FrontRunners: Endurance Tasting

Le Français (847.541.7470, www.lefrancaisrestaurant.com), the venerable French powerhouse located in the Chicago suburb of Wheeling, doesn’t need a gimmick to draw diners—some patrons make a special point of flying into town just for dinner there. These days, however, it does have a curiosity beyond its usual allure: a $500 tasting menu.

The menu is the creation of executive chef Don Yamauchi, a veteran of Illinois culinary mainstays Gordon and Carlos, who is now in his second year with Le Français. Yamauchi’s 15-course tasting menu features essentials such as foie gras and caviar paired with deep-in-the-cellar wine selections that, on a given night, can include Cristal or a vaunted 1982 Bordeaux. The chef considers his menu a kind of endurance test. Says Yamauchi, “We just wanted to see if anybody wanted to be pampered all night long.” We’re up for the challenge.

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