Matthew Kirkley Is Building a Really Big Fish Tank at L2O

Future fish tank, just add glass and water.
Future fish tank, just add glass and water. Photo: courtesy Matthew Kirkley

A ton of water. That’s what the new fish tank at L2O will be, which by our calculation, is almost Bond-villain-sized. So why does L2O need a new fish tank? (“You ask vy, Mr. Krub Street?”) It’s not decor:

There is a tremendous difference in the quality of seafood, particularly in shellfish, related to the amount of time that an animal spends out of water. The animal kicks into survival mode after being removed from its natural environment, and the stress, adrenaline and extra burning of energy quickly takes its toll on the animal’s muscle structure. I wanted just out of the water quality, despite the fact that our restaurant is about a thousand miles from the nearest ocean.

Chef Matthew Kirkley’s plan, as he describes it in a blog post, is a two-chamber salt water tank for animals ranging from lobsters to abalone, and he chronicles the process of creating one from its design (with the help of Old Town Aquarium) to the fabrication of its steel structure at Avenue Metal (known to BBQ buffs as the home of, aptly enough, the so-called aquarium smoker). Yet he admits that he’s not quite sure what the ultimate effect of this will be on the menu:

I must admit that this is quite unknown territory for me, as I am not sure what this will do to our cooking at L2o. I am excited at the ability to be able to pull several different types of crustaceans, to order, alive from the best possible environment we can provide the animal and cook them (or serve them raw) immediately. I am both anxious and excited at the possibilities. I have no doubt, however, that this will be a big change for the better in our ability to present the best possible ingredients the ocean has to offer at the pinnacle of their freshness and quality.

L2O has kind of dropped out of the everyday discussion of the high end in Chicago, but we’ve been reading Kirkley’s blog for a while, and we have a feeling that when he has everything in place, it’s a restaurant that’s going to be reintroduced to Chicago in a big way. With a big fish tank, among other things.

Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie [Matthewryanstanfieldkirkley]

Matthew Kirkley Is Building a Really Big Fish Tank at L2O