Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lucques - Sunday Supper for the Soul

Sundays are sacred for many reasons - whether you are religious or not, it is for most people the last day of rest before we jump right back into the fray, the wear and tear of the daily grind.  Every Sunday I find myself resisting the siren call of tasks that must be done, either that night in preparation for work the next day, or mental run-through of my 'To Do' list for the next day so that I could go from 0-60 in no seconds flat the minute I get in, as our work requires of us. 

I consider it a victory then, whenever we are able to squeeze some last drops of personal time and joie de vivre from our last day off for the week.  So it is that we are drawn to Sunday Suppers - with its promise of market fresh fine dining at a relatively moderate price - a restorative, rustic meal to nourish body and soul, and bolster us through the next five days. 

"Miss Sassy" and I have been wanting to check out Suzanne Goin's infamous seasonal, Cal-Mediterreanena Sunday Suppers at Lucques, where it all began, and with my family all overseas, Miss Sassy kindly agreed to venture out with me on Easter Sunday. 

The warm, softly lit dining room put us at ease from the moment we stepped in, with a great living room style set up around a central fireplace as waiting area by the entrance, and the cozy outdoor patio space where we were ultimately seated, that feels like the backyard of my dreams.

The three-course, $45 meal started with a lovely little amuse tray of briny olives and toasted almonds, fluffy bread with butter and coarse sea salt providing the perfect prologue to the meal.
Our first course was a Warm frisee salad with wild mushrooms, dandelion, walnuts, garlic croutons and soft egg.  One of my favorite things in the world is breakfast for dinner: runny eggs always make me think of breakfast, and is one of my favorite comfort foods.  The one in this salad was perfectly poached, its golden, liquid center spilling beautifully through the frisee salad to lend warmth and lush flavor.  I loved the creativity of adding dandelions to the mix, but didn't actually see any in their expected form on the plate. 

For the second course, we had a choice of lamb or fish.  As it was Easter, Miss Sassy and I both originally went straight for the lamb (occupational hazard - our first instinct is always to go for what's on theme) - but luckily our server gave us a gentle nudge to try the fish, which she said was really amazing. 

So, though I normally prefer my fish either raw or steamed Cantonese style, I went for the Pan-roasted market fish with quinoa, carrot broth, sugar snaps and gingered pea shoots.  It took just one bite to make me a believer. That night's market fish was snapper - the crisp, flavorful roasted skin yielded to tender, juicy, incredibly fresh flaky meat, contrasting nicely with the subtly sweet crunch of the sugar snap peas and gentle spiciness of the pea shoots (the ginger adding an interesting  tinge of Asian flavor).  All come together beautifully and harmoniously on a bed of purple colored quinoa, steeped in the lightest carrot broth.  Simple yet sophisiticated.  Clean.  Divine.  Possibly the best fish I've had this year.
 
Miss Sassy was also happy with her Slow-roasted lamb with potato puree, fava beans, meyer lemon and green olives.  The lamb was butter-soft, juicy and not at all gamey.  Again everything on the plate looked fresh, clean and rustic, yet the combination of ingredients exhibited the utmost skill and care in balancing tastes and textures.
Already grinning from ear to ear from the incredible savory dishes, we barely had room for, but were really looking forward to - dessert.  The Vanilla custard tart with gaviota strawberries, creme fraiche and almond ice cream was light in texture but packed with flavor - the strawberries were incredible, punctuating the creamy custard with sweet and tart that tasted fresh from the fields.  This creation paired nicely with the subtly nutty ice cream and luscious dollop of cream that tasted like it was handwhipped. 


All in all, an amazing Easter Sunday Supper that made not only our night, but made up for the past week, and got us recharged and ready for the coming one.  Definitely $45 well spent!  I love that when you come to Lucques, you can feel like the team put the same care that they did into the $35k a seat dinner that Suzanne hosted at one of her three other restaurants, Tavern in Brentwood, for President Obama (ok, probably not even close, but what's important is that you are made to feel at home, and that they make you feel that every plate they put out is the most important plate).

In any case, Easter Sunday was probably my best Sunday ever in LA - having just come from an interview with Matt Biancaniello where he premiered 3 of the most amazing market fresh cocktails I've ever had - I didn't have the bandwidth left to try any of Lucques' drinks that night, which are also farmers' market inspired.  Will definitely be visiting Lucques again soon for more of their incredible Sunday Suppers and cocktails!

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6.5 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$$ (4 bite marks regular menu)
Probability of return visit - 100% 

[To find more prix fixe deals like this, check out my Daily Specials (dining deals for every night of week) page, and follow me on Twitter for up to the minute finds!]

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Lucques
8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Ph: 323.655.6277

Website: lucques.com
Twitter: twitter.com/lucquesla
Look for reservations: Opentable.com/Lucques
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Lucques on Urbanspoon  Lucques in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

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