There’s a hidden gem of a restaurant at the corner of Clark and Huron, attached to the Hotel Felix, 111 W. Huron. It’s called LM Gastro Bistro, and it’s a study in understated elegance and comfort and a treasure of French-inspired culinary delights.
Despite the story-and-a-half-tall windows and the occasional sweep of headlights from turning vehicles, LM is a gently lit place that feels at once open and yet cozy. The gently crinkled sheers, generously draped at the corners and swept partway across the open window space, filtered and softened the city lights on the misty Friday night I ate here.
Dark inner walls painted dusky mustard and black make a perfect canvas for painting with light. The restaurant twinkles with tealight candles, glows with subdued open-filament modern bulbs, and sparkles here and there with an ornate crystal chandelier. I’m a sucker for beautiful lighting, and in my book LM Bistro has done a superb job. I imagine this is how I might do it if I were able to design my ideal setting for sharing food and drink with friends.
And then there is the distinct pleasure of dealing with members of the service staff. Attentive – you’ll often find your wishes anticipated. Gracious – warm and friendly with the just the right touch of personal service. Professional and obliging – a couple of diners nearby wanted to change every side dish on the items they ordered from the menu. The server said he would check to make sure their wishes could be accommodated and returned saying yes, indeed, the chef would make those changes.
And then there is the cozy pleasure of music. On being seated I noticed the French melodies being piped in at just the right volume to cheer the atmosphere without overwhelming. Later a talented jazz musician and singer delivered renditions of old standards to the accompaniment of a baby grand. Live music starts at 8 on Fridays and Saturdays.
But let me say the food was not second to the beautiful ambiance. We enjoyed the prix fixe dinner with wine pairings that evening and felt it was well worth the price tag of $60 per person. From the creative mignonette (apricot and chamomile) that came with the first-course oysters to the sauterne-mustard surprise in the creamy leek soup, and from the fabulously triple-seared slices of medium-rare beef rib eye with a mouth-watering bordelaise sauce (chef Ben Reaves said, “There’s a lot of love on this plate”) to the sweet, doughy canelles with molasses, allspice and vanilla ice cream, we definitely felt the love on all the plates. The only jarring note was that one of my oysters was definitely off.
The wine pairings seemed very thoughtfully chosen. My favorite – I’m a red wine gal – was the Chateau Caillau Malbec, a deep, dusky red from the Bordeaux region of France. The chef says he bases his menus and wine selections on the specialties from various regions of France and changes the region monthly.
I will be going back to LM Bistro. Next time I'll try sitting in the space close to the piano player. I want to taste everything on the menu. I want to relax again with a glass of wine in that gorgeously lit space. I want to bask in the friendly, professional service that makes you feel special - even if you're by yourself. Hope to see you there.
P.S. I'd lost my cell phone the week I was here. So my sincere thanks to the folks at Chicago Food Whores, my delightful dinner companions, who generously shared their photos for this review.