Le Ono offers tropical vibes and upscale cuisine in downtown O’Fallon, Illinois

Le Ono offers tropical vibes and upscale cuisine in downtown O’Fallon, Illinois

The newly opened Le Ono at 101 S. Cherry St. is bringing an upscale yet casual fine-dining experience to downtown O’Fallon, Illinois, as reported by The Belleville News Democrat. 

To co-owners Talani Mo’e and Lisa Udasco-Mo’e, who opened the restaurant with Jon and Emily Greenstreet, the words “Le Ono” hold deep meanings that embody the spirit of their restaurant. The Hawaiian word “ono” has many definitions, including “savory” or “good to eat,” but when paired with “ohana,” the Hawaiian word for family, the word can become much more significant. “In general, Hawaiians just love to use it as a word for community and the whole love of the experience,” said Udasco-Mo’e. She explained that the level of cooking is upscale, but the ambiance is somewhat casual thanks to servers wearing Hawaiian shirts, along with the live edge wooden tables rather than the more traditional white tablecloths often found in fine dining establishments.

This love of sharing food and the community experience was a key part of not only the restaurant’s name but the menu as well. The menu, which is refreshed seasonally, features Hawaiian and French Polynesian dishes, all of which pull from a variety of inspirations, including Cuban, Spanish and Asian cuisines. French Polynesia is just over 2,600 miles south of Hawaii, which is the northernmost place considered to be Polynesia.

“We take certain dishes that are either French or Asian, and we’ll maybe put them in the menu for what they truly are, or we’ll do a fusion of it,” said Mo’e, who is the chef. “Some of the other dishes we have are blends of it. We take some of the Asian ingredients and apply them to certain French ideas, and vice versa.” 

One standout dish is the jambon beurre small plate, a ham and butter sandwich with Gruyere that includes a Thai green curry mustard, which embodies the idea of French and Asian fusion and gives it flair that is unique to Le Ono. Other dishes such as the pan-seared duck breast also represent this hybrid of cooking styles, as it is a variation of duck l’orange served with an Asian duck fat fried rice, a passion fruit gastrique, and topped with a fried egg and microgreens. 

Both Mo’e and Udasco-Mo’e are pleased that customers have been adventurous and willing to try new and different things. Dishes such as the bone marrow and bread small plate, a sous vide and grilled octopus served with an avocado-lime puree and fish sauce, and a spicy watermelon poke bowl have been popular and revered by customers.

One dish that shines a light on Mo’e’s French cooking is the roasted chicken, which is cooked and served with a French-style chicken reduction sauce and includes mashed potatoes and baby carrots on the side, or the 6-ounce Wagyu filet of sirloin, which comes with garlic mashed potatoes and a green peppercorn sauce.

The bar serves signature cocktails such as Le Ono’s variation of a mai tai that’s topped with mango foam, and the Lake Mashu, a sake drink with elderflower liqueur and gi described by Mo’e as “Japan in a glass.” A full list of beers, including Kona Big Wave, along with two sakés and many French wines are also available.

co-owners Lisa Udasco-Mo’e and chef Talani Mo’e // photo courtesy of Le Ono

With a 3,200-square-foot venue, Le Ono features a tabletop bar that seats 10, a lounge area that seats 38, and the dining room with 48 seats. The lounge area, which features a couch, many low-rise tables and several armchairs, allows for an open and casual communal space. On the opposite side of the building lies the dining room, which houses both booths and chairs among wooden tables for a more intimate, dimly lit dining experience. There are currently a few tables outside, but the couple hopes to utilize a portion their acre of land to create a lush, tropical patio next year that would include an outdoor kitchen to host authentic Hawaiian cookouts or luaus to further the communal experience of their restaurant. 

Throughout the restaurant lies authentic Hawaiian and Asian artwork and designs, including two black-and-white prints of octopus tentacles on each wall of the lounge and dining area. For Mo’e, who was a spear fisherman when he lived in Hawaii, this particular design is significant, as it one of the first was the first animal that he hunted and a direct representation of his upbringing that he wants to share via Le Ono.

“I love cooking; it’s my favorite thing to do,” Mo’e said. “But I don’t want this place to only be known for the cooking. I want people to come back for our service because they feel like they’re at home.”

Le Ono is currently open from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made here. For more information, email info@leonorestaurant.com or follow Le Ono on Facebook and Instagram.

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