Monday, January 19, 2009
Scott Barton, President - Fine Dining, Lettuce Entertain You
Chicago Bailliage Dines At L2O
Members of the Bailliage de Chicago gathered at one of Chicago’s most stunning new restaurants, L2O, on January 19, 2009. Chef Laurent Gras and Richard Melman, Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, collaborated to open L2O, a modern seafood restaurant in an historic building in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago in 2008. Chef Gras, a native of France, worked at several two and three Michelin starred restaurants in France before coming to the United States for stints as Executive Chef at noted restaurants in New York and San Francisco prior to his arrival in Chicago. Chef Gras challenges what is conventional and grasped our attention from the outset.
The evening got off to an exceptional start with a reception featuring a selection of passed hors d’oeuvres including Beau Soleil Oyster, Frozen Sake, Escolar Jamon, Skatewing, and Lobster Croquette. These were uniformly excellent and were accompanied by a delightful Champagne Jean Milan, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut.
Bailli Jane Tracy then invited the guests to be seated in the in L2O’s chic new Dirk Denison-designed dining room. The breathtaking surroundings provided a suitable backdrop for a most memorable gastronomic experience. The dinner began with Kampachi and Yuzu tuna which had been cut into perfect cubes and formed into a square. The contrasting colors of these two types of tuna gave this course the appearance of a miniature checkerboard. This course was accompanied by Ishikawa Tengumai Yamahai Jikome Junmaisake, which is a sake made in southern Japan in a very traditional fermentation method utilizing natural yeasts and local water that has a high mineral content.
The next course was a Lobster with foie gras emulsion and quenelle accompanied by a 2005 Monastero Trappiste Vitorchiano “Coenobium” vino de tavola bianco which was the first vintage made by a group of nuns that continue to produce this wine at a site north of Rome. This delightful course was followed by a serving of striped bass with Champagne emulsion, pistachio and Crab meat accompanied by a 2007 Jorge Ordoňez Botani Moscatel Seco Malaga. This Spanish wine is organically produced and proved to be an excellent accompaniment for the succulent striped bass.
At this point, Vice-Conseiller Culinaire David Danielson gave an incisive commentary on the food selection and preparation and Vice-Ėchanson/Caviste Simeon Y. Roldan discussed the wines that he had selected for the evening’s dinner.
The next course was a perfectly prepared Millbrook Farms filet of Venison with Sauce Royale and king trumpet accompanied by the showcase wine of the evening, a 1988 Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan from the Bailliage’s cellar. At 20 years of maturity, this wine was showing amazing depth and balance followed by a wonderful sustained finish.
Our final course was a caramel, coffee, vanilla and salt desert creation paired with a 2006 Chapoutier Banyuls, which is a wonderful dessert wine made from one hundred percent Grenache grapes.
After the entire kitchen and dining room staff had received a well deserved ovation, Bailli Jane Tracy invited Chef Gras to the podium. He was most generous in answering numerous questions regarding the preparation of the dinner. Chef Gras personally prepared every piece of fish for the entire dinner. The general commentary following the meal was that the dinner had been a spectacular success, attention to detail keen, and that L2O had firmly established itself as one of the brightest lights in the constellation of Chicago restaurants.