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“Top Notch”

L'Etoile Restaurant
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Ranked #16 of 1,014 Restaurants in Madison
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $25 - $100
Cuisines: American
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Romantic, Special occasions, Local cuisine
Dining options: Dinner, Late Night, Reservations
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: East Washington
Reviewed May 25, 2007

My husband and I recently had dinner at l'Etoile to celebrate our daughter's college graduation. She had said it was THE restaurant she had always wanted to try. Coming from NY, where amazing restaurants abound, our expectations weren't too high.

What an wonderful surprise! The food was incredible, the service was classy yet unpretentious. The space offers a beautiful view of the capital square. We were incredibly impressed by the beautiful prix-fixe menu offered to us and a friendly sommelier who did an excellent job of pairing the dishes with wine.

I am very glad that we weren't dissuaded by the unfortunate experiences that other individuals have noted. We would definitely return to this restaurant.

3  Thank RJenson
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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307 - 311 of 318 reviews

Reviewed May 7, 2007

Gorgeous view of the capitol square and hustle bustle below.

Everything's ala carte, unfortunately. The emphasis is on locally
produced ingredients. It is good to support local agriculture but is it really necssarry to have one's nose rubbed into the fact. Suffice it to say the sources are local. Diners don't need any more info than that.

Tuna entree was exceptional but the $9 lettuce salad was flavorless and overpriced.

The server answered all questions but unfortunately the experience was akin to someone reciting a recipe book from memory and at times annoying.

Table spacing was too close. There were very few patrons in the
restaurant and everyone was seated at tables nearest the indows. This may have been an obvious choice but soon proved uncomfortable considering the adjoining table of 4 males, one of which talked incessantly, within an arm's reach. Not exactly an intimate dining experience.

At the end of the meal the server presented each guest a small plate with 3 microscopic "treats". There were 2 cubes 1/2"x1/2"x1/2" and a cookie 1/2" in diameter. Had these been served such items at home, one could imagine the comments and chuckles. Why so skimpy? It would have been a wiser choice not to serve anything than to present items so frugally.

This was the first time at this Madison restaurant of 31 years.
Interesting place but not worthy of a repeat performance. The view is great, yes, but the food a bit overpriced for what is presented and the service slightly pretentious. Madison is a wonderful city with so much to do and take in. It's also a down-to-earth kind of town. If it were not for the University of Wisconsin, Madison would be just another city. There are many good restaurants in the area offering more imaginative
food at more reasonable prices. For what was spent in one evening at L'Etoile, one could have eaten at 6 other area restaurants and sampled more varied cuisine and enjoyed a more Madison experience.

10  Thank wihiker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 3, 2007

So disappointing. I've been waiting to eat L'Etoile for years, and have heard so many terrific things about the food and service. My mother-in-law, Madison native, considers L'etoile to be her favorite place to eat in Madison, so my husband and I decided to drive up from Chicago and take her there for her birthday. We had an 8:15 reservation for five, but at the last minute one cancelled due to a medical emergency, so we arrived as only four. We had confirmed the reservation earlier that day. When we got to the restaurant, there was a horde of people standing around by the hostess desk, and it took the hostess about five minutes to break off her chatting with a customer to check us in. She told us it would be a few minutes before our table was ready and we should wait. the bar was packed, so we stood against the wall, in the only open space, and waited. And waited and waited. Other people came in and were seated. Slowly the other people waiting were seated, leaving us standing there. After about fifteen minutes the hostess handed us cocktail menus and suggested we might like to order drinks. Concerned about standing against the coat rack, with drinks in our hands, we decided to wait until we sat down. 25 minutes later, everyone else had been seated and we were still waiting. 30 minutes in, the hostess gave us menus to look at. By then, we were starting to feel a bit grumpy. Though the hostess did offer us a perfunctory "sorry about the wait" she didn't offer any other explanation. At 40 minutes in, she told us the table would be ready in two minutes. Almost ten minutes after that, we decided forget it--it was almost 9 pm, and my inlaws were starving, and worried that once we got seated it might take another hour to get good. My mother in law and I went up to the hostess and said we were leaving and the hostess said, oh your table will be ready in just a minute. My mother in law said, we've been hearing you're table is almost ready for the last 30 minutes and it's never been ready. The hostess shrugged and said, people are lingering tonight and I can't help that. After noting to her that we had driven from Chicago to eat, the hostess offered to let us speak to the manager, but we were ready to leave.The idea of dropping a couple hundred dollars on our meal was no longer appealing. We got in the car and drove to Sardine on Williamson Street, a few blocks away and had a delicious meal. I don't know if they were having a bad night at L'Etoile or what, but clearly they have some service issues. Maybe the food is fabulous, but since we waited almost an hour and never got to eat--I have no idea!

9  Thank Lillafury
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 27, 2007

Located on the capitol square is this beautiful little restaurant. The pork chop is incredible - one of the most tender I've ever eaten. A very nice experience. I travel extensively for business and eat dinner alone often, and L'etoile sat me at a "normal" table and I got great service, which isn't always the case when you dine alone.

1  Thank NYC7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 19, 2006

My husband and I recently ate at l'Etoile on a Friday night, and I found the food and service outstanding. As there is a focus on locally grown ingredients, everything is fresh, and it is very tastefully prepared and beautifully presented.
Although I am now from Madison, I recently moved here from Chicago where my husband and I ate out at fine restaurants often, and I can certainly say that the quality was that of some of the better restaurants there. The price, however was reasonable - dinner, cocktails, and a bottle of nice wine at a similar restaurant in Chicago would have easily cost twice as much.
It is not inexpensive, but rarely is fine dining inexpensive.

2  Thank deedeetoo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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