Le Lan Restaurant Review – A Chicago Restaurant You Should Know

Entering Le Lan Restaurant

One morning I was walking with my walking partner who told me her husband had selected a wonderful restaurant where they had eaten the previous night and enjoyed some of the best meals they could remember. She thought it would be perfect for a Chicago Splash Magazine review. So it was that our reviewers, Barbara, Leon, Kay and Bart found themselves on a very cold winter’s night fighting snow and traffic to learn more about Le Lan Restaurant.  Fortunately, the group was not dissuaded from their destination because the restaurant turned out to be inviting, comfortable and warm with superb food.

Chef Kim

Le Lan, which features French Asian cuisine, is owned by three of Chicago’s best known restaurateurs; Arun Sampanthavivat, Roland Liccioni, and Howard Davis and it opened nearly four years ago.  Arun designed the restaurant, which is beautiful, comfortable, and welcoming.  It incorporates the Vietnamese themes of the dragon, the moon and thousands of dragon babies.  Chef Bill Kim’s recipes are inspired by travel (he recently completed a trip with Arun around Asia) and his Korean heritage including many of his families’ recipes.  He followed Chef Andy Motto in January 2006 after spending five years at Charlie Trotters.  Because I am someone who enjoys vegetarian dishes, it was very pleasant to hear Chef Kim express his interest in vegetarian preparations.  He said that he finds it challenging to prepare vegetarian dishes that are just as flavorful and textured as other kinds of foods, but this is his goal.

moon, dragon babies, and dragon

The ambiance was calm, soothing, and exotic. It was a lovely environment that included fresh orchids on each table and pure linen napkins and was an easy place to converse. There was music in the background that had a regular, easy beat and enhanced the serenity in the room.  In between courses, we mused on a theme Kay introduced,  “What it is about the textures, flavors and original approaches to food preparation that transports those who experience this to new and different places?”  Though we didn’t find an answer, we did experience flavors that were fresh and clean tasting with subtle delicacy and complexity and a bit of a “bite”.  Each dish was like a different painting with serving pieces of different sizes and shapes filled with beautifully displayed foods. Our server, Katie, also added to the enjoyment of the evening immediately noting that one of our group was lactose intolerant, and making sure that all our needs were taken care of.  The huge book that was the wine list won an award from “Wine Enthusiasts” for its large number of fine wines and we appreciated the range of wine choices.  Leon enjoyed several of the Spanish wines and especially the Rioja.

Katie, our server

Our dining experience began with a plate of steamed rice flour buns with a piquant dipping sauce that was delicious.

Steamed rice buns with piquant sauce


Young Thai Coconut Soup

Bart began with the Young Thai Coconut Soup, Olive Oil Poached Shrimp, Galangal Root, Lemongrass & Bean Sprouts.  After Bart took one spoonful and said “Oh. Yes”, his face looked as though he had found Nirvana.  It was hard to top this.


Heirloom Beet and Baby Spinach Salad

Leon was interested in the Heirloom Beet & Baby Spinach Salad, Laurel Chenel Goat Cheese, Honeyed Walnuts & Yuzu-Sherry Vinaigrette.  He was delighted with this both because he loved the flavors and textures but also because it was a combination of his favorite foods.

Japenese Somen Noodle Salad

Bart tried the Japanese Somen Noodle Salad, Marinated Red Cabbage, Pickled Jalapeno & Confit of Rabbit.  “The rabbit tastes like chicken and the flavors are great” was Bart’s comment.

Special salad with avacado and blood orange

Barbara ordered the special salad with yellow fin tuna, blood orange, Bokchoy and a sauce.  She found the blood orange woke the palate and contrasted with the other milder flavors creating a very pleasing experience.


Asian-Squash Dumplings

Kay ordered Asian Squash Dumplings, Passionfruit Orange Vinaigrette, Double-Smoked Bacon & Toasted Garlic.  Kay said, “That’s fantastic, not spicy at all and it’s delicious”.

Wild Mushroom and Chicken Dumplings

Leon tried the Wild Mushroom & Chicken Dumplings, Vermicelli Noodles, Hen of the Wood Mushrooms & Parmesan Cheese.  He said the wild mushroom flavor blended with and enhanced the dumplings.  The dumpling dough was exceptionally thin.


"Sizzling" Short Ribs

Bart asked for the “Sizzling” Short Ribs, Wok-Seared Scallions, Portobello Mushrooms & Brown Sticky Rice.   Bart thought this dish was okay but more like an expanded appetizer and just not as exciting as the other dishes at the table, or his soup.

Idaho Rainbow Trout

Kay requested the Idaho Rainbow Trout, Braised Israeli Cous Cous, Curried Crab & Sweet Dumpling Squash Puree.  She was impressed with the presentation and the delicate flavors.

Marinated Pork Tenderloin (Pork Potstickers)

The menu offered Marinated Pork Tenderloin, Pork Potsticker, Sweet & Sour Napa Cabbage & Sunchoke puree but Leon requested the Potstickers only which he enjoyed very much.  He thought they were beyond any others he has tried and thought the filling was delicious and the dough unusually light and tasty.

A unique vegetarian treat

Barbara requested and received an unnamed vegetarian delight comprised of Basmati rice fritters topped with a yogurt, sour cream-dill sauce, Yuchoy and a zucchini, carrot, chickpea puree with a cumin flavor.  She enjoyed the crunch and flavor of the fritters and the contrasting sauce.  It was delicate and complex in flavor.  She thought this might be the best dish of the evening but Bart held out for the soup.


Chocolate Mousse Napoleon

Kay and Bart shared the Chocolate Mousse Napoleon, Chinese Five Spice Genoise, Caramelized Hazelnuts.  They enjoyed the way the texture of the caramelized bananas and hazelnuts contrasted with the smooth mousse.

Warm Honeycrisp Apple

Barbara and Leon had the Warm Honeycrisp Apple, Quince and Apple, Caramel, Vanilla Five Spice Ice Cream.  “Yum” was one commentary on the sensational dish served warm.  The small pieces allowed for maximum enjoyment of the sweet-sour contrast.

Happily sated and feeling cozy, comfortable and very pleased with our dining experience, we really didn’t want to leave.  However, when we finally did walk out of the door, the valet miraculously had the car waiting for us.

Looking into Le Lan Restaurant

Le Lan offers several special dining experiences including their $20.08 luncheon (3 courses) and dinner (2 courses) through January and their “Three Course Dinner Tuesdays” – a three course prix fixed meal for $38.  There is also a private party room upstairs.

Le Lan is at 749 N. Clark, Chicago, Illinois
Phone: 312.280.9100

Photos: Leon Keer

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