There are three Chicago restaurants on Esquire‘s list of the best new restaurants of 2008, and one of them–Laurent Gras’ L2O–has been named restaurant of the year. Mike Sula’s rapturous review of the restaurant lays out some of the reasons why: the in-house bread (and butter) program, impeccably fresh fish impeccably employed, “sommelier prodigy” Chantelle Pabros, the micromanaged yet intimate overall experience. Gras’ blog about the restaurant remains enthralling as well, food porn of the highest order (food erotica?).

The two other Chicago restaurants that made the grade are chef Takashi Yagahashi’s French-Asian Takashi, which Sula also admired and adored, and the similarly impressive Mercat a la Planxa, from Chicago homeboy Jose Garces. 

The November Esquire doesn’t hit the stands till next week, but the complete list is up on the Menu Pages blog, where Helen Rosner broke the news this morning. 

Look for the Reader‘s own list of the year’s best new restaurants in our special issue on food and drink, out November 13.