I had lunch Saturday at Lucques, part of the Dine Out L.A. thing. I am rather new to the fine dining scene, and was looking forward to this meal after reading so many rave reviews of the restaurant.
First, the soup. I thought it was excellent, but I'm usually not much of a soup person (my habit of not ordering soup was overruled by my love of corn). I was rather surprised at the way the flavors were experienced - first the sweetness of the corn, followed immediately by the coolness of the avocado cream, and ending with a little heat from cracked pepper. To me, it was the best part of the meal.
For the main course, I had the chicken. I thought that perhaps there was a little too much pancetta with the chicken (though it is certainly worthwhile to eat on its own), and I couldn't really taste much currant, but otherwise it was a very good dish. The spinach was especially good, and the portion was just the right size.
And finally, dessert. I'm a bit more finicky when it comes to desserts, so perhaps my expectations are a little unreasonable. But I wasn't too thrilled with the chocolate shortcake. It tasted to me like dry chocolate cookies with some fancy cream filling. I did appreciate that it wasn't overly rich, and it certainly wasn't bad, it just didn't do much for me.
Unfortunately, my friend opted to order the soup and chicken as well, so I have nothing to offer regarding the fruit salad and yellowtail. Oh yeah, the bread with butter and fleur de sel (I think?) was very good too. All in all, it was a very good experience, and I certainly would go again. I'm more of a red meat/shellfish person anyways, so Dine Out L.A. isn't the best way for me to experience a new restaurant.
Then I went to Michi Saturday night. First off, parking in Manhattan Beach is a nightmare. Second, the restaurant itself, while fairly nice inside, is very dimly lit, loud, cramped, and "scene-y", being a martini bar and all. The drinks were a little watered-down, but not too expensive. But enough of that; on to the food...
Never having tried foie gras before, I ordered an appetizer of duck-wrapped asparagus with terrine of foie gras. The duck was a little dry/tough, perhaps lacking just a tad in flavor, but not too bad. The asparagus seemed just a touch undercooked, which was a surprise since the duck seemed a little overcooked. I must say that I am now a big fan of foie gras. However, $17 seemed a little too much to pay for two stalks of duck-wrapped asparagus and two small pieces of foie gras. Then again, perhaps I am underestimating the cost of foie gras.
For my entree, I ordered gorgonzolla steak, medium rare. I could barely tell there was any gorgonzolla - it was sort of mixed into a very thin brown sauce, and both were surprisingly subtle. The steak was topped with crispy onion bits, which were ok but nothing to write home about. The steak itself was cooked right - not too red, not too done - and tasted quite good. However, considering the cost of the entree ($25.50), I was very disappointed at how much fat and gristle were in the steak - the cut of beef didn't seem much better than something one would expect to find at a chain restaurant. The steak also came lukewarm, and I noticed the plate was not heated (unlike Lucques, where I nearly burned myself on the plate). Others ordered the salmon, risotto, or paella and said they were very good. I was too full to order dessert.
All in all, I was rather disappointed with the restaurant, considering how much money my friends and I spent there. It was decent, but not worth both the expense and the (to me) uncomfortable atmosphere. But it was my friend's birthday, and he had a good time. And I got to watch another friend crash and burn with three girls sitting at another table...that was both very sad and highly entertaining.
I'm looking forward to Valentino tonight, even though it's only the Dine Out L.A. menu.