In April, chef Michael Lachowicz took to Facebook to announce a “seismic change” at both of his acclaimed restaurants in suburban Winnetka, Aboyer and George Trois.
“A catapult-like thrust forward is required,” he wrote, with a “complete disregard for tire companies, aristocratic, N.Y. culinary royalty or ratings of any kind aside from the complete happiness and satisfaction of each and every one of my treasured guests.”
Now we can finally see what Lachowicz had in mind. Both of his restaurants, which are located in the same building, have been gutted, completely redesigned and refreshed with new menus. Even the facade of the building, which was black, has been painted ivory.
In his 17 years in the suburban space, Lachowicz charmed countless diners with his take on French cuisine, with George Trois becoming the first suburban restaurant to win Restaurant of the Year in the 2019 Jean Banchet Awards, which celebrate Chicago’s dining scene.
Lachowicz knew he had to change during the pandemic, and that started with the menu. “I went away from whatever I thought was progressive and modern,” he said. “I cut away the fear of worrying whether my cooking would be accepted by younger people.”
Instead, he wanted to refocus on the kind of French cuisine that made him fall in love with being a chef, which he learned while working with world-renowned chefs such as Paul Bocuse and Jean Banchet. “It’s like ‘Rocky III’ where he’s training at the gym,” he said. “I feel happy to be cooking again.”
When he brought in designer Leah Oros to help him work on the different spaces, she immediately noticed a disconnect between the new menu and the atmosphere, Lachowicz said. “She told me, ‘Why don’t we make the room match the food?’ ”
For Aboyer, this means the modern, streamlined feel of the room is gone. With new menu items such as escargot Bourguignon en croute — snails wrapped in puff pastry bathing in a parsley-butter sauce — and a house-smoked salmon board with chive omelet, the room looks much closer to a classic French brasserie.
“It’s a complete 180,” Lachowicz said. “I knew it had to be dramatic. It was a big risk.” The once-bare wood tables are now covered in linen and butcher paper, while a new eight-seat bar features classic brass accents. There’s also a new 44-seat patio modeled on a French garden, with a covered and heated pergola.
You’ll also notice new photos from Thomas Gavin, which were all recently shot over a six-day period in Paris and the Palace of Versailles.
For George Trois, the cozy 16-seat space features new lighting, a redesigned fireplace, oak Versailles panel flooring and plusher decorations, including velvet chairs, satin-band napkins and lots of white linen.
Lachowicz admits he had a serious identity crisis about George Trois when it first opened. “I thought I had to compete with all these tasting menu restaurants in Chicago,” he said. “That was completely wrong for me. The menu has morphed into something more genuine and authentic and fearless. More Michael Lachowicz.”
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One new dish he’s particularly proud of, called foie gras & foie gras, features a seared medallion of foie gras set over foie gras-filled potato gnocchi. Also look out for a saddle of rabbit with morel souffle and sauce moutarde. “I’m cooking the food I absolutely love,” he said. “You’ll feel every bit of that passion.”
Change is, of course, nothing new for Lachowicz. After opening Restaurant Michael in 2005, he decided to transform the private dining area in 2015 into the tasting-menu concept, George Trois. Four years later, he closed Restaurant Michael, split the space in two, and launched Aboyer and Silencieux. The latter restaurant closed during the pandemic, leaving Aboyer and George Trois. “I like change,” he said. “It keeps things fresh and everyone engaged.”
While the pandemic was hard, he feels lucky that he was able to keep most of his staff. “I’ve been able to retain my core team, most of whom have been with me for a long time,” Lachowicz said. “There’s not a better team that I’ve ever worked with than the one here.”
Both restaurants have been in a soft opening mode, but are ready to officially reopen. Lachowicz is excited to see how people react when they see the new space and food. “The whole idea, gutting everything and starting fresh, is that I wanted to return the joy to my restaurants,” he said. “Dining should be a joyous activity. We will be happy to see you, and you’ll hopefully be happy to see us.”
Aboyer and George Trois are both at 64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka; 847-441-3100; georgetroisgroup.com.
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