The RL Restaurant, located right on Michigan Avenue in Chicago and next door to the Ralph Lauren Polo clothing store is a place I went to many years ago and somewhere I remembered with fondness. It wasn’t just that the food was spectacular; it was so much more than that. It was the impeccable service, the smile on everyone’s face, the stunning old world Chicagodark wood charm and the waiter who I remembered flambaying Bananas Foster right at the patron’s table.
I so badly wanted it to be the same experience. as this was my little treat for my friend who decided to go back to school to do her Masters in Photography and was also turning the fabulous age of 40!
We walked in and took a look around the gorgeous tiny bar completely swaddled in dark wood with walls adorned with random paintings of rock stars, horses, lions and old black and white 1960s photographs. Nothing made sense but it all worked.
We were seated at the back of the restaurant at a table where we could both view the packed restaurant. Surprisingly busy for a Sunday evening with diners of every persuasion from the elegant and mature, to the girl with long green hair, to the casual jeaned diner and of course the regular like me and Marcella. Well, perhaps a little more than regular but nevertheless, an intriguing people watching crowd.
No arguments, no talking back, she could pick anything she wanted from the menu and the wine was up to me to choose. I chose well with a favorite of mine, the Chapoutier “La Bernardine” Chateauneuf-du-Pape ‘09 Rhone. Rich, smoky, deep dark cherry and celebration worthy. The sommelier shared with us that they have a regular customer who always orders this wine and only has one glass. The rest he leaves for him! Well, there was going to be nothing left from us. Sorry.
Crispy bread sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and cracked pepper as well as a wonderful bread basket was quietly put in front of us to work on while we decided on our dinner.
To start I picked the Citrus-Cured Sockeye Salmon. A beautiful plate of thinly sliced salmon strewn with crunchy cuts of asparagus and razor thin radish. A little overly oily, however, incredibly flavorful. I think the salmon, being an oil fish would suffice on its own without the additional oil. I would absolutely order again though. The combination of the smooth oily fish and crunchy vegetables worked really well.
Marcella had looked at the menu earlier that day and knew immediately she wanted the Foie Gras. I tried multiple times to ask her how it was but I believe she was having a religious moment and could not speak. She did say the foie was incredibly rich and worked in harmony with the biscuit and sweet cherries. It would have been a little too much without something to offset the richness.
There are a couple of RL classics that have become popular over the years and are highlighted on the menu. We both decided to pick one of them each. My choice was the Crab Cake. A large flaky crab cake filled with chunks of fresh lump sweet crab meat and very little bread crumbs. I totally got the “classic.” It was truly fantastic. I substituted the coleslaw for the Baked Mushrooms. Juicy and succulent little caps filled with Parmesan. I could have had a plate of them and nothing else and be happy.
Marcela picked the “famous” Steak Diane Prime Sirloin with a side of the Baked Mushrooms. To quote Marcella… “A thinner cut which made me think it would be tougher, but it was still a perfect cut of meat and not tough at all. I love sauces and I love meat. I may have found a new favorite dish.”
This dinner was truly a treat night of overindulgence we just could not find any room for dessert so decided to not order any. Instead we watched the waiter wheel his trolley over to tables to make Bananas Foster.
I had completely forgotten I had told them earlier it was Marcella’s birthday so we were delivered a plate full of gorgeous sweet treats, which of course we made every effort to finish.
We had apparently lasted so much longer than everyone else that when we finally looked up the restaurant was completely empty. The evening was worth every second and dime. What a treat.
RL is absolutely a place I would recommend for an elegant evening of fine dining or you could just sit in the bar and enjoy a delicious glass of wine. They also have a patio of pretty blue tables and chairs where you can sit and watch the shoppers stroll by while sharing some wine and dessert.
I am so glad all of my fond memories remained intact and true of my experience and now I have double the good memories.