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L2O - Post Gras

TheDegustationAsian Feb 2, 2011 04:53 AM

Wondering if any hounds could give me some feedback about their L2O experiences since the departure of chef Laurent Gras (late November). Ideally, I'd like to hear from anyone who has visited the restaurant both before, and after his departure.

Additionally, I'm also interested in hearing about L2O experiences in general since there seem to be mixed reactions. Thank you so much in advance, just trying to do more research for an upcoming vacation.

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L2O
2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

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    HoosierFoodie RE: TheDegustationAsian Feb 2, 2011 06:44 AM

    I can't speak to your first question. While Gras was there I went 3-4 times and thought it was wonderful every time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: HoosierFoodie
      TheDegustationAsian RE: HoosierFoodie Feb 2, 2011 06:56 AM

      HoosierFoodie, just wondering, when you went did you just order a la carte or did order any of the tasting menus? Specifically, I'm wondering if other hounds felt that the luxury tasting menu was worth the additional money. I'm not worried about price, I just would appreciate any information regarding the two tasting menus and have found little re tatami room experiences.

      I'm sure the menu is bound to change with the seasons, but were there any standout dishes or signature dishes of the restaurant?

      1. re: TheDegustationAsian
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        HoosierFoodie RE: TheDegustationAsian Feb 3, 2011 07:47 AM

        I have done both a la carte and the tasting. It simply boiled down to what was on the a la menu at the time vs. what was on tasting menu. The tasting menu, I thought, was worth the tariff....

    2. nsxtasy RE: TheDegustationAsian Feb 2, 2011 08:42 AM

      I went when Gras was around and I thought it was good but not at all exceptional, and disappointing considering the price.

      The one and only standout of my meal was a complimentary canele at the end of the meal, one of several mignardises.

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        mountsac RE: TheDegustationAsian Feb 4, 2011 04:55 PM

        I went in the summer of 2009. Had the seasonal tasting with wine pairing. Bread service was outstanding. Gotta try "The Milk." The seafood dishes were great (IMO execution more precise than Le Bernadin). The cuisine was French with an obvious Japanese influence. The fusion was handled beautifully. I quite enjoyed the tofu and the shabu-shabu course. The desserts were even better. The souffle was textbook and, along with that of Bouchon Cafe in NY, was the best I've had. There was one meat course in the tasting - I had the pork belly, my gf had beef, neither was particularly memorable (not bad, just not great).

        Wine pairing was just okay (I like Alinea's pairing selections better). But they were generous, as they kept topping me off. By the end of the meal I looked like a fire hydrant (Asian glow). I did think it was a bit too much food/wine. I can eat, but I was way over-stuffed by the end. To finish the tasting comfortably, I'd recommend getting a bottle instead of the pairing and cut back on the bread (I had way too many; but they were so damn good).

        Service and ambiance were great - a proper 3-star experience.

        4 Replies
        1. re: mountsac
          TheDegustationAsian RE: mountsac Feb 5, 2011 06:10 AM

          Thanks for the report mountsac. It sounds like you certainly had a wonderful meal there, well deserving of the awards it eventually earned. I wrote this post with the goal of researching restaurants to visit on an upcoming trip, but also because I'm sure many other hounds are interested in L2O experiences, post-Gras. From everything I've seen and read I'm intrigued, but losing your chef is not inconsequential. However, during a vacation I took last year to SF/Napa, I regret not visiting Ubuntu, even with Chef Fox leaving shortly before our trip. Have another dinner tonight at Le Bernardin should be wonderful.

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          L2O
          2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

          1. re: TheDegustationAsian
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            mountsac RE: TheDegustationAsian Feb 5, 2011 06:41 AM

            I understand the concern for losing the founding executive chef. For L2O, however, I felt the restaurant distinguished itself more by ingredients and execution. The concept, while certainly not banal, was not something so unique that it cannot be learned. In other words, I don't think L2O is a concept driven restaurant (in that regard, it's more like Daniel than, say, Alinea). As OCD as Gras was, I believe that the kitchen team must have been well trained to be able to execute so consistently and beautifully without micro-management by Gras himself. That much will remain, especially when the new executive chef was promoted from within. From what I read, the bread service program, one of L2O's claims to fame, was also not developed by Gras. And the relationship with purveyors will not be much of an issue, considering the resources of LEY. In short, I am optimistic about how L2O has turned out post-Gras.

            But you're right, I'm very interested in reading any post-Gras experience. And if you do end up going, please report back!

