MS has the pleasure of sharing his birthday with my mother — which of course puts me in a lovely position. He’s much more reasonable than others — so we celebrated his birthday a couple weeks later this year. We usually do a dinner with his friends at a nicer restaurant of his choice. This year I changed it up a bit. I emailed his friends JB and RK and asked them if they’d be interested in going to L20 for dinner. At the time L20 was the other Three Michelin Star rated restaurant in Chicago. The other and more well known is Alinea — to which I have never been.
It is part of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group, which has some very good restaurants — never really figured they’d have a 3 Star though. Lettuce has some nice holiday promotions too — one where you buy a $100 gift card and and you get a $25 bonus gift card to be used in Q1 of the following year. Since I knew we’d be spending some decent cash this evening, I bought several gift cards and plan on using the bonus in the dreary months of winter. Score.
As chance would have it, EAD was going to be in town this evening too, so I adjusted our reservations and we were locked an loaded. I kept the final destination a secret until we were actually in the restaurant — pretty impressive, I must say.
Our reservations were at 20h30 and we arrive about 5 minutes early. Our table wasn’t ready yet, so we sat in the lounge and ordered a cocktail. We were escorted to our table before our cocktails even arrived. We were introduced to our host, whose name I forget. We were seated at a large round table in the center of the room — the table itself was a little too large and it made it a bit difficult to comfortably chat — I felt like I was either deaf or yelling a good potion of the meal. I could easily hear my immediate neighbors (MS and RK) but had a hard time hearing EAD and JB.
There were three choices for the menu. The Singular: Luxury Ingredient Tasting Menu had six items. The Autumn: Seasonal Tasting Menu had seven items. The Four Course Prix Fixe which was a more traditional “pick from the list” menu. Four of the five of use chose the Singular menu while MS opted for the Autumn. MS, EAD and I included the wine pairings while JB purchased a couple individual glasses and RK, who was our designated driver skipped the booze.
The service was really good. In addition to our host we had three servers who would deliver our courses in perfect unison — 3 guests being plated at once then the remaining two being served in unison. When we were finished our plates were removed exactly as they were served — ballet like precision.
When a member of our group would leave the table (WC) the host would take their napkin, but unlike every other fine dining establishment, they wouldn’t return it. This happened at least three separate times each with the same outcome — the guest wondering where the hell his napkin went. Just a little sloppy.
JB, slyly, took pictures of the food, which are below. I won’t get into the details of every course, but I will say a few of the items that I wanted from the Autumn menu I got to try (from MS) and must admit, I was quite happy with my menu choice.
We started off with the Maryland Blue Crab en Gelee * Fennel Cream, Basil
The second course, under the Singular Menu was a Hand Harbested Main Scallop * Cooked in the Shell, leeks, Black Truffle
The third course was Lubina * Caviar, Lake Mont Grapes
On to round four with Main Lobster * Smoked Foie Gras, Matsutake, Vin Jaune
The fifth course was the 28-Day Dry Aged Ribeye * Butternut Squash, Potato Fondant, Capers
We didn’t take a picture of the Praline Souffle * Hazelnut Anglaise — I traded mine to MS for his Grand Marnier Souffle * Orange, which was a great option for us.
The end of the meal we were served a selection of Profiteroles and Chocolates
The meal itself was quite an experience. It was the first 3-Michelin Rate restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. It was also the most expensive meal I’ve ever paid for (note, I said paid for — I’m sure the cost per person wasn’t the highest I’ve every had, but I never paid for it). MS enjoyed the email which was my goal for the evening.
Interestingly enough, just a few days later the Michelin folks released their 2012 Guide and L20 lost not only one but two stars. As I’ve said before, I’ve never been to a 3-Star place before, so I can’t gauge this restaurant against others in the same class, but I don’t think the experience we had really warranted 3 Michelin stars — one or two perhaps, but not arguably one of the best restaurants in the world. The menu was great, the service was pretty good and the total experience with good friends made the whole evening quite.