What's the best one for the money? 4, 10 or 12 course meal?
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#11
Posted September 28th 2009, 5:15pm
jayrech wrote:I plan on taking my fiance there. I know it's expensive but without going overboard, how much should I expect to spend for a multi-course meal? What's the best one for the money? 4, 10 or 12 course meal?

The online menus have prices published (go to the L2o site, then click "cuisine").

I don't remember exactly how much the optional wine pairings cost, but I think just around 45-50% of the cost of your meal (per person) is in the ballpark.

Also don't forget 11.5% sales tax, which includes 0.25% restaurant tax and (since L2o is south of Diversey, east of Ashland, north of I-55, and not in the lake) 1% MPEA (Navy Pier) tax and tip.

As for which one is "best one for the money", that's pretty hard to say, as the options are very different:
- The four-course prix fixe lets you choose three normal-sized (sometimes pretty large) starters and a full-sized main, making it more like a "normal" dinner, which is great if you like a particular dish because you get more than a little bite of it.
- The six-course sounds cool because its theme is that it apparently pairs matching or contrasting ingredients to (hopefully) unique and enjoyable effect.
- I recently (three weeks ago) had the twelve-course, which has dishes that each attempt to showcase a single seasonal ingredient or flavor. While I loved the twelve-course, I do kinda wish I'd tried the four-course only because there were a few items on that menu that I had wanted to try.
Last edited by Khaopaat on September 28th 2009, 5:23pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#12
Posted September 28th 2009, 5:17pm
I think that the 4 course is the way to go. Figure on $200-$300 per person all in (wine, tax, tip).
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-Josh

I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
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#13
Posted September 28th 2009, 11:18pm
jesteinf wrote:I think that the 4 course is the way to go. Figure on $200-$300 per person all in (wine, tax, tip).



FWIW, I ate here last week and we did the 12 course Summer Tasting for about this amount (with a supplement of the cotton candy foie gras). A lot of this depends on your choice of wine.
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#14
Posted September 29th 2009, 9:37am
Stephen wrote:
jesteinf wrote:I think that the 4 course is the way to go. Figure on $200-$300 per person all in (wine, tax, tip).



FWIW, I ate here last week and we did the 12 course Summer Tasting for about this amount (with a supplement of the cotton candy foie gras). A lot of this depends on your choice of wine.


Were you drinking water? :wink:

For 2 people
Four course menu = $110 x 2 = $220
Wine = $100 (I consider that conservative given L2O's list, but I guess it could be less if you just have a glass or 2)
Tax = $36 (rounded, assuming 11%)
Tip = $70
Total = $426 or $213 per person (and you haven't ordered coffee, tea, dessert wine, or any supplements)
_______________________________________

-Josh

I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
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#15
Posted September 29th 2009, 9:42am
jesteinf wrote:For 2 people
Four course menu = $110 x 2 = $220
Wine = $100 (I consider that conservative given L2O's list, but I guess it could be less if you just have a glass or 2)
Tax = $36 (rounded, assuming 11%)
Tip = $70
Total = $426 or $213 per person (and you haven't ordered coffee, tea, dessert wine, or any supplements)

This sounds pretty accurate. Our total for the 12-course (with wine pairings, two pre-dinner cocktails, tax and tip) was around $370 per person.
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#16
Posted September 29th 2009, 9:55am
How much is valet parking?
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#17
Posted September 29th 2009, 10:01am
I had a quite-good $40 bottle of NZ Riesling at L2o
_______________________________________

...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

Fuckerberg on Food
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#18
Posted September 30th 2009, 9:13am
Woud it look funny if one of us orders a 4course and the other 12course?
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#19
Posted September 30th 2009, 9:38am
jayrech wrote:Woud it look funny if one of us orders a 4course and the other 12course?


I'm not sure if you can do that (never asked).

Keep in mind that even if you get the 4 course you will also get 1 or 2 amuses a pre dessert and 1 or 2 post dessert courses. It is still plenty of food.
_______________________________________

-Josh

I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
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#20
Posted September 30th 2009, 10:04am
jayrech wrote:Woud it look funny if one of us orders a 4course and the other 12course?

