My girlfriend and I arrived at Lucques five minutes after 6:30, a hair late for our reservation. We were greeted by the hostess who immediately showed us to our table. I love the decor at Lucques: it's rustic and yet very L.A. ... I don't know, I have a hard time explaining it. We were seated outside, at a corner table. My girlfriend made a small comment about being seated too close to the server station but I thought it was fine; I liked how we had extra light there (glancing across the courtyard, it was very dark under the tree).
Our server came by and took our order; he came up without saying a word, expecting us to say something and I was slightly taken aback because he really didn't introduce himself. We initiated, asking for water, and one of each entree. He acknowledged our order and went on his way.
Our bread and accoutrements came immediately; the bread was warm and sufficiently crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside (does anyone know if it's La Brea Bakery bread?). The butter was delicious! I'm a fan. We devoured the almonds pretty quickly ... and while I'm not normally an olive fanatic, these were pretty addictive.
The appetizer (toasted brioche with chanterelles, soft herbs, sherry and crème frâiche) was fantastic. I loved every aspect of it, whereas my girlfriend disliked the crème frâiche but was otherwise enthusiastic. The chanterelles had a deep, intense flavor that was offset just enough by the herbs to achieve a certain balance against the brioche (Which was very soft and infused with flavor). I didn't feel that the crème frâiche made an impact in the dish; it could have been omitted with no real detriment. This was by far the richest of the courses, as I believe the mushrooms were simmered in cream.
The entrees were fabulous. I loved the halibut (sautéed alaskan halibut with potato-tomato gratin, nyons olives and aioli) ... it was perfectly cooked (I've never had it more perfect at any restaurant, although my experience is limited) and the olives, potatoes, tomatoes and aioli (which looked and tasted suspiciously like crème frâiche) were great as well. The potatoes, in particular, were infused with so much flavor I couldn't just eat them alone! This dish was very exciting for me, as I thought that the somewhat disparate flavors on the plate melded together in a sort of harmonious yet very rustic and comfortable balance. I felt like each component of this dish was destined to be together. Loved it.
The pork (grilled pork confit with fresh shellbeans, swiss chard, maple butter and horseradish gremolata) was also great. The meat was moist although the exterior was sweet and crispy, and the stringy meat fell apart easily. The beans and chard (there was also a good amount of broth) was great ... really hearty. I tasted very little, if at all, horseradish (no complaints here!). I recall a review of Lucques by SIV where she mentioned something about the fact that Chef Goin often adds a splash of broth that makes the dish too rich at times, but I thought it was perfect here. It really came together and tied the meat with the vegetables nicely.
Dessert (cornmeal crepes with autumn grand nectarines, huckleberries and vanilla ice cream) was the highlight of my girlfriend's meal, and I too enjoyed it (although I thought everything was equal in taste and quality). The crepes had a slight cinnamon-y, anise-y quality to them which played beautifully to the clarity of the vanilla ice cream, and the sweetness of the ice cream contrasted nicely against the subtle tartness of the nectarines and berries. Everything had an intensity to them, and overall the dessert was not too sweet so it was definitely a thumbs-up in my book.
Throughout the meal, our silverware, plates, bread and water were cleared/refreshed promptly. Our waiter checked on us infrequently, but we never needed anything so no worries there. I felt that between food, decor and service, the service impressed us the least, although there wasn't anything that took away from the experience. He also seemed to have a lot of tables that night. A possible explanation (probably unfounded): the two of us are young (early-20s) and look even younger; we also didn't order wine.
Ultimately, we had a fantastic time, and for Sunday Supper prices, who can go wrong?
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