11.15: L2o (part 1)

L2o: the atmosphere

I know that a few of you (basically Lauren and Peter) are a bit curious about my experience at L2o, so I thought I’d post a full blow-by-blow review here. I took a LOT of pictures so this review will unfold in a few parts. Apologies to non-foodie readers of this site…regular crafting and home-cooking posts will resume soon.

So I should start by saying it was my brother’s idea to go to L2o and that I wasn’t all that excited about going. My initial thoughts about this restaurant was that it was trying a little too hard and a bit on the pretentious side. My visit there more or less confirmed that suspicion. That’s not to say that the food wasn’t good…parts of the meal were phenomenal but the service was completely hit or miss and the atmosphere of the place was extremely austere and very uncomfortable, something that matters to me if I’m going to be sitting down to a 3+ hour meal.

Some problems I had with the place:
1. I understand that Laurent Gras is going for a clean, modern feel to the place but the restaurant was so cold and austere as to almost feel clinical. I spent most of the dinner feeling like I was about to enter into surgery or some sort of military operation. The idea of this place seemed to be sit down, shut up, eat, and be grateful that we’ve even let you in here.

2. Our server was basically a robot. Completely unexcited about the food and his job. Again, I realize a bubbly, over-excited server is not necessarily in keeping with a highly modern concept restaurant, but he really couldn’t provide much guidance or recommendations on things. Aside from that, he wasn’t particularly attentive but would FREQUENTLY interrupt my picture taking or my brother’s note taking to do something that really didn’t matter, like refill our already mostly full water glasses or to move the silverware or cups ever so slightly. This felt extremely intrusive. (And yes, I realize that the typical diners at a fine dining restaurant probably aren’t taking pictures or notes, but I would still expect them to accommodate our right to do so…especially if we’re paying several hundred dollars for the privilege to eat there.) Meanwhile, he would not be around when we actually needed something, like for example when I went to the restroom and then needed to be let back into my seat. (The way the seats were set up, the servers basically had to move the table for you for you to get up.) In my opinion, really good service knows when to step in and when to step back. This place sort of failed on both counts.

3. The front end of the house was a general mess. Service was extremely uncoordinated. Servers would routinely cross each other’s paths. Our server changed halfway through the evening. One person would come out and drop off our plates. Another person would set the service. Then we would have to wait until some other server came to explain what we were actually eating. We routinely got conflicting messages about what our food actually was. Sometimes, people flat out didn’t know what the hell was on our plates. They had to run back to the kitchen and then come back and tell us. This happened several times. (And unlike Alinea, this restaurant didn’t send us home with copies of the menu so we’re still a little bit in the dark about what we actually ate.) I get the sense that 99% of the clientele of this restaurant do not give a s*** what’s on their plates…they’re just people who like going to fancy restaurants to impress people and spend a LOT of money. (I would say that the typical tables were populated by groups of men wheeling and dealing or old dudes with trophy wifes/girlfriends.) Given that, I think the people were clueless about how to deal with someone like my brother and I.

In short:
1. The food (I will post more on that later) was good but I would say much of it did not remotely warrant the exorbitant price. The attitude of the staff suggests to me this is not a place for people who are serious about food and really care about what they’re eating.
2. The service was bad to the point of being distracting. All of the criticisms I had may be excusable at a lesser priced restaurant but not at one in this price range. I don’t expect flawless service but I at the very least expect the server to tell me what the hell is on my plate. (My brother and I did the seasonal tasting menu so we wouldn’t know what we’re eating unless the server could explain it to us.)
3. The place was just extremely uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong. I like modern interiors and decor. I’ve eaten at my share of fancy restaurants. But the service, the interactions with the staff, the furnishings, etc. all left me wanting to run home immediately and change into my pajamas.

All of these criticisms stand out in even clearer relief to me after last night’s dinner at Alinea, which was nothing short of AMAZING. I will also discuss that in great detail sometime soon but suffice to say, Alinea filled in all the gaps that I felt were missing in my dinner at L2o.


8 responses to “11.15: L2o (part 1)

  1. Hoooooooooly shit that service sounds atrocious. Yeah, definitely counting this one out of the running for our fancy meal wedding present. Thanks for such a thorough write-up. Those things you remarked on – untimely interruptions, switching servers, and NOT KNOWING WHAT THE FOOD IS – those would all piss me off as well. Tooooo bad.

  2. ha, interesting. you guys are eating at the same places as anthony bourdain’s visit to chgo. your just missing the tamale & burger.

  3. sorry to hear L20 was such a disappointment…but can’t wait to hear about alinea! can’t believe grant achatz came out and made one of your desserts tableside!!!!!!! details, woman! we need details! 🙂

  4. Not actually surprised the $10 hot dogs beat out the $$$$ joint – and you actually knew what was in your hot dogs!

  5. Pingback: 11.16: L2o (part 2) « rhymes with spoon

  6. Pingback: 11.18: L2o (part 4) « rhymes with spoon

  7. Unadulterated words, some true words man. Thanx for making my day.

  8. Pingback: the winter of mixed drinks « rhymes with spoon

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