Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lunch at Lucques

Ah, hump day. There really isn't much to like about Wednesdays except for the simple fact that you know there are only two days left in the work week. Well, there is 30 Rock......and LOST...(Sawyer, if you're reading this, I love you)......and Top Chef (Tom Colicchi, if you're reading this, I love you).....Alright!!! Maybe there are quite a few good things about Wednesdays but none could be as good as a special little present that I received on this particular hump day. What, you say? A lunch a Lucques. A lovely, lovely lunch at Lucques. A luscious, lazy lunch at Lucques. Could there BE anything better on a working Wednesday, or any day, for that matter? I'm wracking my brain but I cannot think of a single thing that would be better.

Yes, my friends, I am no longer a Lucques virgin. As shocking as it might be, I had never been to the famed restaurant until today. Actually, until a couple of hours ago. Yes, I have the cookbook and have gone to chef/owner Suzanna Goin's other popular eatery, AOC, but never to Lucques. When a foodie/cook/restaurant-lover coworker heard of this travesty, he insisted he take me to lunch straight away and promptly set a date. After waiting anxiously for a week, that day finally came!

These are non-alcoholic.....they really are.....

We made the short drive from our Hollywood office to the Melrose location, valet parked and went into the mostly-empty restaurant (we went for an early lunch). The lovely hostess/manager greeted my friend the way you'd greet family- he's a regular there and knows the staff well. She let us choose whatever table on the patio we wanted. As I sat down, I took a good look around the beautiful surroundings and knew I was in for a treat. Our waiter quickly brought the menus, followed by water and the bread basket along with sweet butter and sea salt, plus the famous olives and almonds tossed with olive oil. We ordered beverages and perused the menu.

After about ten minutes, we finally decided on what to order. Although the beloved BLT is no longer seasonal and therefore not on the menu, all of the choices sounded delightful. I chose to start with the Fatoosh Salad with Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, Ricotta Salata, Parsley and Fried Pita. Once it came to the table, I could see that it was a beautiful salad of what looked to be sliced romaine lettuce along with the other elements- chunks of the salata, half-moons of yellow and red baby tomatoes and broken up pieces of fried pita. When I ignorantly asked the waiter where the "fatoosh" was, he answered that fatoosh refers to the kind of salad and is not the name of an ingredient. Well- ya learn something new every day right?! The salad was absolutely delicious and I loved the creaminess of the ricotta salata with the crunch of the fried pita pieces. It had a nice, greek-salad flavor and was a refreshing start to the meal. My friend D had the Arugula and Heirloom Apple Salad with Romao, Pomegranate and Almonds. The dark green leaves of arugula glistened with good olive oil and the pomegranate seeds sat like little rubies on top. The romao cheese were a nice, sharp compliment to the tartness of the apples and the spicy arugula.

Fatoosh Salad with Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, Ricotta Salata, Parsley and Fried Pita

Arugula and Heirloom Apple Salad with Romao Cheese, Pomegranate and Almonds

Our empty plates were cleared and we waited for the main event. Did I mention how lovely the patio at Lucques is? Oh yes, I did, but one cannot emphasize enough the peace and tranquility one feels sitting in the middle of the Lucques patio....on a workday. There's something so naughty about driving away from work, slipping into such a beautiful restaurant and dining on such gorgeous food in the middle of the day. If you haven't done such a thing, go and treat yourself! I highly recommend it and plan to do it more often.

Stuffed Quail with Beluga Lentils, Kabocha Squash and Orange Butter

Back to the food! My main entree of Stuffed Quail with Beluga Lentils, Kabocha Squash and Orange Butter arrived. My little quail sat perched on two meaty slices of kabocha and surrounded by the tiny black legumes, tiny legs and all. The tender quail meat was wrapped around a delicious stuffing, and the lentils were just skipping happily in the rich butter which also coated the sweet and moist kabocha. My friend had the Grilled Organic Chicken with Cornbread, Mizuna and Butternut Squash Agrodolce. When I saw the thick, grilled slice of rustic cornbread peeking out from underneath the fleshy chicken and colorful vegetables, I resisted the urge to bend over the plate and take a big bite out of it. That would be rude now, wouldn't it? I patiently waited until D told me to try it (don't you love it when friends TELL you to try instead of ask if you want to? It makes life so much easier) and carefully made "the perfect bite" of cornbread, chicken, roasted pepitas and vegetables. Talk about the ultimate comfort food with a gourmet twist. We both pretty much polished off everything on our plates and sat back feeling pretty damned groovy.

Grilled Organic Chicken with Cornbread, Mizuna and Butternut Squash Agrodolce

As we exited the restaurant, we talked about how it takes a special talent, or actually a gift to combine such different and unusual ingredients which all come together to make one, delicious dish. I would never think to pair lentils and kabocha, thinking the two would be too heavy together, but it worked so well in my quail entree. I certainly do not know Suzanne Goin, but she must get such sweet satisfaction from achieving such wonderful success doing what she quite clearly was born to do. We should all be so lucky......but at least we have the luck of enjoying the fruits of her labor....and what delicious fruits they are!

8474 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA
323 655 6277



carlyn said...

WOW!!!! Looks soooooo good...

yoony said...

i need to go back to lucques for their blt! and now, the quail too! we should go there together sometime. :) and then we can ooze about the food.

Chubbypanda said...

*sigh* The restaurants you guys write about in LA always make me drool. I need to hit some fine dining establishments here in OC just to pay back the favor. =)

- Chubbypanda