Just 40 minutes north of campus is Le Colonial, an upscale French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant in Lake Forest's Market Square. Its menu features diverse dishes ranging from spring rolls to ravioli. With other locations in Chicago, Houston and Atlanta, Le Colonial brought its innovative dishes to Lake Forest in July 2022.

Intrigued by the menu, we bundled up and prepared to head north. Although Northwestern students typically travel south toward the city of Chicago, as two out-of-state students, we wanted to see what the suburbs had to offer. Trying Le Colonial's Lake Forest location was the perfect excuse to go north. Little shops and boutiques hosted in colorful buildings lined the Lake Forest streets. Once we reached the restaurant, we felt a sense of coziness and community in the town. With an exterior comparable to a colonial era home, Le Colonial perfectly blended into Lake Forest’s landscape.

Maya Benjamin

On a cold and snowy Tuesday night, it was clear Lake Forest locals favored the restaurant; people filled the entire place.

A lively atmosphere of clinking silverware and chattering couples reflected Le Colonial’s self-description as a “celebration of seductive spirit and vivid flavors reminiscent of Saigon in the 1920s.”  The interior seamlessly combined elegance with asian-influenced art and decor, creating a pleasant ambiance and an enjoyable dining experience.

To start, we tried the Crispy Shrimp and Pork Roll. Fried to golden perfection, the rolls accompanied a bowl of fish sauce and a salad of lettuce, mint, sliced jalapeños and carrot slaw. Per our waiter’s instructions, we wrapped each roll in lettuce, topped them with vegetables and dunked them in sauce.

The combination of flavors and textures perfectly complemented one another. The lettuce wrap strengthened the roll's crispy exterior, while the fillings melted in our mouths. A slight spice left our lips tingling, but the fish sauce sweetened the aftertaste. The mint leaves, carrot slaw and jalapeños added a fresh layer. Each bite held a different flavor combination depending on how the ingredients were dispersed. 

Next, at the recommendation of our waiter, came the pan fried chicken dumplings. They boasted a textural contrast between a crispy outside and a tender filling of chicken and chives. Their tangy dipping sauce had hints of vinegar and paired nicely.

For the entrees, we ordered the signature fried rice. Like the shrimp and pork roll, the rice mastered a balance of sweet and savory. A slightly smoky flavor distinguished the rice from the sweetness of Vietnamese pork mixed in the dish. Savory bits of fried egg and crunchy sliced scallions added complexity to the texture. Although we believe a chef could never go wrong with fried rice, Le Colonial for sure knew how to make it right.

Maya Benjamin

Ending the entree round, we tried the Shaking Beef. This dish far exceeded our expectations (which were admittedly high). Le Colonial’s Shaking Beef featured a caramelized filet mignon marinated in a sweet, decadent hoisin sauce. A citrusy lime pepper vinaigrette accompanied the steak alongside farm greens and watercress, which freshened our mouths after richly-flavored bites.

Maya Benjamin

To top off our meal, we opted for the crème brûlée dessert. The dish came within a smokey, caramelized crust with berries on top and madeleine cookies dusted with powdered sugar on the side.

Maya Benjamin

All in all, Le Colonial delivered a great meal. We can’t help but be impressed with their innovative dishes and robust flavors. If you’re willing to make the trek from Evanston to Lake Forest, you’ll be in for a fantastic dining experience.