J.P. Anderson J.P. Anderson | May 25, 2022 | Food & Drink
The Gold Coast dining icon prepares to unveil a hotly anticipated new outpost in Lake Forest.
The bar and lounge at Le Colonial Chicago emanates a sultry vibe.
Chicago dining hot spots come and go, but Le Colonial, it seems, is forever. With its toothsome French Vietnamese cuisine and sultry vibe reminiscent of 1920s Saigon, the Gold Coast institution has been a magnet for the A-list since it opened its doors on Rush Street in 1996; relocating to nearby Oak Street in 2019 made the place even hotter.
Expect signature dishes like Ca Hoi Nuong (roasted salmon).
Now, with additional locations in Atlanta and Houston buzzing along, the restaurant’s owners are set to make a major splash on the North Shore: Le Colonial Lake Forest will open in early July.
Ca Song (spicy yellowfin tuna tartare)
For Rick Wahlstedt, Le Colonial’s co-owner with Joe King, the new location is a no-brainer. “A lot of our clients have homes or live on the North Shore, so they’re getting a restaurant a little closer to home. And I think both Le Colonial in Chicago and Le Colonial in Lake Forest are going to feed off each other and make the other so much better.”
The Lotus Room at Le Colonial Houston
One thing is certain: The location couldn’t be more prime, as Le Colonial takes over the historic former police and fire department building in the center of town on Market Square. With interiors completely renovated and decked in signature Le Colonial style (along with some surprise elements courtesy of five Swedish artists, teases Wahlstedt), the 10,000-square-foot restaurant boasts two second-floor banquet halls, a first for Le Colonial. “We have had so many requests at Le Colonial on Oak Street for private events that we were not able to accommodate,” explains Wahlstedt, adding, “We look forward to hosting people’s life celebrations there.” Along with a main dining room, chef’s tasting room (aka the Lotus Room), and bar and lounge seating about 170, visitors can expect a truly stunning alfresco experience.
The Lake Forest location will feature an expansive outdoor garden for alfresco dining.
“We’re doing a wonderful garden facing the Market Square that is one of a kind,” notes Wahlstedt, “with plantings, trees, a little spiritual Himalayan fountain that we are custom making, all sheltered under two tonnelles. It’s going to be magical.” On the menu, Wahlstedt says to look for Le Colonial classics like Ca Chien Saigon (crispy whole red snapper) and Vit Quay (roasted duck); a children’s menu, with “tasty, healthy options” for little ones; and more organic and vegan options, as executive chef Hassan Obaye and team work with surrounding farms to keep the cuisine as locally and ethically sourced as possible.
Suon Nuong (glazed pork ribs)
It’s all part of a grand plan to open five new Le Colonial locations across the U.S. in the next three years, including Delray Beach and Naples, Fla.; Cherry Creek in Denver; and Scottsdale. But first? Lake Forest, which is set to be the largest Le Colonial of them all—and, given the restaurant’s track record downtown, is all but guaranteed to be the toughest table to score on the North Shore this summer and beyond.
Ca Chien Saigon (crispy whole red snapper) is a perennial crowd-pleaser.
“The restaurant is a people experience, where we find all source of life,” sums up Wahlstedt on Le Colonial’s enduring appeal. “It creates a fascinating and lively canvas. We are happy to be [opening in Lake Forest]; it’s great to do something more in Chicago because it’s been so good to us over the years.” 655 Forest Ave., Lake Forest, 847.474.1500
Photography by: FROM TOP: PHOTO COURTESY OF LE COLONIAL CHICAGO; PHOTO COURTESY OF LE COLONIAL; PHOTO COURTESY OF LE COLONIAL; PHOTO COURTESY OF LE COLONIAL HOUSTON; PHOTO COURTESY OF KNAUER INCORPORATED; PHOTO COURTESY OF LE COLONIAL; PHOTO COURTESY OF LE COLONIAL