Best Restaurants No. 4: Restaurant L Serves Up Playful Yet Elegant Dishes

Restaurant L’s menu reflects chef-owner Jean-Robert de Cavel’s sense of playfulness and his mastery of the fundamentals of la grande cuisine.

Editor’s Note: This restaurant closed on March 15, 2020.

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Perhaps the most beautiful place in Cincinnati to have a meal, Restaurant L embodies a lost era of elegant formality, from the jars of flowers hanging from the curving glass tree in the center of the dining room to the extraordinary attention given even to diners’ purses and briefcases (each receives its own little ottoman on which to rest).

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

All of this seriousness, though, is counterbalanced by what is probably the wittiest food in the city. The whole menu is suffused with chef-owner Jean-Robert de Cavel’s sense of playfulness and humor, reflective of a lifetime’s mastery of the fundamentals of la grande cuisine. Who else would take the time to make a roulade of sweet potato, cooking it to just the right texture so it neither breaks nor offends the palate, and then tie it closed with a little belt of chive? Just seeing it on the plate brings a smile to your face. And then you get to taste it! Even the amuse-bouche, which in most restaurants is not very amusing at all, becomes a thing of wonder at Restaurant L. In one opening bite of duck confit, delicate discs of sunchoke, and tender Israeli couscous covered with a mustard crema, there was more depth and dimension than in some entire meals.

And through it all was de Cavel, making the rounds and greeting diners who are now, after his three decades cooking in Cincinnati, old friends. The chef is responsible for so much of the best food in our area—both directly, through his own restaurants, and indirectly, through the chefs who have passed through his kitchen. I have much gratitude for the gifts he has given (and continues to give) this city: delight, mentorship, and tradition, to name only a few.

301 E. Fourth St., Suite 450, downtown, (513) 760-5525,

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