Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dinner w/a Side of "Come Out With Your Hands Up"

Lots of people in L.A. say they prefer the food in S.F. but, since L.A. is where the action is, they stay here. After dinner at Lucques last night, I can say our meal was easily up to S.F. standards, if not beyond and, the action clearly is here!

is not new. On Melrose, in West Hollywood, it's held its own for a long time. Suzanne Goin, the chef and owner, did her time at Chez Panisse and her cooking sensibility reflects that. The menu is spot on in terms of seasonal ingredients. With six starters and nine entrees it was hard to decide where to begin.

We shared the 'summer fruit with jamon serrano, seal bay triple cream, and local pistachios'. Doesn't sound all that sexy but I just knew it would have the best of everything. This dish was the perfect example of taking ingredients that are stellar and creating a very simple dish. Peaches, summer melon, plums and figs were gently tossed with a pistachio vinaigrette, scattered over the jamon and a few dandelion greens and cozied up with a wedge of a rich triple cream cheese. A bite of everything together was out of this world. Fresh, sweet, salty, savory, and creamy....

This kitchen has a gift for balance in their dishes. Our main courses reflected this too. Crispy pork belly with peaches, saba, crushed pine nuts and shards of ricotta salata. "Crispy" was the key word-this pork was cooked to perfection with a crunchy exterior and a melt-in-your mouth interior. The peach-saba-cheese combination was, again, balanced so well. Our other entree was a signature dish of the restaurant: braised short ribs with sauteed baby swiss chard, meltingly tender cippolinis and horseradish cream. Get to the bad part of that one??

Churros y Chocolate sounded delish but, we opted for something a little less mainstream for dessert: sweet corn panna cotta topped with a crispy tuile cookie, and blackberry sorbet. It was sweet and savory at the same time, creating a dessert that wasn't too rich-but it totally hit the spot.

After dessert we walked out to get to our car and this is where the 'action' part comes in...The entire street was littered with police cars. The sheriff blocking the side walk where we were told us there was a 'disturbance' up the street and we couldn't get to our car (all this with his pistol drawn at his side). After walking down the back alley, thinking we could sneak to our car, we chatted up another cop. He told us that the owner of the store across from our car was being held by gunpoint! OK-so we're not going anywhere for a while. After watching another cop point his rifle at two people who tried to walk down the street and hearing the 'Come Out With Your Hands Up' warning, we snuck back into the restaurant and had a glass of wine while we waited it out. The street finally opened, hopefully the store owner was fine, and we were full and tired.

The verdict? Lucques holds a candle to the best restaurants I've eaten at, anywhere. The action? This IS where its at.

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