Serious Eats: Chicago

The Vegetarian Option: Pine Nut, Onion and Black Trumpet Ravioli at L2O

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[Photograph: Amber Gibson]

One of my favorite courses of the seven-course tasting menu I had at L2O last week was the ravioli with pine nuts, caramelized onions, shredded black trumpet mushrooms and lime. Since L2O is renowned for its seafood, I was a little surprised that the lone vegetarian dish was one of the most memorable. The fashionably plaid ravioli tasted as good as they looked, with delicate pasta enrobing a rich caramelized onion and pine nut filling. Little piles of microplaned pine nuts formed with black lime and lime zest sit atop each raviolo. A matsutake broth was poured table side to finish the dish.

"The plaid is an excruciatingly long process," says Executive Chef Matt Kirkley. "I was playing around with striped pasta. It's just three different pastas, regular pasta, one tinted with chlorophyll and then one with squid ink. We just pattern them together with a series of folds that are pretty intricate."

Although L2O is a seafood restaurant, Kirkley says he has a handful of guests each week requesting vegan or vegetarian tasting menus, so he has to create six or seven off-menu vegetarian dishes. The restaurant is happy to accommodate vegetarians, but Kirkley is amused by the number of requests he gets. "Somehow people think that because we're a seafood restaurant, it's easier for us to do vegetarian dishes," he says. "But there are no vegetables in the sea."

I suppose by highlighting this excellent vegetarian dish, I'm not doing anything to correct that misperception. Sorry, but I'm not sorry. This is too good not to share.

L2O

2300 North Lincoln Park West Chicago, IL 60614 (map)
773-868-0002
l2orestaurant.com

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