            1. re: mountsac
              TheDegustationAsian RE: mountsac Feb 5, 2011 08:51 AM

              Very interesting...IMHO any chef worth his salt is ingredient-driven, even more true with a medium such as seafood. I've yet to dine at a LEY restaurant, although I'm considering a bevy of them for this same trip, and would agree that if the restaurant's relationship with their seafood purveyor stays in tact, there should be no slippage product wise.

              It's the execution part, that I wonder about in the wake of Gras's departure. From what I've read, Gras in many ways reminds me of Leibrandt which some regard as OCD whereas others simply label it as being "hands-on." As it stands, L2O seems a bit of a "wild card" of all the restaurants I'm considering. However, if I do end up going, I'll be sure to report about my experience.

              Thanks for the valuable input. Many of the other restaurants I'm considering (Alinea, Avenues, Schwa) may veer on the execution side of things. Not to steer too far off-topic, but have you been to Trotter's or Tru recently? For many years they've been considered somewhat of a gold-standard for Chicago fine dining and I wonder if the negative reports I've read were more a sign of unrealistic expectations or that they were becoming "tired," the same I heard re Daniel pre-revamp. Like always, your thoughts are most appreciated.

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              L2O
              2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

              1. re: TheDegustationAsian
                m
                mountsac RE: TheDegustationAsian Feb 5, 2011 01:31 PM

                I've been to both in 2009.

                Charlie Trotter's was a total let down for me. Being a "tired" grand dame was certainly not its problems, as the ingredients were posh (think yuzu,, tai, shiso...) and the techniques were contemporary (think sauce with no cream or butter, emulsion, sous vide....). My problem with the food was the execution / flavors. Couple examples: (1) there was emulsion in all but one dish, and most did not work. One salmon dish used a rose-water emulsion that was extremely distracting. (2) A eel dish had great flavors, but the eel was not de-boned cleanly. Eel bones are edible but are unpleasant, especially if you are paying a premium. (3) shiso sorbet had absolutely no flavors.... I can go on, but you get the picture. I feel that CT uses certain ingredients because they are "in," not because the ingredient enhances the dish. Conceptually, many dishes were a mess, and the flavor-profile was extremely underwhelming. Also, at the price, I couldn't figure out where the money went based on the food received. There was not much luxury ingredients (certainly no expensive seafood, wagyu, caviar, or truffles). I don't need those ingredients, but I just had a faint feeling that I was being ripped off - a feeling I don't have at other high-end restaurants. I was so underfed and underwhelmed that I head to Chinatown right after.

                Tru: I've only had the dessert tasting and the lounge a la carte. The a la carte savories were good, but nothing special. The dessert tasting was visually and conceptually interesting, but the flavor-profile was not always spot on. For me, Tru is more about the experience - grand decor, synchronized (often robotic) service, cheese cart, dessert trolley, great wine service... But do not go thinking that you will be blown away by the food. But maybe the new young chef has made some changes since the official departure of the founding chef. Maybe it's worth checking out now.

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          aburkavage RE: TheDegustationAsian Jul 25, 2011 08:18 AM

          I know this is an old post, but I have reservations at L2O this weekend and wanted to get feedback from anyone who's been recently. Thanks in advance!

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          L2O
          2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

          1. Coogles RE: TheDegustationAsian Jul 26, 2011 07:28 AM

            We went to L2O recently (about 2 weeks ago) for a birthday dinner, it was my first time there but one of my dining companions had eaten there while Gras was executive chef. All of us thought the meal was excellent, but she thought that the food lacked the "Wow factor" she had experienced in her earlier visit. Other than a few service miscues it was an excellent dining experience. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

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            L2O
            2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

            2 Replies
            1. re: Coogles
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              aburkavage RE: Coogles Jul 26, 2011 07:42 AM

              Thanks, Coogles! Which menu did you choose?

              1. re: aburkavage
                Coogles RE: aburkavage Jul 26, 2011 09:34 AM

                I had the 8 course summer tasting menu, the menu currently on their website is pretty much the same with the exception of the English Summer Peas course (ours was an asparagus course with morels and mushroom fricassee). Another in our group also had the tasting menu with no pork or shellfish and the third selected four courses from the prix fixe menu (Sashimi platter, Maine scallop, shabu-shabu and Manjari chocolate dessert). All of us also received an amuse-bouche (salmon mousse with herb (dill?) aspic and cucumber "roe", lobster salad on a mini brioche roll as an appetizer and a mango sorbet with lime for the intermezzio. There was also an extra dessert course due to the birthdays being celebrated consisting of a bite sized cake and an interesting liquid center bonbon.

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