Every year when the Michelin stars are announced there is plenty of controversy on whether they are awarded for food alone or overall dining experience. Can establishments without four wait staff for each table ever get a star? Will restaurants not based in French cooking tradition ever get a star? I don’t want to get caught up in the controversy, but I do know that some occasions just call for not only amazing food but also amazing attention to detail and service. Dining at a two-star Michelin restaurant, you can be sure that you will find both amazing food and wonderful service. For my sister’s birthday we were looking for just such a place and found ourselves at L2O.
Having dropped off all the kids at the grandparents we headed out for an elegant evening. The restaurant itself is on the first floor of a residential apartment building so it is a little awkward to find. Walking in the main door, we were immediately greeted by someone who took our coats and were directed to the restaurant. The space inside is elegant and understated. The walls are done in a light bamboo wood which is matched in the beige leather chairs while the tables are offset in a darker wood tone. The decor is minimal with vases of artistically arranged branches and simple flowers. We were seated and brought the menus. At the top of our menus it said ‘Happy Birthday’ with my sister’s name. What a lovely touch! We all proceeded to order drinks and chat as we perused the menu. The tasting menu seemed a bit more indulgent then we were up for so we all decided on the prix-fixe menu, mind you this is still 5 courses. While not completely a seafood restaurant, the menu does focus on and highlight seafood. They wait staff was very helpful and guided us through the options as we had a few dietary restrictions at the table. For the wine, we selected a Cabernet Sauvignon reserve blend from Snowden Winery in Napa. The amuse bouche is creatively displayed on intertwined branches (I didn’t get a picture!) and were various carved balls of fruit and vegetable filled with savory treats; salmon mousse in cucumber, foie gras-filled cantaloupe and green melon balls with Kumamoto oysters.
The first course, which was common to all of us, was ahi tuna tartare, avocado, osetra caviar. The tuna tartare was wrapped in extremely thin cuts of avocado. Unfortunately, I can’t eat avocado, but the kitchen was able to make the tuna alone for me. I know I was missing out on the buttery-ness that was added with the avocado but even so the tuna was great. The presentation was so beautiful with the tuna packed in to the center of a nice white plate and adorned with the caviar and edible flowers. The tuna was nicely cut into delicate pieces so it just melted in my mouth.
For the second course, I selected the dumpling, scallop, broccoli, black truffle. It was a lovely purse with a sweet scallop nestled inside and nice earthy notes from the black truffle. It was my favorite dish of the night!
The third course, which again was common to all, was ora king salmon, pumpernickel, artichoke. It was a nice, simple, perfectly seared salmon which was served with a delicate mixture of artichoke and pumpernickel. It was a very interesting combination.
For my fourth course, I selected the north sea cod, bell pepper, pineapple, clams, jamón bouillon. It was a very elegant dish with a nice combination of flavors. I loved the way the saltiness of the jamón bouillon complimented the delicate cod.
Finally, I ended my meal with the poached pear, chicory, orange, and craquelin. What a nice elegant ending to the meal! The pear was perfectly poached and soft, almost creamy. The craquelin, which is a French cream puff with a crisp topping, was delicious and not too sweet.
It was a lovely, elegant, and delicious meal! All the dishes were thoughtful and creative without being inapproachable or overly complicated. Likewise, the service was fantastic without being pretentious or stuffy. We felt comfortable enough to discuss menu options but then any time we got up our napkin was folded.
We really enjoyed our overall experience at L2O and would certainly recommend it for a special occasion.
2300 N. Lincoln Park West
Chicago, IL 60614