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Lucca's in Irvine - no more emergency dining picks - long

Tuck | Nov 7, 200503:30 PM

I had a meeting at 6:30pm a few nights ago and had a bit over an hour for dinner prior. Since it is right by where I live, I decided to try Lucca in Irvine for dinner. The place was completely empty except for 1 couple who were friends of the owner. Seeing this (5:15 early dinner time, Wednesday night, and only 1 other party), I assumed that I would have enough time to eat and make it to the meeting with time to spare. Moral of this story – don’t make assumptions and don’t waste your money at Lucca. Upon seating us, the hostess explained that the items on the menu were very small and recommended 3 or 4(!) dishes per person. That would have been 8 dishes total (non-tasting menu) between my mom and me. I do have quite an ability to eat but the introduction sounded suspicious and like more of a sales hoax than an honest recommendation. They also said that the dishes come out one by one which later sent my irritation level through the roof. Once our waitress arrived, she explained the concept again at which time I conveyed our time constraint. When she returned MUCH later to take the order, I was starting to get antsy. It took 25 minutes from arrival to ordering time leaving 35 minutes to spare. Starting to worry about the efficiency of the kitchen, I made the executive decision to only order 1 item per person worrying that I would miss my meeting. Again, I mentioned that since we were on a tight time frame, we could only order 1 dish each. That turned out to be the wisest decision that night. The decision to dine there was the first (and fully regretted) decision that doomed my dinner time.

They brought out 4 thin crudités with tapenade to start. I ordered 2 glasses of a sparkling wine to go with our 2 measly dishes. Thought that a glass would relax me a bit and make me forget my misery. That didn’t work, because the waitress forgot to bring them out. We sat there for another 15 minutes with just water. If I could have located our waitress sooner, I would have reminded her to bring out the wine. By the time she actually came out, the first dish had arrived and at that point, I had to remind her. She brought out individual bottles and forgot to bring glasses. Her apologies rained on deaf ears by that point.

The first dish was salmon wrapped in grape leaves (odd) with risotto cakes. The dish was so bland, but I couldn’t be bothered to request salt. By the time that would have arrived, the dish would have been ice cold. The salmon was cooked nicely, however. The center was medium rare leaving the fish moist. If only it had been properly seasoned, I might have enjoyed it. Maybe. The jury is still out on the grape leaves paired with salmon. The second dish was hangar steak with mushrooms and gorgonzola sauce over mashed fingerlings. This dish was actually rich and hearty but in a tiny portion kind of way. The seasoning was perfect with the last bit of saltiness left to the gorgonzola. The steak came out just as advertised – medium rare. If that dish had flopped, I would have thrown a tantrum.

So to sum up the dining experience at Lucca – poor service (unless you know the manager), irregular food seasoning, inflated prices, inconsiderate of customer requests – all of this bundled in a nice $45 package with cheap wine. I love small portion dining and usually eat that way, but this was ridiculous. I have never paid $45 for a meal that consisted of 4-5 bites (LITERALLY) of food (2-3 of those bites being almost inedible) and a glass of wine from a screw-top bottle. Given that the wine came in-between the 2 “courses,” I wound up having to down the wine (not a classy scene) making the experience even more unpleasant. Surprisingly, the dishes were so rich that I didn’t leave the restaurant starving. I think I would have been dead had I ordered the suggested 4 plates pp. I was 15 minutes late to my meeting after driving 90 mph to get there. I never have a problem spending any amount of money on food, but I wouldn’t have paid more than $2 for that same experience. PASS

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