Suzanne Goin has left quite an impact in the dining scene of Los Angeles over the last decade with the opening of several well respected restaurants such as A.O.C., Hungry Cat, Tavern and most prominently Lucques. Her talent is widely recognized and represented in six nomination for James Beard awards including one for her cookbooks, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques”.
As much as we like especially Hungry Cat (we have visited both places in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara), our visits so far to Lucques always left us with mixed feelings. The food and service were mostly good but never really outstanding, and we always felt like that the restaurant had much more potential but for different reasons was never able to fully utilize it. On a recent trip to Los Angeles we thought it was perhaps a good time to try out Lucques again for one of their well-known Sunday Suppers.
Lucques is kind of hidden on Melrose Ave, and if you don’t really know where it is it you can easily miss it. It’s a small building with ivy on the front wall, and once you step inside you feel like entering somebody’s living room. The main dining room has a very comfy but elegant feeling with brick stone walls, a fireplace in the middle of the room and large mirrors on the walls that make the room appear much larger than it is. There is also a beautiful patio in the back which is a nice option especially in the summer.
Unfortunately our evening didn’t start without problems. We had asked for a place in the dining room when making the reservation since we anticipated cold weather for that weekend, but were initially guided to the patio. After a short discussion we were then shown a table in the dining room which was clearly one of the worst in the house (directly at a pass where most of the guests and servers are walking by all the time) even though there were several other tables available. After another discussion we were given a much better table. Interestingly, we saw the same behavior also later in the evening when the restaurant was nearly empty and a new group of guests arrived; they had a very long discussion to get one of the booths (instead of the table they were first offered) even though none of the booths were occupied. It’s surprising that the staff isn’t more interested to let the guest feel more welcome especially if the requests are so easy to accommodate.
The service throughout the evening was professional but at the same time inattentive - we had to ask for the cocktail menu and later for the dessert wine list, dishes were brought out too fast, we asked for coffee after the dessert but were given just the bill and had to remind our server.
We started the evening with two cocktails: A Temple Black (Miller’s Gin and house-made grenadine with orange, Seven-up and a hint of anise) which was nice and mellow but had also a nice kick from the gin. And we also asked the bartender to mix us one non-alcoholic cocktail which was very good, it had different fruit juices and a nice tartness by some lemon juice.
The bread service at Lucques is always very good, and we love their Lucques olives and almonds.
Arugula and blood orange salad with roasted dates, Marcona almonds and Parmesan.
The roasted dates and the almonds were the highlights of the salad. The vinaigrette had a little bit too much vinegar.
Braised veal cheeks with soft polenta, cavolo nero, turnips and Pecorino salsa.
This dish was surprisingly bland, and it doesn’t happen very often that we have to add salt in a restaurant. We liked the sides (polenta and vegetables) more than the veal.
Greek yogurt tart with honey, Schaner farms' citrus and pistachios
Good but somewhat unremarkable tart
Overall this dinner at Lucques was far from really disappointing, but at the same time service and food wasn’t at that level you would expect from a restaurant with such a reputation. We will be back in the future but it will take awhile as there are so many other good options close by.
8474 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069