I've been poking around the web at restaurant sites for L.A. and found this remarkable board; the posters here are giving me great ideas and steering me from some places at which I think I might have regretting dining.
I went to Lucques for the first time last night for the Sunday Supper. I arrived with a friend ten minutes before the reservation to find another friend waiting at the bar. The hostess offered to seat us at our large table then, or we could wait at the bar. The bartender was very charming, friendly but not chatty.
The three of us sat down and were promptly served a huge basket of French bread with cakes of unsalted butter, a dish of fleur de sel, and toasted almonds and the namesake Lucques olives in a dish of olive oil. The bread was perfectly crusty and chewy, and the fleur de sel was perfect sprinkled over it. One member of our party had to cancel at the last minute, but that was no problem. Our waitress was very cordial and attentive but not smothering. This was one of the few times I never had to try to flag down my server for anything.
The food was simply wonderful. The salad of arugula, fava beans, almonds, and pecorino was easily the best salad I've ever had. I chose the veal as my main course, and it was both rich and elegant and completely comforting, served with morels, pearl onions, and baby carrots. I normally don't much care for noodles, but I loved the toothy hand-cut noodles here. I never could have imagined veal braised in cream sauce could be so light. The halibut was perfectly cooked, but the sweet peas (tendrils and all) were what made me jealous of my friends who got the fish option.
The dessert was the one slight disappointment. The nectarine sorbet had the taste of fresh fruit flesh, but it was more reminiscent of the Flintstones' Push Up pops from elementary school. The whipped cream didn't go well with the sorbet, either, leaving an unwelcome fatty residue on the sorbet. The accompanying shortbread was delicious, with the perfect hint of salt. Coffee comes with a dish of raw sugarcubes, and I couldn't resist popping one in my mouth before leaving.
The real treat was the bill though; I've never gotten food of this quality for $35. If it wasn't quite a perfect meal, it's probably as close as one will ever get for that price. I loved the room, by the way. It's lively and animated, but it's still quiet enough one can talk in hushed tones and have every word understood by one's companions. In the winter, when the fireplace is lit, this place would really be something. Be warned, though: The room was rather chilly, and the one diner caught under the vent shivered through the first course.
I'll be returning for Sunday Supper in the near future. (The website posts the menu by the Thursday before.) I've read some negative press regarding Lucques, and I suspect that, when the kitchen has more than three comfort food dishes to worry about, it could be a bit more hit-and-miss. But I can't complain about last night. For my money, Lucques' Sunday Supper is probably the best dining deal in the city.
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