They love to celebrate at Bistro Bordeaux in Evanston. Owner Pascal Berthoumieux, a Bordeaux native, demonstrates how to open Champagne with a knife and wine without a corkscrew through videos uploaded to YouTube. And they have lots to celebrate. Earlier this year, L20 vet Johnny Besch came to helm the kitchen as executive chef from his last, sunnier post working under famed chef Alain Ducasse at MiX on the Beach in Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. The restaurant regularly finds other reasons to raise a glass, including on Earth Day, when they host an annual sword-tap-on-the-shoulder of all things green. A “wild spring bounty” menu this past April 22 featured chilled watercress soup, ramps and peas. While Besch may change up his Earth Day 2012 menu, the unique ambiance on which Berthoumieux perennially insists will be repeated. For Earth Day dinner, unnatural light is turned off completely in the dining room and hundreds of small glass balls are hung from the ceiling with fishing line. Because the lines can not be easily seen, the balls appear to be floating in air. Each “floating” ball seems to be holding its own tea light, like Earth Day vigil attendees, each one clutching a candle. “It looks like a room full of floating orbs of light,” Pascal says proudly.
618 Church, Evanston
Best of Chicago 2011
We didn’t agree with many of the Michelin Guide’s new ratings, but the two stars they awarded to Ria were pretty spot on. Impeccable service, one of Chicago’s best sommeliers Dan Pilkey, and inspired dishes like lobster with a chestnut sabayon, fennel and orange make this the best Chicago restaurant opening since L20.
11 East Walton at the Elysian Hotel
Girl and the Goat
809 West Randolph
Lettuce Entertain You owner Rich Melman refused to modify an employment contract awarding Gras a lifetime supply of M Burgers and Wow Bao dumplings.
Best of Chicago 2010
Technically you can’t really take this stuff home, but the only things better than the seafood at this Michelin three-star temple are the creamy pain au lait, micro-baguettes with chewy crumb and rich crunchy crust, mini-anchovy-stuffed croissants and bacon-infused bread twists made in L20’s Pavailler, a steam-injected stone-floored oven that ensures a quick airy rising crumb that doesn’t dry out.
2300 North Lincoln Park West
1124 West Grand
1332 West Grand
Best of Chicago 2010
L20 is probably what you’d get if you threw Napa Valley’s French Laundry, New York’s sushi dream theater Masa, TRU and Alinea into a blender and poured it out in the old Ambria space in the Belden-Stratford Hotel. Featuring the best fresh-bread service in Chicago, the most exciting sommelier in Chantelle Pabros and Chef Laurent Gras’ super-duper micro-managed attention to kitchen detail, this restaurant will be tough to surpass for some time.
2300 N. Lincoln Park West
3053 N. California
Best of Chicago 2008