L20 with Chef Matthew Kirkley

Tuesday, May 07, 2013


A Youthful Experience at L2O


On May 7, 2013, 60 Chicago Chaîne members visited L2O, the seafood-centric fine dining restaurant set within the historic Belden-Stratford Hotel adjacent to Lincoln Park. Chef Matthew Kirkley took the helm as Executive Chef in November 2011 and earned the restaurant a second Michelin star last year and four stars from The Chicago Tribune. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, the renowned Chicago restaurant group, made him a partner in L2O earlier this year.  Impressive success, particularly considering that Kirkley hasn’t had his thirtieth birthday yet.

Guests were first directed to the L2O kitchen with its enormous tanks holding live fish and shellfish.  The service team poured a crisp, dry Bruno Michel Cuvée Blanche Champagne before being directed down the line to sample four outstanding hors d’oevres: rosemary croissants, a shot of basil velouté topped with orange truffle foam, soft cubes of cauliflower fondant coated in translucent layers of vanilla and lemon topped with caviar, and oysters crowned with a green apple gelee and a crème fraîche pearl.
Following the convivial kitchen gathering, guests were escorted into the modern dining room with its light and dark woods, leather and frosted glass. Kirkley’s playful platings quickly appeared. Our amuse-bouche was a pastry tart filled with a bright green mousse of whipped mussels, lemon and parsley that was perched on a mound of tiny seashells. Our first course was a delicate crab pain de mie with leek vinaigrette.  Both of these courses paired superbly with Takasago Ginga Shizuku “Divine Droplets” Junmai Daiginjo Sake with its jasmine and melon flavors and distinctive minerality.

Our second course was lobster bisque poured tableside into a bowl with perfectly cooked pieces of shellfish and green apple, which was served with Peter Michael L’Après-Midi Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010. The signature wet-stone minerality cut of this wine through the richness of this memorable dish. Next came a flavorful risotto with crunchy hearts of palm and a generous sprinkle black summer truffles. This course paired with a 2007 New Zealand Chardonnay from Kumeu River’s Hunting Hill vineyard with bright tropical fruit flavors.

The main course was an absolute knockout: quail stuffed with foie gras accompanied by sunchoke, smoked cherry puree and a 23-flavor gastrique (essentially, a reduction of Dr. Pepper soda). This decadent dish was paired with a beautiful Burgundy, Domaine des Perdrix Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru 1996, its black cherry notes matching perfectly with the quail sauce.

Superstar pastry chef Amanda Rockman reunited with Chef Kirkley last March—both were part of the opening team at L2O and culinary school classmates—and she offered an impressive array of sweets for the guests. The centerpiece dessert was a light and lovely passion fruit mousse with white chocolate, coconut and basil. It was paired with a late harvest ice wine made with Vidal grapes, Inniskillin Niagara Peninsula 2006. A variety of delicious mignardises were also served in a series of boxes, including bergamot marshmallows, pate de fruits and almond macarons.

Vice-Conseiller Gastronomique Elan Jacoby gave excellent wine commentary throughout the evening and Chef Kirkley answered questions about his cuisine. At the end of the night, Bailli Mon Roldan acknowledged Chef Kirkley and his team with an Award of Merit. He also presented an engraved Chaîne decanter to Jeffrey Ward, Director of Marketing, Fine Dining Division at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.

Kirkely has infused youthful exuberance into his whimsical, contemporary culinary compositions, making fine dining fun at L2O. Chaîne members and their guests enthusiastically embraced L2O’s playful fresh perspective, and no one will soon forget the innovative menu and warm hospitality.


After having gained back a second Michelin star for L20, Executive Chef Matthew Kirkley continues to evolve and, with his dedicated team, goes from strength to strength reinforcing the
many accolades from food critics near and far. Please see Chicago Tribune link:

Prior to coming to L20 and being part of the opening team, Chef Kirkley was with Robuchon at The Mansion in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. Little wonder that stints in some of Chicago’s heavy hitting kitchens such as RIA with Chefs Jason McLeod and Danny Grant, Seasons with Kevin Hickey, and NoMI Kitchen with Ryan LaRoche have brought an intellectual coherence to his work. Chef Kirkley has produced Chaîne dinners for us before as a member of other teams. This time it is on his terms with his team.

The reception will take place in the L20 display kitchen and we will then move into the main dining room. The integrity, professionalism and care that has already gone into the planning of our May dinner is a precursor of knowing how this accomplished chef will treat us to a series of innovative and contemporary dishes. Wines have been carefully paired and will reveal and complement the landscape of the dinner itself.

We can anticipate an evening in the finest of Chaîne traditions at this culinary landmark. Please note that there is a capacity of 65 for this dinner, so be sure to send in your reservation and payment promptly.

We are promised a refined and urbane experience.

In gastronomy,