Chef Debbie Gold, left, and Amy Morton are seen at the new LeTour French/Moroccan restaurant on Nov. 7, 2022, in Evanston. The pair, who have known each other for more than three decades, decided on a circular layout for the restaurant to represent the “full circle” moments that brought Morton and Gold together. LeTour will open for dinner on Nov. 17. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)
For two years, Amy Morton prepared for the moment she’d say goodbye to Found Kitchen.
By the time that day came, she was also ready to let go of everything she’d done in restaurants so far. After nearly three decades of perfecting farm-to-table American fare, starting with her work with father Arnie Morton, who founded Chicago steakhouse stalwart Morton’s, she was ready for something new.
“I had known for a long time that (the lease for) Found was not going to be renewed, and I had been just thinking about the ‘what next’ for all that time,” Morton said. “It is difficult to not go back to things that I know and love, but I’m ready for change.”
On Thursday, Morton, who also owns The Barn Steakhouse nearby and Stolp Island Social in suburban Aurora, will open LeTour, a new French restaurant with her longtime collaborator, chef Debbie Gold.
“It’s great to work with someone who can complement what I can do with their strengths,” Gold said. “We’ve got all this French influence with Midwestern ideas.”
LeTour, which means circle in French, will have a ring-shaped dining space to represent the full-circle partnership between Morton and Gold, who began working together in 1990 at Morton’s first restaurant, Mirador.
“We really did always want to find a way to work together again,” Morton said. “We’re going big, bold and new.”
From classic brasserie dishes such as steak frites and ratatouille, to a cozy dining area with muted tones and floor-to-ceiling windows, the North Shore natives aspire to bring customers an experience that is “unconventionally French,” Morton said.
Chef Debbie Gold prepares sauteed skate wing with toasted almond, brown butter and parsley at the new LeTour restaurant on Nov. 7, 2022, in Evanston. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)
Gold will be bringing the classic French techniques she honed while working in Nice and the Rhone Valley to the menu. Escargot gets a sumptuous addition of bacon and whipped potatoes, pairing perfectly with the buttery mollusk. Monkfish comes with a side of lentil “risotto,” rather than the buttery, starchy arborio or Carnaroli rice.
“There is the old way of thinking about French — it’s heavy, it’s savory, it’s rich,” Morton said. “There are parts of the French cuisine that are this, but there’s also the culture of big on flavor and light on the ingredients, and so we’re really trying to balance the menu out.”
While risotto is rooted in Italy, a French take on the dish typically incorporates mushrooms. At LeTour, the dish is drizzled with squid ink sauce and topped with edible marigold.
At the top of the menu, LeTour offers les fruits de mer, or fruit of the sea, an array of crab, lobster, oyster and prawns. Each platter will be served with a lemon, chili, drizzled with marigold butter, and served with a mignonette sauce made of minced shallots, pepper and vinegar.
While the menu might not read as traditionally French as some might expect, Morton and Gold’s summer visits to Parisian cafes sought out what “every man, every woman,” was eating, Morton said.
Sea bass ceviche with coconut, ginger and lime at LeTour. Ceviche has been making waves in French metropolises. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)
Ceviche, for example, is traditionally a South American dish of marinated raw fish or shrimp, but it has been making waves in French metropolises like Paris for years — and was a perfect melding of French dining and Moroccan flavors.
“Our ceviche is going to have a little bit of coconut, ginger and lime,” Gold said.
Moroccan specialties star in their own section of the menu, with options like chicken tagine, a stewlike entree infused with turmeric and saffron, studded with dates and apricots.
Tagine of chicken, a stewlike entree infused with turmeric and saffron, is served with olives. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)
“I worked in France for more than four years, so there are some very traditional items like sauteed skate wing with brown butter and lemon capers, to the Moroccan side, where we’re doing lamb and merguez sausage,” Gold said.
The concept of LeTour started with a trip to England to visit a friend shortly before COVID-19 struck. Morton was introduced to The Ivy, a group of restaurants throughout London. The historic restaurant collection offers classic British dishes and a charming ambience with stained glass windows and contemporary art pieces.
“It was as unconventional as any brasserie could be,” Morton said. “That started this little seed of the idea.”
Sauteed skate wing with toasted almond, brown butter and parsley is on the menu at Evanston’s new French restaurant. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)
Three years later, Morton wanted to help customers move past being stuck in “the cocoon” of the pandemic. The restaurant’s vibrant decor was a priority, a “celebration of brightness, and life, and warmth,” Morton said. “We are not out of it, but yet, we are out in the world again.”
LeTour will be open for dinner daily, except Tuesdays.
625 Davis St., Evanston; letourevanston.com
tatturner@chicagotribune.com
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