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Review: RL Restaurant

By Anthony Todd in Food on Apr 15, 2008 3:30PM

RL.jpgThis weekend, we visited the monument to fashionable pretension that is RL, the Ralph Lauren restaurant. The first time we dined there, about a year ago for lunch, our level of suspicion was high – can a fashion designer really create a restaurant concept worth bothering with? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. RL, despite a few flaws, is a competent restaurant and, more than that, showcases many dishes that the rest of the food world cast aside 40 years ago.

RL’s concept isn’t just retro – it’s a total jump back in time. Old supper-club standards of the 40s and 50s have been resurrected here: Steak Diane, Banana’s Foster, Crepes Suzette and Dover Sole, all with some element of tableside preparation. They’re also very delicious – reminding you why many of these dishes have been standards for almost 100 years. For instance, take the Steak Diane, a pounded slab of prime sirloin cooked in a sauce made of veal stock, mustard, shallots and Worcestershire sauce that was easily on par with any steak dish we’ve had in Chicago. The best appetizer on the menu (if you have 3000 calories to spare) is the “Baked Cheese,” a wedge of Saint Andre Triple Cream baked in phylo dough and drizzled with maple syrup.

RL does have some minor problems, however. Don’t order the salads, which were universally terrible. The restaurant’s club-like décor is beautiful, in a WASP-y sort of way, but the large number of tables that are packed into the small space ruins the effect. Between tourist’s shopping bags and waiters with carts of flaming crepes, RL can be somewhat claustrophobic. Some of the prices are too high – main dishes can range up to $42-$45. Our suggestion? Go for lunch; it’s less crowded and less expensive.

RL is located at 115 E. Chicago Avenue. Valet Parking is Available for $10. Reservations are highly recommended.