25 November, 2013
I had planned a great last day to this long trip to be enjoyed at the best restaurant in Chicago, the 2-Michelin L2O. It once had 3 stars, though I have heard anecdotally this is the best place in Chicago that isn’t a joke or a lab…you can read that any way you like.
After my first tasting menu in town (no review), my expectations were limited. Didn’t help that I took the train out and walked the WRONG way in the icy snow…lucky I found a cab and got to L2O only a few minutes late. Once I walked in I thought damn, this is good.
The service at this place is just impeccable. This place has 2 stars. Somehow Graham Elliot had 2 stars. NOT EVEN CLOSE. The personal service here is worthy of a 3-star place. Amazing stuff, from the table-side cocktail making to just how attentive service is at all times without it being intrusive. This front-of-house staff is trained amazingly, one of the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
I enjoyed a shrimp crisp as an amuse and enjoyed my cocktail before delving into the meal with full pairing…this is gonna be a hell of an adventure!!!
The first dish was the mussel tart. The presentation is fantastic, it looks like a piece of art. The tart was rich with shellfish goodness, the taste not withheld at all. With a nice (and generous) pouring of Rueda, this was a fantastic start.
The second dish was the geoduck, which is one of my favourites. This odd-looking giant clam is crunchy but flavourful. I knew what to expect from this raw clam, and it did not disappoint. A pouring of txakolina really hit the spot. Beautiful!
The third dish were excellent Coromandel oysters. The touch of green apple really gave this a unique flavour, a little tangy to go down with the fresh shellfish. An excellent chablis accompanied this dish. I’m more than happy at this point, both quality and appearance of the dishes — and the pairings. Definitely blows GE away.
The fourth dish were cockles, with a very cute and innovative iceberg lettuce jelly. As you can see, chef enjoys using jellies here. These small shellfish were a nice change. You can see he went from smooth (mussel) to crunchy (geoduck) to smooth (oyster) to crunchy (cockles) in the shellfish progression. With a muscadet in hand, I really enjoyed this cute dish. Excellent!
The fifth course doesn’t look like ahi tuna tartare, but it certainly is. The green is the avocado. The combination was very tasty, topped by a generous amount of caviar and a crispy rose pouring. Very nice, loving the seafood-centric tasting!
The sixth course was one of the stand-outs of the night, featuring matsutake mushrooms and spiny lobster. This had a richness in taste that you just have to savour, the mango adding the wildcard into this richness. A nice Riesling alongside, this was one of the best dishes of the night! Spine-tingling awesome!
The seventh course was fun. They were spheres of joy I call it. Some were strawberry. Some were foie gras. All were excellent and tasty. Plus the colour of the rose pouring added to the allure of this fun dish.
One thing I must add is that the service has not dropped off at all as the place got busier. In fact, the pacing of the food is spectacularly good, no rush or slow. It’s like the kitchen is timed so well they didn’t have timing hiccups, which is so common in tasting menu restaurants…
Then an extra treat came out as the eighth course, a crab broth from étrilles, or velvet crab. Chef’s from crab-friendly Maryland, and had an excellent supply so brought out this little treat. Wow, this was extremely rich and concentrated, one that made your spine tingle again. Wow…I can still taste this wonderful ambrosia…wow…
The ninth course were more étrilles. Done in a unique way with more jelly use. I think this one was more presentation and it’s a good break, almost a palate cleanser. Cute, with a nice Jurançon. Mmm…
The tenth course moves us into fish, this one featuring the Dover sole. I’m usually not a great fan of Dover sole, but this was excellent. Moist and nice, with a touch of mussels too. A nice vouvray as well. I’m still smiling like anything right now…this has been a bloody excellent tasting!
The eleventh course continued in the fish world with dorado, with a nice crispy piece of skin to add to the temptation. The addition of heartier vegetables shows the direction of the meal as it gets a little heavier. The fish was delicious and tender, accompanied by a nice white rioja. Happy, but starting to get a little full!
The twelfth course was a lesser-seen fish, the cusk. This is a flavourful and tender fish, helped on by the chive-focused sauce. A tasting of foie gras added to the complexity of this dish, helped on by a pouring of bourgogne. Awesome!
And finally, the thirteenth (technically 12th) course was the ribeye. This was a strip of loveliness, cooked perfectly and the only meat of this entire tasting. I was utterly full by now, even if not for this awesome dish and the margaux in my hand. Wow…
I definitely needed a break after this, so we slowed down before the desserts proceeded. This was one of the best tasting menus I’ve ever had, makes GE look really inferior. It was so well planned, from dish to dish and the general flow, the contrasts can be fully experienced. This is the best place in Chicago. Frankly, this is the best tasting I’ve had between Los Angeles and Oslo…
The first dessert course was a treat featuring pineapple, coconut, rum and lemon. A nice almost palate-cleansing creation. Sorry for the bad photo. My phone had a major OS update and the photo system is now much worse…
The second dessert is a wee cream puff. Another cute little treat before the two main dessert dishes.
The third dessert is one of the main items, the caramel parfait. Rich deep flavours here, with orange cream, burnt honey and cardamom. But honestly I was already too full at this point!
The final dessert is ironically the chocolate crémeux — same basic dessert as lunch at Blackbird earlier in the day. Obviously done very differently! Excellent, especially with a nice glass of 5-star tokaji in my hand!
I was exhausted, full and tired…this was such an amazingly good tasting menu I was spent… This was so pleasurable I almost forgot about setting my alarm for 4am for my flight out the next day! Then they dropped this on me as they said they’ll get me a cab whenever I needed…
Yeah, sure, I can eat this…I did eat a few pieces and almost died. This would have been a damn great way to go, to be honest!
This was an amazing tasting menu. Probably the best I’ve had outside of Il Grano in Los Angeles and Maaemo in Oslo. This was the perfect way to end this long trip to Los Angeles and Chicago. Lots of memorable meals, but this was the perfect one. Amazing food, excellent service. You can’t ask for much more than this!
Surely one of the best 10 meals I’ve had in my life. And yes, I did wake up in time for my flight…
2300 N. Lincoln Park West