Oh where do I begin?? Last weekend I had the most extraordinary dining experience of my life at L2O restaurant in Lincoln Park. I had heard that this restaurant was amazing and it totally lived up to its reputation.
L2O says they are a modern seafood restaurant. Modern indeed. Each course was fascinating, but still delicious. The décor was minimal and elegant, and the staff was lovely. So much thought was put into every tiny detail.
Last year my parents purchased a silent auction item at a charity event that included a “VIP Night” at L2O. Included was champagne on arrival, extra courses, and a tour of the kitchen. I was thrilled to be included in the special night and to be able to bring my handsome date. Granted…. I may have STRONGLY encouraged the purchase at the auction!
Now for the fun stuff….
The chef at L2O started the night with a selection of canapés that were a play on Fruits de Mar (or fruits of the sea). Three variations of perfectly formed hollow balls filled with goodness. The orange one was cantaloupe filled with foie gras with a sprig of orange zest, the back one was cucumber filled with a fish mousse (I think), and up close was honeydew filled with….well, I can’t remember, but how cute??
I can’t even imagine how long it takes to create three of these for each diner every single night.
Next up was the amuse bouche, a mussel tart on a pastry shell with a hint of bacon. To be eaten in one bite. Crazy good. You can read about how chef Matthew Kirkley came up with this on his blog.
I love the details.
The bread was ridiculous. This one was filled with bacon and whole grain mustard. How could that be bad? The butter in the background was formed into a perfect dome on the lid of the dish. They would bring it to the table flipped upside down. How do they do that?? I am easily amused.
My first course was scallop, foie gras, hon-shimeji (AKA the cutest little mushrooms I have ever seen), and Argan oil. I googled Argan oil and apparently it has cosmetic benefits. Who knew? I think this was my favorite course.
Mom had ahi tuna tartare with avocado and tomato water, all dotted with caviar. The presentation was just stunning in person. Again, you can read about it on the chef’s blog.
Dad had hamachi and uni in a shiso lime vinaigrette.
Rob had a beautiful sashimi platter with citrus salmon, fluke-hojicha, and ahi with avocado.
Can we discuss this adorable crab cut out of daikon radish?
We were happy diners!!!!
For the second course Rob and I had black and white fettucine with a lobster-uni emulsion, topped with Osetra caviar.
Notice how the pasta is double sided. I can’t even wrap my mind around how that is accomplished. My dad and I have a tradition of making pasta on Christmas and it is quite the event. I don’t think we will be attempting double sided noodles anytime soon.
Mom had a ridiculously good lobster bisque with apple pearls and calvados (apple brandy).
Dad had turbot with black trumpet mushrooms in a sauce made of champagne, brown butter, and parsley. He didn’t share. I don’t blame him!
Next up was a course from the chef. It was ocean trout in a pigeon broth. At least I think it was pigeon broth… Amazing.
For the main course three of us had lacquered lobster with black trumpet mushrooms, grapefruit, black truffle and sauce Americaine.
It didn't suck. In fact, it was pretty incredible.
Then we had entertainment! Well, kind of. Dad ordered something called shabu shabu. The waitress gave him a warning when he ordered it, but he took the challenge. She had to give him a tutorial when it came to the table.
He was served a “boat” of fish and accoutrements on ice along with piping hot dashi broth. He was in charge of cooking his own meal. He could add the flavor enhancers to the broth and cook his fish for just a few seconds. Once all of the fish was cooked they added noodles to the broth he created.
It came with a healthy amount of foie gras.
We cleansed our palettes with a mint sorbet/ice combination.
I ordered the cheese platter assuming everyone would share their desserts with me. I like to have a plan.
It was a choose your own adventure sort of deal.
Mom and dad had a praline soufflé that was drizzled with hazelnut anglaise.
Rob was the winner with his Manjari chocolate egg served with coffee-flavored foam and malt snow.
Inside the egg was salted caramel goodness.
Finally we had little beeswax cakes and macaroons.
The night was topped off with a private tour of the kitchen.
I could not believe how clean everything was! The staff was scrubbing down every last inch of the counters, ovens, ranges, and prep stations.
We had a nice chat with the master of all things baked. He showed us the bread starter that has been going since the restaurant opened four years ago.
Rotating the soufflés a quarter turn.
The spice cabinet. I wish I had hot pink spices in my cabinet at home.
The pastry cabinet.
Clearly I enjoyed every moment of this amazing dinner at L2O. While it was pricey (thanks mom and dad!), they really felt like they got their money’s worth. We could not believe the level of service and attention to detail. The kitchen tour makes you realize why it has to be pricey. It seemed like they had 1 employee for every diner.
If you are looking for an exceptional dining experience in Chicago, check out L2O. It was simply marvelous.