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I always like when owners dine at their own restaurant. It makes me feel like I’m not being poisoned. And indeed, on opening night, of L20, the new Laurent Gras seafood super restaurant, Rich Melman, grandaddy of Lettuce Entertain You, and his son RJ (clad in suitcoat, jeans and canvas Vans style shoes) and a couple others held court at a table in the center of the room.
Bottom line, even on opening night, with a few jitters, this is Chicago’s best new restaurant since the opening of Alinea. It’s now really just a question of where L20 falls in the spectrum of fine dining, aka relative to Tru, Alinea, NoMI style dining in Chicago. L20 might be what you get if you crossed Alinea, Tru, French Laundry, and Masa. It’s going to take me a few days to process this one in full detail, and you’ll be able to read about it next week in Newcity. In the meantime, a couple of thoughts:
1) L20 is true Michelin 3 star style dining.
2) I was skeptical that a multitude of seafood courses would prove nuanced to hold my interest. L20, like Green Zebra which redefined what it means to eat vegetarian, is a paradigm shift in terms of seafood focused dining.
3) After all these years of dining in converted homes, it feels really different to kick back in a wide open, high ceilinged room. Oddly, the wide open space feels more intimate.
4) Pork Belly has almost become a ubiquitous cliche. That being said, the version at L20 (pictured below) marinated in sake and coated with duck fat is the best version in the city. The skin was a true cracklin’ in the hard core chicharron tradition. If they bagged the crispy skin by itself, you’d have yourself a four star Super Bowl snack.
5) Lamb tartar with Ebi Shrimp, pickled peach and tarragon - pretty and pretty damn tasty.
6) I’ll take this study of key lime (pictured below) which features jalapeno topped fruit, caramel, and various tropical fruits and textures including frozen coconut foam cylinders and rum soaked pineapple and shaved pineapple over the most decadent chocolate confection anyday.
7) From house baked creamy pan au lait to pefect mini-baguettes to salty anchovy stuffed buttery croissant puffs, there is no better bread service in the city.
You can find a PDF of the opening night menu here.