There are nice restaurants, there are places you go for a special occasion, and then there is Restaurant L. Unless one happens to be the holder of a baronetcy, or whatever the American equivalent might be, there is still a certain thrill that comes from having a 16-foot-tall set of doors opened for you, entering a dining room filled with art and fresh flowers, being walked through the history and merits of several excellent wines, all while being treated to astonishing displays of culinary skill and technique. Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel and Maître d’ Richard Brown continue to achieve something unique in our city: pushing against the tide of informality and asserting that a good meal, like any true performance, deserves its own proper pace and level of ritual. That is not to say there is anything stuffy about the food, which is full of daring and playfulness.
There is a kind of architecture of flavor to the dishes at Restaurant L, like the lamb ravioli, where each bite displays the effortless melding of numerous traditions, from the Indian-tinged fenugreek oil to the maitake mushrooms. The menu is always changing (each season has its own set of edible mushrooms!) and even new classics like the Maine lobster salad might come with mango one night and apricot another, always changing with the best available ingredients while remaining true to the essential conception of the dish. Since Restaurant L opened, de Cavel and Brown have worked to make it more approach- able with a smaller Menu Gourmand, à la carte options, and even an inexpensive “express lunch.” The food will always be excellent, regardless of how you experience it, but Restaurant L proves it is worth the time and expense, at least occasionally, to slow down and luxuriate.
301 E. Fourth St., Downtown, (513) 760-5525, lcincinnati.com