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Dinner at L2O – Part One

2009/07/30

I recently spent a long weekend in Chicago visiting some fantastic friends. To celebrate a special occasion we ate at L2O, Laurent Gras’ restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.  The restaurant is off the lobby of a historic building, one that looks like it was plucked out of an old movie scene with vaulted ceilings and key and mail slots behind the reception desk. It’s now a private residence, and I can only imagine what the condos look like.

The dining room was smaller than I expected but it it very clean, sleek, and elegant. Service throughout the meal was outstanding. The staff should be commended for their ability to be friendly, professional, and floating in the shadows to provide something just before you ask for it.

Due to the occasion, we brought a couple special bottles to pair with Chef Laurent’s seafood-focused menu. My last bottle of 1990 Salon Champagne and a generous 2005 Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Buisson-Renard were perfect foils of the dishes to come.

We selected the four course prix fixe. One selects a raw first course, warm second course, a main, and finally dessert. These four courses are rounded out by two amuses, an intermezzi, and pre- and post-desserts. Come the end of the meal you’ve eaten your way through nine or ten courses. Unless you have amazing fork-friendly friends, that is. The co-ordinated ordering effort resulted in very little overlap, and I was able to taste eighteen (yes, 18!) different dishes through the evening.

Due to the large number of photos, dinner will be broken out into three entries. Amuse and raw courses in this entry, followed by warm and mains in part two, and finally desserts and kitchen photos in the final post.

Scallop, citrus, jalepeno, parsley

Scallop, citrus, jalepeno, parsley

This was a beautiful, light way to start the meal. Fresh, delicate, and full of flavour, the acidity of the citrus cut through the richness of the scallop nicely. A bit of heat from the jalepeno came through on the back end. Well done.

Bread platter

Bread platter

More bread

More bread

All bread at L2O is done in house, and we had a nice selection to choose from that included savoury croissants, demi-baguettes, sourdough, and more. I love bread and was tempted to take the platter and run.

Egg custard in gelee, chorizo powder

Egg custard in gelee, chorizo powder

Nice take on “bacon and eggs.” Custard encased in gelee resting on chorizo powder. I will take chorizo powder (amazing) over bacon bits (blech!) any day of the week!

Tuna, olive oil, foie gras snow

Tuna, olive oil, foie gras snow

Moving onto the raw courses, two of us had the tuna. It was too delicious to not have the overlap! Foie gras “snow” was made by freezing foie gras torchon and grating it with a Microplane. The green dots are thickened olive oil, and you can see micro chives placed delicately on top of the tuna. This was a beautiful, tasty dish. All the flavours worked really well together and the texture and flavour of the tuna was top notch.

Jamon

"Jamon"

When I see the word “jamon” on a menu (no quotes), I automatically think of the fantastic hams from Spain that are packed in salt and then after a curing period allowed to air dry for many, many years. That’s not what Chef had in mind when presenting a dish by that name. A piece of escolar was rolled in spices to mimic the flavour of jamon then thinly sliced and artfully presented as you see above. Escolar is a rich, dense, fatty fish much like tuna whose flavour shone through and was complimented by the spice, not overwhelmed in the least.

The 1990 Salon, from my favourite house in Champagne took us through the first courses. I’ve been fortunate to have several bottles of this over the years and while it wasn’t the best experience this time around, it was still delicious!

  • 1990 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne (7/16/2009)
    Beautiful medium-dark gold colour. Aromas of apple, lemon, brioche, and a hint of coffee. Great texture and fine, fine bead. In typical Salon fashion, the nose and palate becomes significantly more expressive with air. After three hours, the wine also shows sherry, jasmine, and hazelnut notes. The wine is completely seamless from the nose through to the moderate-long, 35-40s finish. It is not the most profound example of the 1990 that I’ve had, but it is still delicious. It’s just disappointing that the sticker price has shot up so much over recent years. (93 pts.)

More to come in part two …

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