Visited: 02/03/07, Saturday @ 6:00pm, Post-Theater dinner w/Boyfriend
Four floors, all owned together. The bottom floor is an art gallery, the second is Luqa (the restaurant), third is a lounge/bar with large open seating areas, candlelight and dance music, fourth is a garden rooftop – fully enclosed by clear tenting. All areas looked very inviting. Rooftop I expect to be hopping in the summertime.
The lighting was soft, the tables draped in black table cloths and the kitchen was enclosed, but by glass so that you could still see all the action. In the beginning, we were there pretty much alone, and the place was very quiet. During our champagne, they decided it was time to turn on some music, but I guess they are having some issues with the sound system. It was extremely loud. We were told that the music is for both the upstairs palm patio (which was empty) and the restaurant are on the same control. But, after about 10 minutes, the music was turned down to a nice volume and they stopped playing techno. At about 8:00pm the restaurant starting filling up nicely and the noise stayed dampened by the carpeted floors, draperies and ceiling architecture.
Attentive, but new – so a little hovering was involved in the beginning. Jake was our server - young, friendly, smart and honest. If he didn’t know something, he went to find out (instead of making it up). He took the initiative to slow down the service after the first and second dishes came on top of each other, which made our dinner so much more enjoyable. Once the tables filled up, service became just a tad less attentive, but not lacking. The only negative note on service is that we couldn’t get the sommelier’s attention to save our lives once he poured our bottle of wine. He seemed a little smitten with the blonds at the table across the way.
8 course “blind” (we will get to that below) tasting menu, bottle of wine, sparkling water, split of champagne, after dinner drinks ~ $375 for 2.
We chose the 8 course “blind” tasting menu. I guess the idea was to make it unknown to us what dishes were coming out of the kitchen. We were up for that. Bring it on…
(Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Soup - Rosemary aroma, garlic herb lavish) – Cream based soup that blended eggplant with roasted garlic in pureed pleasure. Rich, velvety, buttery-yellow in color served in a tureen on top a larger bowl with rosemary. Once the waiter set the plates down, they poured a small cup of boiling water into the large, bottom bowl with rosemary and the steam wafted its aroma over the soup. Lovely mingling of scents and a fun way to play with dinner! I thought the soup was just wonderful, but the BF thought it was a little heavy on cream.
(Maytag blue cheese, green apple salad with micro-greens and sherry vinaigrette) – Crisp, julienne Granny Smith apples, a generous crumbling of Maytag united with the sherry vinaigrette to bring a little joy to my pallet. Simple, yet so yummy. My only complaint: I wish there was more.
(Hawaiian Butterfish on sun chokes with sun dried tomatoes and pearl onions) –
Never heard of this fish before, and as such, was a little confused about what kind of fish it was. I think it is black cod aka sablefish, as butterfish have a range from Florida to Newfoundland. Anyhow, the fish itself was a buttery, white fish pan fried to perfection on top of mashed sun chokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) which were smooth and tasty. On the side, roasted sun choke, pearl onions and sun dried tomatoes added a little pizzazz. Lovely dish overall.
(Mango curd, dried apricot and cranberries, mint and rosewater foam) – OK, this was a “shooter”. But, unlike any other shooter I have ever had. It came in a clear tube about ¾ of an inch in diameter. In one end there was the mango curd, in the middle were diced dried apricots and dried cranberries and at the other end was rosewater foam with a tiny piece of mint. This “shooter” tube came nested in a bed of rose petals. We were told that we were supposed to suck it from the end. OK…… the jokes had already started, but heck, it looked like so much fun. Of course, I had to try first. So, I inhaled and got nothing. I tried again. This time I sucked a little harder and got to the apricots. Mmmm… tasty. By this time I was laughing pretty hard, but it was good, so my BF thought it was ok to try his. It was a little hard, due to the diameter of the tube, to get the right amount of suction. I tried again, this time using a rose petal to create a greater suction on the end of the tube. I made the mistake of sucking a little too hard and the rosewater foam and the dried cranberries ended up in the back of my throat. By this point, I was laughing so hard, I was crying. Thank god there were no people seated around us yet. As far as a palate cleanser goes, this was the most fun I had had in a restaurant in years. Oh, it was scrumptious too. I would just suggest narrowing the diameter of one end of the tube to create less work for the patrons.