I bet they would say something along the lines of "we strongly recommend against that". Personally, I'd agree with them - it would most likely end up that the person who got the four-course would finish their meal, then spend an hour or two watching the other person eat.
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#21
Posted September 30th 2009, 1:47pm
Khaopaat wrote:
jesteinf wrote:For 2 people
Four course menu = $110 x 2 = $220
Wine = $100 (I consider that conservative given L2O's list, but I guess it could be less if you just have a glass or 2)
Tax = $36 (rounded, assuming 11%)
Tip = $70
Total = $426 or $213 per person (and you haven't ordered coffee, tea, dessert wine, or any supplements)

This sounds pretty accurate. Our total for the 12-course (with wine pairings, two pre-dinner cocktails, tax and tip) was around $370 per person.


I'll echo the accuracy here - it was about $350 per person for my wife and I doing the 12-course with wine pairings, but no additional cocktails.
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#22
Posted September 30th 2009, 1:48pm
jayrech wrote:Woud it look funny if one of us orders a 4course and the other 12course?


They won't let you....
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"The only thing I have to eat is Yoo-hoo and Cocoa puffs so if you want anything else, you have to bring it with you."
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#23
Posted September 30th 2009, 2:43pm
Thanks for all the feedbacks. Can someone also tell me how much valet parking is? Just wanted to be prepared for everything...
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#24
Posted September 30th 2009, 2:45pm
jayrech wrote:Thanks for all the feedbacks. Can someone also tell me how much valet parking is? Just wanted to be prepared for everything...


meybe you could call and ask, then post to tell us?
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...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

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#25
Posted September 30th 2009, 2:47pm
jayrech wrote:Thanks for all the feedbacks. Can someone also tell me how much valet parking is? Just wanted to be prepared for everything...


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#26
Posted October 9th 2009, 1:24pm
Unlike the roller coaster of exhilarating highs and vexing lows that was my first visit to L2o a few weeks ago, last night’s dinner was a down-the-middle carousel of decent, uninspiring fare. We ordered the 12 course menu, and with a couple of exceptions, course after course left me wishing for something better.

I’ll start with a positive exception: L2o’s version of brandade was wonderful. The ethereal, foamed cod emulsion took this classic dish to a level that texturally surpassed other versions I’ve had. The cloud-like cod sat atop buttery potato puree, and if there’s one problem I had with this dish, it’s that the plating put too much onus on the diner to figure out how to eat it. You had to be sure to dig your spoon all the way to the bottom of the dish, to scoop out a good proportion of potato puree with the cod foam. If you failed to get the right balance in each spoonful, the bite was unpalatably salty. Still, when your spoon scooped just the right amount of each ingredient, this was a most memorable dish.

There was also one memorably bad dish among the menu of decent foodstuff: the coho salmon cooked in cedar on some fancy Japanese slow-cooking grill. The salmon itself was quite nice, but it was ruined by a way-too-potent emulsion full of coarsely ground cinnamon, vanilla and other bitter spices. I’m pretty sure bits of the very bitter vanilla pods were minced into the sauce with the seeds. On the plate were 5 tiny little garnishes that didn’t seem to have anything to do with each other. I can’t remember most of them, though one was a sungold tomato surrounded by a sphere of clear gelatin. I don’t know why one would want to surround a perfectly good little tomato with clear, flavorless gel. “What was he thinking?” was what I was thinking as I did my best to gulp down a few bites of this dish.

The rest of the food was neither particularly good nor particularly bad. Very expensive Matsutake mushrooms poached in butter were delicate and tasty, but I didn’t care for the rubbery texture created by this cooking method. Fluke was served with a whole bunch of other ingredients and a garlic chip which completely overwhelmed everything else. Delicate house made tofu was good, though I much prefer the version on the 4-course menu – with the cucumber/ jalapeño broth – to this one which had white miso instead. Tuna tartare was tuna tartare, though this version also had some snow-cone-style shavings of frozen tuna, which led me to determine that there is a reason people usually defrost their fish. A pork belly dish had lots of black truffle, though I was perplexed by the fact that neither my companion nor I could detect even a whiff of truffle aroma or flavor. There were other dishes too. They were OK.

