Midwest Living Review
Three decades in -- it opened in August 1976 -- L'Etoile remains not just a mainstay of the Madison dining scene but a player on the national stage as well. Since chef de cuisine Tory Miller and his sister Traci bought the spot from original owner, Odessa Piper, in 2005, it's been named one of the country's top 50 restaurants by "Gourmet" magazine and one of the top 100 by "Saveur." That's not likely to change, even following L'Etoile's move a block east to a new location in July 2010. The new space -- in the front of the glass-and-steel U.S. Bank Plaza building -- is considerably larger than its old digs, but no less elegant. The look is classy, but not opulent or ostentatious, and blank enough to make the restaurant equally suitable for romantic dinners, business meals or family celebrations. And the view of the lit-up capitol through the huge window walls is straight-up lovely. The food is no less so. Miller's fare goes beyond delicious and well presented to become something approaching art. You're reluctant to disturb the colorful, graceful arrangements on your plate -- until your first bite. Made with local or regional ingredients whenever possible (the cheese is typically from minutes away; the octopus, not so much), many purchased at the city's famous Saturday morning summer farmers market, the dishes blend flavors in a manner just complex enough for both foodies and plain old eaters to appreciate. And an on-site sommelier can suggest a perfect vintage to accompany whichever course you'd like, or all of them. You do pay for this level of quality -- the standard prix fixe is $60 -- but a comparable meal in, say, Manhattan might run you much more. For a less pricey meal, you can always head next door to sister pub Graze. But if you've got someone to impress or want to treat yourself right, you won't go wrong at L'Etoile.