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Which high end restaurant...

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I'll be in Chicago for a weekend in late November and am looking for an upscale restaurant for Saturday evening. For context, I've been to Charlie Trotter's (loved, RIP) and Alinea (not returning), and also enjoyed Naha, Blackbird, Topolobampo, Avec, and Purple Pig.

I'm considering:

L2O
Graham Elliot
Tru
Grace
Schwa

Which one would you recommend? I'm open to other suggestions as well. Thanks!

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  1. I've only been to L2O (twice) and Grace. Last July we were at these two on back to back nights.

    Grace was pretty solid but somewhat disappointing given all the hype. In a couple of dishes the taste of the separate ingredients didn't blend well, almost as if the flavors were fighting each other, we felt.

    We liked L2O a lot -- in fact, we're returning this week to dine there again (also Topolo and Alinea on the same trip). But the flavors are somewhat subtle and I can see how some wouldn't like it as much as we did. We also felt the wine pairings were really spot on here, more so than most places.

    But then I really like Alinea (3 visits plus a fourth this weekend) and I see you mark it 'not returning', so maybe my preferences are radically different from yours :)

    <edit: I just saw your profile and it looks like you're active on the Manhattan board ... if you like Le Bernardin then you'll probably like L2O, based on our two meals at each place. Hope this helps. >

    2 Replies
    1. re: willyum

      Thanks! Le Bernardin and Per Se are my favorite restaurants in NYC. Both are known for subtle and refined flavors so I think L2O might be a good choice.

      I do respect the innovation at Alinea but didn't think the food was that delicious, and also didn't care for the dining rooms and service (to each his/her own...).

      Thank you for your input!

      1. re: Riverman500

        Yeah, we also love Per Se, one of our top three favorites in the world ... whenever we are planning our annual NYC trip we first get the Per Se reservation and then arrange everything else around that date :)

        L2O dishes aren't as varied as Per Se, meaning every dish but one is seafood, but the restaurants seemed similar to us in that each dish was consistently high quality. And I thought it interesting that Eric Ripert of LB and the current L2O chef both trained at Robuchon restaurants.

    2. For me, L20 or Tru. Haven't been to L20 in over a year but am returning this month. Tru was fantastic less than a year ago. In both cases the new chefs are doing a very good job.

      I really liked Grace but we were there a while back and everything was very, very good. But the timing of the courses was inconsistent and my wife and I didn't really care for the wine pairings. We would definitely return, it just may have been too soon after opening.

      The last time at Graham Elliott (less than a year ago) was disappointing. The food was fantastic but the service really left a lot to be desired.

      1 Reply
      1. re: HoosierFoodie

        Looks like a toss up between Tru and L2O. We've heard very good things about both places. Thank you!

      2. Of those options Grace would be my clear first choice. Amazing food (beautifully presented, luxurious, creative and delucious). Top notch service (polished yet extremely personable). And a stunning dining room that manages to be modern, elegant and comfortable.

        I agree with Willyum that L2O would be worth considering if you are a Le Bernardin fan; definitely some similarities there.

        Tru is great, but IMHO is starting to become just a tad dated compared to some of the other high end venues.

        Schwa can be a best-meal-ever type experience, but is a bit of a crapshoot (consistency issues), has a tendency to cancel reservations on short notice (happened twice to me and to several friends) and Chef Carlson is not in house as much of late. Not a good choice if you want a refined dining experience, but awesome choice is you want a wild, memorable night.

        Graham Elliot I was not impressed with (food and especially service) and they have lost some talent since my last visit.

        You may also want to also consider Goosefoot (reservations tough though), Boka, the Lobby and El Ideas or Elizabeth (the latter two are casual ambiance but great experiences and upscale, highly creative cuisine). I love Moto - but if you did not care for Alinea it may not be the best fit for you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gonzo70

          Thanks Gonzo for your detailed overview of fine dining in Chicago. I've eliminated Schwa and Graham Elliot from our list, and will look into Grace, Boka, the Lobby, El Ideas and Elizabeth. Moto sounds intriguing but we'll perhaps save it for another trip.

        2. We ended up at Sixteen for our splurge dinner which was fabulous in all respects. Very inventive preps and presentations, delicious flavors, beautiful room and excellent service. We especially loved the suckling pig course which included a roast and a pig's head salad.

          On our next evening we tried The Lobby, which was also great, less experimental than Sixteen but still quite unique and inspired. The standouts were the seafood preps including the fluke crudo with pomegranate and the monkfish with flageolet beans and braised oxtail.

          Our final dinner was Avec, an old favorite. We ordered several dishes, all wonderful, particularly the brandade, dates stuffed with chorizo and the paella with chicken confit.

          Thanks again for your replies. We are looking forward to our next visit!