They came. They ate. They evaluated. They awarded stars.
Not many stars, considering there are thousands of restaurants in Chicago and its close-in suburbs, but at least the Windy City is now a Michelin Guide-starred metropolis.
According to reports, “inspectors” for the Guide ate anonymously around the city for two years to determine the creme de la creme of Chicago’s dining scene. When the 2011 Guide was unveiled just before Thanksgiving, it listed 23 starred restaurants in all – 18 receiving one star, three receiving two stars, and two garnering the almost-unheard-of three stars.
Of the two getting three, one was expected and the other was not. Considering it has been universally fawned over by critic after critic, the three-star designation was widely anticipated for Alinea.
The happy surprise was the three-star rating for L2O – although that rating probably deserves an asterisk. More on that in a moment.
The two-star ratings were awarded to Avenues, Charlie Trotter’s and Ria.
And the restaurants receiving one-star ratings were Blackbird, Boka, Bonsoiree, Crofton on Wells, Everest, graham elliot, Longman & Eagle, NAHA, NoMI, Schwa, Seasons, Sepia, Sixteen, Spiaggia, Takashi, Topolobampo, Tru and Vie.
Missing from the list – and what should have been a two-star contender, in your humble editor’s opinion – was Avec. The apparent reason for the slight: A fire closed down the restaurant last summer, and Michelin “inspectors” didn’t want to risk listing it in case it failed to reopen. Well, Avec has reopened, and hopefully will get the star treatment when the 2012 guide is published.
Virtually all of the starred restaurants in Chicagoland have outstanding wine programs to complement their amazing menus, and thus offer memorable wining-and-dining experiences.
Now, about that asterisk for L2O. There is no doubt that it is a cutting-edge restaurant, worthy of two stars if not the three that were bestowed. But can it continue to live up to its reputation?
It’s a legitimate question, and here’s why: The day after the Michelin ratings were made public, L2O chef Laurent Gras – who had been taking some time off for personal reasons – quit.
Apparently, not even three Michelin stars can buy happiness.