L2O Review: L20

L2O Review: L20

Oooooh boy, I hope you’re ready. Jonathan is back with a guest post. Him and his wife hit up L2O and captured the deliciousness for everyone. Really, I thought I was ready for this and it still blew me away. It was like the 07-08 Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs against the Celtics. You could see it coming, I mean, L2O, this has to be good. But man… the pictures. The food. I haven’t been this excited since I saw Slumdog Millionaire. Yea, this is BETTER than a Gloden Globe for best picture. This is better than the playoffs. This is a play by play of a meal at L2O, and IT’S AWESOME.

A petite and pleasant kimono-clad white woman led us back to the tatami room. In front of the room, slightly to the left of the main dining room, we took off our shoes putting them on a small tray. The room itself was cozy with a small table and accompanying recessed floor seating. I like sitting on the floor and I wish I could do it more (I used to love watching TV on the floor or playing videogames on the floor. I think most of my childhood was spent on the floor). As we got settled, the waitress artfully bent down to pour our water. That is when I decided to ask her about her knees; it seemed at the time to be relevant. While I loved sitting on the floor, it seemed like for me to truly enjoy this experience I wouldn’t want my server to be in any pain. She smiled politely and asked if I had any food allergies.

We had in truth been looking forward to this meal for a while. Laurent Gras and his restaurant L2O (pronounced el-two-oh) had for the past year received a staggering amount of positive press (Esquire, GQ, Chicago Tribune, blah blah blah) and as it is well documented, I am a sucker for hype. It was supposed to be our holiday meal, but because of life (always getting in the way) we had to reschedule.

The kaiseki started quickly. Almost as soon as we sat down the first course was served, and it was a staggering five small plates (fluke, parrotfish, a mix of tuna and kampachi, oyster with sake and an escolar jamon). Each was just a bite, and some better than others. The escolar jamon, however, was a new level of awesome. It had the smoothness of escolar, but the taste of bacon.

Butterfish with caviar came out next and quickly. It was clean, fresh and satisfying, which was a signal for things to come.

Then came the sashimi course (fluke, snapper, amberjack and kampachi), followed by matsutake mushrooms in butter. My wife and I were surprised by the pacing. It seemed for once the kitchen could keep up with us. And when we weren’t being served there was the assortment of fresh breads and house made butter.

For the fifth course, out came a fairly traditional tofu with miso. I was waiting for some sort of twist, but there was none. It was straightforward tofu, which incidentally was made in house. I suppose making your own tofu could count as a twist.

The olive oil poached octopus with a coconut sauce was the least successful dish. The octopus had an intense fish taste and the heavy milky taste of the coconut only made each bite heavy and linger on the tongue. It seemed out of place with the menu.

But following this brief miss, was a long string of hits. The seventh course was a grilled toro with green apple, olive and squid ink emulsion.

Then came the tagliatelle with truffles (oh, the truffles). How can you go wrong with toro and truffles?

The ninth, the tilefish with yuzu and tapioca, was stunning in presentation and taste. I have never, to my knowledge, had a positive experience eating scales; that is until this fish dish. The fish is pan-fried and as they baste the fish with the hot oil, they lift the scales upward so that they stand up. The scales become these gossamer petals that flame out from the surface of the skin. Then they provide a surprising crunch to the moist delicate fish.

The lobster with a scallop and lobster dumpling in foie gras emulsion was suitably decadent

And I was glad it was followed by the lighter heart of palm, trout roe, and grapefruit in bonito broth.

The twelfth course was a structured plate of this incredibly well-marbled Wagyu beef, persimmon, potato batons, shallots, herb salad, and Wagyu powder (which is apparently fat powder).

I think I may have mentally shutdown after the Waygu. It was delicious and rich, and clearly the pinnacle of the meal. The dénouement of dishes that followed helped to round out the meal, but held no long-lasting impression. The amberjack in dashi was followed by the beautiful mango sorbet with pineapple, lemongrass marshmallow in a passion fruit consommé. The meal finished with a few pleasing macaroons.

The meal was remarkable, and I would certainly recommend L2O to anyone looking for an elegant “globally-minded seafood spot.” However, the tatami room may not be for everyone or for every occasion, but it was special. I just hope that a certain kimono-clad server and her knees know that we appreciated it very much.

L2O2300 Lincoln Park West.Chicago, IL 60617773-868-0002

Posted by Danny on January 28, 2009 at 6:46 am

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