Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lucques Rib Fest 2011 - Chowdown on the Patio at High Noon

It was the morning after Ms Sassy's Fabulous Birthday Dinner on the patio at Craft, when I thought I couldn't possibly stuff any more deliciousness into my now ground-hugging muffin top, that Ms Sassy and I met up once again in the name of good food - to burst through the doors of Lucques like a bunch of cowgirls in defiance of the law (well, laws...of gravity and waning metabolisms).

Lucques was having their annual Rib Fest (4 meat courses, 5 sides, 1 dessert, $55pp), which seemed the perfect reason for a mid-summer chowdown, despite our culinary debauchery just hours ago.  Afterall, Rib Fest only comes around once a year. And it falls on the day after Ms. Sassy's birthday so that I could treat her back, for the fantastic fete she hosted the night before.

The thing we learned immediately about Rib Fest is that Lucques does not mess around with their meat extravaganza - in mere minutes after being seated in the properly dressed, hay-strewn back patio, our food started arriving.  Makes sense since there is only one menu offered, that everything is ready to go and there's no lag time with decision making and prep.  The entire staff was game for the themed event and seemed to get into character with their western shirts, cowboy hats & boots, and I thought I even spotted a string tie at one point. 

Everything pretty much arrived at once, but the center piece of course was the mountain of animals corralled onto one plate. It was a representative roundup of Saint Louis-Style Pork RibsBraised Beef Back Ribs and Spiced Lamb Spare Ribs, which our server told us had been slow-cooked for hours. And it showed - the ribs were all soaked through with flavor to the bone, and when meat and teeth made contact, the meat fell away like the slow-drawer.  My favorite of the ribs was of course the lamb - not many places, at least that I'm aware of, does lamb at an 'all-american' style bbq!  There was so much meat we each took ribs home in boxes.

The fourth protein was Too-Hot-to-Handle Chicken Wings, which were basically buffalo wings but with a nice crisped skin.  These were aptly named - the heat was too much for me and I could only manage a few bites.

The sides were for the most part mainly staples you would expect to find at any barbecue, including cole slaw, baked beans, buttered corn on the cob, and long cooked collard greens.  These were market 
fresh, but I was a little disappointed that they didn't get the Suzanne Goin treatment I looked forward to - of being elevated with her interpretation or mixing with unexpected ingredients for new flavor profiles, while allowing the natural, clean tastes of the ingredients to shine through.

The last two sides were what really stood out and blew me away: Grilled Cornbread (the better half of the Grilled Cornbread & Wonder Bread plate), and Watermelon and Lime Salad.  The cornbread didn't have any added ingredients or contrived fanciness to it - it was simple, rustic, comforting, the way cornbread should be served - but the grilling added a nice pungent smokiness and crunch that worked perfectly with the fluffy cornmeal interior and took it to a whole different level.  A little over a week later, and I can still taste and crave it.

The Watermelon and Lime Salad was the second standout among the sides - the ingredients were kept simple and clean, but worked perfectly together: juicy watermelon chunks were tossed with lime, red onion and herbs to form an instantly addictive, refreshing summer salad.
For a sweet finish: Peach and Blackberry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream.  This was a great counterbalance to the savory feast, with market fresh berries plopped among a light spread of cakey crust, topped by a cool scoop of vanilla ice cream.

We left satiated and contented.  All in all, a solid meal for those who don't want to get down and dirty with their own barbecue grill, and want to enjoy their carnivorous feast in a civilized, upscale yet not stuffy environment. 

Would I come back next year? I was glad we got to try it, but for my money - especially since I am not a huge barbecue fan (don't get me wrong, I love my meats fresh and sizzling off the grill, but I don't often crave it - with the exception of korean bbq) and almost always prefer the unexpected versus classics, and especially since it's at Lucques - I would rather put my money towards Lucques Sunday Suppers (3 courses, $45pp) where I could experience the more creative and inspired dishes coming out of the chef's kitchen. 

That said, it was still a great bbq meal and glad I got to play a part in extending Ms. Sassy's bday weekend festivities!

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5.5 bites
Presentation - 5 bites
Originality - 5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 5.5 bites
Price - $$$$ (4 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 70% 


8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Ph: 323.655.6277

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