dineL.A. began last weekend and it gave my culinary co-pilot and myself an excuse to throw three reservations onto the agenda that we might not have normally scrambled to make. We chose Lucques first because I have been itching to eat at Chef Suzanne Goin's French-California place but a little leery about the prices in my current budget and it was an excuse to try it out for the $44 prefixe event menu. My boyfriend, who hadn't been in four years, told me it was a place that women seemed to like more than men and this was apparently true because it was filled with three quarters of the female sex compared to the male. And it reminded me of a younger, more chic and less self-conscious version of one of my favorite desert restaurants Le Vallauris so I immediately warmed up once sitting amidst the warm outdoor space with olive green vines covering the linen colored walls.
Classy and elegant, beautifully candlelit and lending itself to intimacy, I cozied up to the experience right away enjoying the olives and boiled almonds offered on a plate with deliciously flaked salt and pads of clean tasting butter to accompany a bread basket filled with a toasty, porously-creviced and mild sourdough with a nice dark and rindy crust. Just the night before this, I had reveled at another olive plate, eaten at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, where the olives were spritzed with a cool lemon water and rosemary bath that reminded me of why I love the miniature globes when at their immature aged best.
The root vegetable fattoush was calling my name for a starter. As I have mentioned before, I love tubers, and was recently disappointed in my efforts at finding a good salad anywhere. This one was great: parsnips, pearl onions, turnips and beets all cooked to perfection and caramelized on the ends and sliced in julienne style so that they were reminiscent of French fries in a salad of artisanal greens and fluffy bits of feta. I didn’t see the fried pita chips that were purported to come with the salad, which is weird because technically fattoush means a Levantine bread salad, but was thrilled with the taste and it was a salad I would order again.
And apparently I did. Because the second course, my lusted after and much anticipated fresh ricotta dumplings arrived on an identical root pile. I understand that at times like dineL.A. when a restaurant is looking for things to serve for an inflated crowd on a limited menu, it’s easy to want to buy things in bulk and make them go a long way so it’s not too surprising that the same items would appear in multiple dishes. But this is something I feel the wait staff should have been savvy to so at least they could warn diners when dishes were all too similar. It makes a smart impression and avoids the irritation that occurred when I did realize the entrée was so close in foundation to the starter. That being said, my dumplings were beautifully handmade items of pillowy bliss. Not too doughy, the steamed exteriors melded beautifully with the grainier fresh ricotta texture within giving me pleasure with very bite. Served perfectly plain and absent of sauce was a nice choice as they didn’t need anything to mingle with their sublime-ness. I could only finish three of them, they were so densely filling.
For dessert, I chose a bitter chocolate torta with coffee ice cream and mascarpone cream. Each piece of that dish was impressive on its own, top notch in quality and all bathed in hints of smoky flavor from the few hazelnuts that studded the plate. The texture of the torta and the way it melted in my mouth was orgasmic. Best slice of chocolate anything I have had in a long time.
If I were rich, I would eat here more often. Because I am not, I will check it off on my list as a place officially conquered.