(White Tuna on gnocchi) – This was the most disappointing dish of the night (but please read on). The tuna was completely overcooked and dry. The gnocchi were pan fried, but it seemed like a little too much oil was used, causing them to fall apart and taste, well… oily.
I have to say, that here is where the restaurant gets kudos in my book. As always, Jake asked us how we liked it. I guess it was fairly obvious that we didn’t enjoy it as much as the other dishes, as there was still some left on our plates. :o) We mentioned that the fish was overdone. Within 3 minutes, he came back with white tuna sashimi (shiro maguro) in a delicate ponzu sauce and scallions. Delish. This generosity more than made up for the overcooked fish.
(Squab on barley risotto with bacon and pearl onions) – This was the first time I had eaten squab. I usually can’t get over the cooing in my head. The texture seemed a little like quail to me - velvety, yet firm. The taste was strong, but likeable and not gamey. It was a serving of a leg, skin on, which was crispy and flavorful. The barley version of risotto was also new to me. It was creamy, yet the risotto was firm. The seasonings were sumptuous, but I found the bacon overshadowed the delicacy of the risotto. My BF thought the bacon was the right amount. Maybe it is a “mmm… yummy bacon”, guy thing. I just picked out a few pieces of the bacon, and the dish was great.
(Kobe beef with black truffle whipped potatoes) – This dish was just alright. It was a small pre-cut portion of beef, lightly seasoned. We asked what cut of Kobe beef it was, but couldn’t really get a definite answer. Jake hinted at tenderloin, but I think the cut was a little too fatty and not quite tender enough to be Kobe tenderloin. The potatoes were superb, with the black truffle just poking through the flavors, not overpowering the dish, as truffle can sometimes can. It is too bad the meat was not more flavorful to match its side.
(Whipped Mascarpone with strawberries, chocolate truffle honey and sable cookie) - I have to preface with the fact that I usually don’t like Mascarpone anything, so it may not be a fair assessment of this dish. It just seemed a little too sweet. I ate some of the mascarpone with the strawberries on top of the sable cookie and nixed the chocolate honey sauce. I think maybe more strawberries, less mascarpone? The balance of the dish seemed off.
Here is where we tried to get the sommelier’s attention again, but failed. We were looking for a glass/375ml of dessert wine. After a while, we got Jake’s attention and learned that what we wanted (Sauternes) were not available.
We ended with coffee and my typical Frangelico, neat. If you like drip coffee, don’t order as “coffee” here is really an Americano (espresso and water).
I have to comment here, that although the dinner was wonderful, I was a little surprised at the “blind” tasting menu. Everything but the “shooter” was on the normal menu. Not really that blind after all, but a delightful dinner overall.
They have a beautiful tower cellar which, I believe, has a 360 degree viewing capability and is two floors tall. I was told by the GM that soon, the upper floor of it will be complete and they will have 1500 bottle selection. They say on their web-site that “a touch-screen PC tablet that helps guests navigate through the selections by allowing them to search and sort by variety, geography, winery and/or price”, but I didn’t see it this trip. The selection of wines was decent, but I noticed that the list was geared directly from lists like Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate etc… I guess some would like this. I kind of like, funky, unknown surprises on the list.
(Pommery Pink Pop – Rose 187ml) – fun, sparkly, pink, fruity, sweet and the only split/by the glass on the menu. Not something I would usually get, but it was fun.
(Hartford Court Pinot Noir, Seascape Vineyard 2004) – a very versatile wine. Medium garnet red, clear with pronounced legs. Very full bodied and smooth with flavors of plum and a spicy, tobacco nose. Medium acidity, complex with a long finish. Wonderful wine. Loved it. This wine went well with everything we ordered, but especially the squab dish.
We had the pleasure of meeting the Director of Operations, Kyle Kepner. We asked, of course, about the lack of Sauternes and he graciously explained while offering us a glass of Royal Tokaji Wine Co., Tokaji. I can’t remember the year, or how many puttonyos, but it was a very nice dessert wine. Basically the answer was, Sauternes are too expensive to offer by the glass due to lack of demand. Ok, fair answer. Besides being the DO, he also happens to be a certificate holding sommelier.
We had a fun, romantic dinner filled with appetizing food and inventive presentation. I would go back in a flash. Recommend.