Temperature was a consistent problem for me with the cold dishes. They were all served in a frigid, just-shy-of-frozen state. The raw fish preparations and the tofu would have been much more flavorful, in my opinion, if served 10-20 degrees warmer.

Service was even better this time than last. Our server was knowledgeable and passionate about food, and she knew the history and preparation of these dishes inside and out. The sommelier at L2o just might be a genius, as even though the food seemed mostly lackluster, when paired with her selections, it was like eating a whole new harmonious combination. The Loire Valley white she chose to go with tea-smoked salmon was a heavenly match, and not one that would ever have occurred to me.

Perhaps Laurent Gras is some sort of genius whose artistry is just beyond my ability to comprehend. Or perhaps the food just isn’t that good. Either way, L2o is not near the top of my list of Chicago restaurants.
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...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

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#27
Posted December 12th 2009, 4:19pm
We at at L2O last night for our anniversary (I mentioned it was our anniversary when making the reservation on OpenTable, and our menus had "Happy Anniversary" on them for us to keep, a nice touch). While we unfortunately did not take any pictures (I got too wrapped up in the food and after eating the tuna tartare I felt like kicking myself for not doing pictures), I can mention a few highlights.

The second course was tuna tartare. Unlike Kenny's experience a couple months ago, this was no longer "just tuna tartare", but an amusing presentation as a "taco" -- I don't remember what the "shell" was (I'm hard of hearing and missed it) but the tartare had a few small cucumber balls and a few kernels of dehydrated corn, with a dab of salsa verde on the side. Absolutely fantastic in all respects, the little bit of cucumber, corn and the salsa made for a great complement to the tartare, and I think this actually was my favorite dish of the night. Playful presentation of a dish bursting with different flavors.

The aforementioned salt cod brandade was wonderful. I can see how a wrong bite might get too salty as one of my bites was on the saltier side but by and large the mix was just great, perfect balance of rich, buttery fingerling puree and the salt cod. Definite standout.

The salmon dish sounds like they'd changed it a little from Kenny's visit, though the concept of the salmon accompanied by a few items was the same. This time it was steelhead with "north african spices". The seasoning was reasonably gentle, and it was accompanied by grits that I believe had a light cheese (forget which, though I think it was white cheddar?) sauce filling and were topped with frisee, some construct that had date puree injected into it -- again, curse my bad hearing -- and the "gelatin ball" was Meyer lemon (and was maybe 1.5 cm in diameter -- it was a little sphere). All in all it was very good.

The escolar jamon was served in place of the menu-indicated tofu, of which they had run out, and it was excellent -- I'm actually sorta glad that they had run out of the tofu and thus had the chance to try the "jamon". Actually, I don't think there was a miss in the bunch last night. The wine pairings were spot-on as well. Well worth the experience.

Full menu (not including the two amuse, the two pre-dessert and the one post-dessert, since I didn't write anything down I'd screw up what they were)
Nantucket Bay scallop ceviche, jalapeno, bergamot oil
Tuna tartare taco thingy
Escolar Jamon, espelette
Shimaaji, red miso, radish (daikon and another I forget and probably just didn't hear) soy salt
Diver scallop, sauvingnon blanc, vanilla, passionfruit
Steelhead salmon, north african spices, grits, date
Peekytoe crab in foie gras emulsion
Salted cod brandade (fingerling potato, smoked ribbon, and caviar)
Hiramasa shabu shabu in konbu bouillon and a sesame dipping sauce
Bison with roasted brussel sprout halves and leaves and dots of mole and puree of black olive
The raspberry dessert as described by uhockey above
Souffle with praline frangelico cream poured into top

Also, they've now added a 10-course "singular" tasting menu at another $80 per person above the 12 course seasonal tasting menu pricing, and it was described as focused on luxury ingredients and as having been added only about a week ago. I will be interested to read someone's opinion of that on here once someone richer than I am gets around to trying it. Maybe if you tell them you're coming you can get the secret wood pigeon add-on to that menu.
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#28
Posted December 12th 2009, 8:10pm
AdmVinyl wrote:Also, they've now added a 10-course "singular" tasting menu at another $80 per person above the 12 course seasonal tasting menu pricing, and it was described as focused on luxury ingredients and as having been added only about a week ago. I will be interested to read someone's opinion of that on here once someone richer than I am gets around to trying it. Maybe if you tell them you're coming you can get the secret wood pigeon add-on to that menu.

