L20: For Unconventional and Luxurious Seafood
Chicago's been patting itself on the back for the better part of the last couple of years as the new food capital of the world. While I try not to be a one sided cheerleader, I've certainly showered my fair share of praise on Windy City eats. It's a reasonable thing to do when you look at the breadth of offerings here, from the high end to the low end. Truth be told, we had a handful gems at the high end, but really luxurious Michelin-style dining was generally elusive. Even a spot like Alinea, which definitely deserves the accolades it received as America's best restaurant from Gourmet, tended to eschew luxury for luxury's sake as they tend to challenge all conventions.
Enter L20, the new seafood-focused spot from Laurent Gras, former disciple of Ducasse. Gras not only challenges convention, offering up a small circular case of upside-down hanging butter and custom table side shabu-shabu service designed by Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail (Alinea collaborator who created their serviceware), but he's also an unabashed devotee of luxury and delivering on more than you promise. Four course meals turn into eight course meals with extra mignardise and amuse bouche, like passion fruit marshmallows with chocolate ganache. Likewise, Gras flecks ebi sweet shrimp and lamb tarter with gold leaf and edible flowers, and dollops citrus cured fluke with a quenelle of Osetra caviar. L20 feels like you threw French Laundry, Masa, Alinea, and Tru restaurants in a blender and poured the resulting mix out as a new restaurant. It is definitely one of Chicago's best new restaurants.
Restaurant Graham Elliot: Accessible Four-Star Cuisine
While it doesn't open until June 3, there's no question this spot from Avenues's four-star chef Graham Elliot Bowles, the prince of Pop Rocks and all things effervescent, is one of Chicago's most anticipated restaurants. The thing that makes this spot so compelling is that Bowles, who worked for Charlie Trotter and Rick Tramonto, earned the right to basically do anything with his next move as a chef. He could have opened a four-star castle that catered to a select foodie community. Instead, as the emo-music loving dude that he is, he decided to put himself out there and open a restaurant that reflects his personality and is accessible to a much larger selection of the community. You can come as you are and chow down on buffalo chicken wings with bleu cheese foam and fried pickles with bacon ranch gravy, or Pabst glazed pearl onions, granny smith apples, crispy proscuitto, and Cheez-It crackers. Likwise, the vibe will also reflect Bowles' whimsical tastes as his servers will be wearing jeans and Red Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars.
Restaurant Graham Elliot
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