Both of their tasting menus ($165 and $245*) are posted on their website, as is the $110 4-course prix fixe menu.

*Alinea no longer has the most expensive menu in town; its 29-course "tour" is only $225.
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"we must all understand that we're not all going to agree on everything, so let's just accept it -- hell, let's cherish it -- and move on." - ronnie_suburban
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#29
Posted December 13th 2009, 3:22pm
nsxtasy wrote:Both of their tasting menus ($165 and $245*) are posted on their website, as is the $110 4-course prix fixe menu.

*Alinea no longer has the most expensive menu in town; its 29-course "tour" is only $225.

Oops, I forgot about Spiaggia's white truffle tasting menu for $255. "If you have to ask..." :lol:
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Don't say "sammich" if you're more than six years old.

"we must all understand that we're not all going to agree on everything, so let's just accept it -- hell, let's cherish it -- and move on." - ronnie_suburban
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#30
Posted December 24th 2009, 1:10am
A couple of the summaries above are more recent than mine, seeing that we visited the last week of October. But I've been meaning to post, and figured I'd throw in all the same. Though I didn't get a shot, I'll echo the earlier sentiment that the bread service is really exceptional. Dish titles, for the record, are unofficial (just my descriptions) and may involve guesswork.

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Scallop Ceviche with Orange and Parsley
A tiny little taste, a nice amuse, very strong orange flavor and beautiful scallops. Good start.

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Halibut Cheek with Tomato Concassé and Green Olive
Another nice little amuse, totally Mediterranean this time.

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Fluke with Umeboshi Vinaigrette, Fried Garlic and Sudachi Zest
Contrary to some opinion above, this one worked for me. Umeboshi and fried garlic are some pretty aggressive accompaniments, yes, but the fish still came through for me. I dug it.

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Tuna Tartare with Crystal Ice Lettuce, Shaved Toro, Dashi, Soy and Olive Oil Emulsions
Here I strongly (but respectfully!) disagree with some sentiment above. That is, indeed, shaved frozen toro on top. It took one of the most tired flavor combinations out there, and with the application of a little creative technique, made it absolutely sparkle. I never would have guessed that I'd enjoy a tuna tartare with soy and dashi so much, but I hung on every bite.

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Tofu with Miso Bouillon, Itogaki and Shiso Blossoms
House-made tofu, exceptionally light and creamy against a miso sauce that avoided the overly sweet trap. Itogaki was more mellow than typical bonito, a better match for the subtle tofu. Socks on, but another very nice, thoughtful dish.

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Smoked Salmon with Earl Grey, Crouton, Ginger Gelée and Sea Trout Roe
Okay, some of this was a little ridiculous. I couldn't taste even the slightest hint of ginger in the gelée. And I thought the sea trout roe was a great accompaniment... the single egg present, that is. But I don't care. The smoked salmon was flat-out awesome. Seriously, one of the finest specimens I've had the fortune of tasting. And I don't mean to get overly excited about a crouton, but damn fine crouton there. Very buttery.

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Scallop with Caramelized Cauliflower and Passionfruit Vanilla Sauvignon Blanc Sauce
The inevitable comparison here, of course, is Jean-George's scallop and caramelized cauliflower with caper-raisin sauce. Though there really isn't that much of a comparison to be made, so it's probably unfair to say that I prefer Jean-George's. Still, very nice. Perfect scallop, compelling sauce, just nothing to inspire backflips.

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Robata-Yaki Coho Salmon with Radishes and Ginger-Beef Bouillon
One of the evening's duds. Nice fish. Nice radishes. Waaaaaaaay too subtle for my tastebuds.

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Butter Poached Peekytoe Crab with Foie Gras Emulsion
Freaking outstanding. I realize I'm kind of being bought, here, but who cares. Awesome dish. And as much abuse as foams take, here was a great use thereof -- to marry crab with foie without the latter overpowering the former.

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Butter Poached Halibut with White Asparagus, Corn Emulsion, Chorizo Broth, Chorizo Gelée and Bread Crisp
A brief respite from the Japan vs. French Riviera tennis match, I found this one a little unusual and really nicely done. The gelée was, again, perhaps a little over the top even if it looked beautiful, but throwing a splash of chorizo broth into the dish was a very smart way of incorporating the flavor without overshadowing the fish. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I thought it was very intelligently conceived.

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Pork Belly with Yukon Gold Potato and Truffle Jus
I'm a little torn, here. Nice flavor. Loved the caramelized potato stuffed with creamy potato puree on the right... pure, but attention-grabbing. Great jus. Tougher pork than I expected. Not that I always expect it to fall apart when I blow on it. But I do expect to be able to slice it without fear of launching my flatware across the room. I exaggerate, but... yeah, I would have preferred it a little more tender.

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Yellowtail Shabu Shabu
The other dud of the night. Weak goma-su. Beautiful fish. Not sure a quick bath in broth made it better.

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Dark Chocolate and Olive Oil Ganache with Soy
Much tinier than the picture would indicate. Think barely bigger than a gumdrop. Lovely flavor, though. Soy's such a great pairing with chocolate that seems to be catching on. Wonder why we didn't see more of it sooner.

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Kaffir Lime Foam with Diced Pineapple and Coconut Cloud
Simple fresh fruit below, a wet, foamy expression of kaffir lime leaf in the middle, and a crispy meltaway coconut puff on top. Light, refreshing, creative, delicious. Loved it.

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Raspberry with Mascarpone Ice Cream, White Chocolate Crisp and Yuzu-Honey Consommé
Not as much as I liked this one, though. They went through a completely pointless presentation, first presenting some kind of block of gelée covered with gold leaf in the bottom of a small carafe, which dissolved when a liquid was poured over the top and the whole thing shaken to create the consommé. I'm okay with the sauce being poured tableside, especially when a melty frozen treat will be swimming therein. But the first part was just goofy (plus, gold leaf? Why does anybody give a damn about gold leaf?). That said, crazy delicious. The mascarpone was incredibly rich, the yuzu cut through the mascarpone's richness, the honey's sweetness, in turn, balanced the yuzu's tartness... a really nice balancing act that came out punchy and refreshing and delicious.

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Praline Soufflé with Vanilla, Frangelico and Dark Rum
Perfect. Could've closed my eyes and pretended that I was at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco. Well, if the soufflé were basketball-sized rather than softball-sized, that is.

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Canelé
Never had one of these before, and now I see what all of the fuss is about. No point of reference, so I can't say whether it's a shining example of the genre or a total dud, but I sure enjoyed it.

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Coffee and Chocolate Macaroon
Straight-up and perfectly done.

The short summary is that with the exception of Alinea, I enjoyed this more than any of my other fine dining experiences in Chicago. Waaaaay more than Everest. I'm on record as being the bah humbug sort when it comes to Moto. And I'll happily take the screaming highs and thudding lows of L2o over the virtuosic yet (IMHO) overly-restrained subtlety of Trotter. (I never did get to Avenues under GEB). The fish was unimpeachable, and he really did maintain focus thereon, even in the more aggressive dishes. I share Kenny's observation that the raw fish is served very cold, but this wasn't a problem for me. I loved that the MG elements were, for the most part, smartly and not overzealously employed. There are bones to pick, of course, but I tend to be a little more forgiving when somebody is going out on a limb and really getting some great results out of it. There are big winners here -- winners that I'm not sure would exist outside of a no-budget-barred fine dining context -- and I'm glad somebody is holding down that end of the spectrum.
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