Went there for lunch last Thurs. Based on the website and some early reviews I was hopeful about this place. I don't like to judge a restaurant exclusively on lunch service, particularly when the exec chef isn't behind the stove - which he wasn't this day. There were maybe 6 tables occupied though we didn't get there until around 1 so perhaps we missed the lunch crowd.
Apps were good if a little misleading. Duck spring rolls were advertised as served with a cranberry apple chutney. When the food arrived our waiter described it as apple curry foam then said, "although it is really not foam". He was right, it wasn't foam but I honestly didn't taste any apple, cranberry or curry so I'm not real sure what it was. Duck meat was fine, rolls crispy. Fine, nothing special. After a painstaking conversation with our very young and not so informed waiter we did manage to get him to agree to bring us the foie gras terrine off of the dinner menu - realizing there wasn't any prep work typically involved in a terrine. This was very good. Great flavor with brandied fruit throughout. Nice lavosh with basalmic syrup and micro greens.
Entree list is very scaled down from their dinner offering, even more so than usual. We opted for what I guess were the most elaborate offerings. Baked cornish hen for my friend and butternut squash ravioli for me. Cornish hen was fine, nothing special. Oddly, it was served on what I would call a summer salad comprised of tomatos, cucumber, red onion in a light vinaigrette. Over risotto this would have been much better. BN Squash Ravioli has become a menu staple all over town so I wasn't overly excited about this and, as it turns out, for good reason. This was basically a dessert. Squash is obviously sweet but it was served with honeycomb (which was actually kind of cool but not in this dish) and roasted carmelized apples. There was absolutely nothing savory in the dish to offset the overload of sweetness.
We spoke to the general mgr (not about our meal per se, he just happened to stop by and ask how we were doing). He was the sommelier at III Forks and was bragging about his wine prices. True enough they were 20% or so lower than the standard restaurant mark up and they are building what sounds like an incredible cellar both in depth and cosmetically.
We didn't bother with dessert. As I said, I'll give it another try for dinner when the chef is in but first impression was lackluster at best.
Ieatdallas, I agree with your lackluster first impression. I went to Luqa (how do you even pronounce that?) about three weeks ago on a Friday night, and the elevator was broken, the valet was really at some other place across the street, and the place just didn't feel like it had any character at all to me. I think the DMN reviewer also mentioned how his/her seat was repeatedly bumped into throughout the night, and mine was as well. There is simply not enough room for servers and busboys to maneuver, which feels like total amateur hour to me. This lackluster-ness continued with the food. First of all the server asked me how I wanted my short ribs prepared, which struck me as odd, considering that particular cut of meat is very tough and must be slow cooked for a long period of time (as we all know, sorry to state the obvious). So I asked him if the meat was braised, and he said yes... (???) so then I asked him what he meant by the original question. He was very confused and finally I just said forget it-just have the chef prepare it however he wanted. When the piece of meat arrived it was tender and obviously slow-cooked, but not cutting-through-butter-type tender. I still had to use my knife if that gives you any indication. I don't remember all the ingredients involved with the salad I ordered (and its no longer on the website), but I believe it included matchstick-sliced apples, pomegranetes and a light vinaigrette. I believe the menu said the salad included blue cheese but it was strangely (and noticeably) absent. It was forgettable. My friend is a wine buyer and he liked the list a lot (prices especially), so that's a point in Luqa (luke-ah? Loo-qwah?)'s favor. For me that was the only point...oh wait, the roasted potatoes were divine. Covered in the fatty sauce, roasted to browned-skinned perfection.
Third opinion agreeing with the overall blah-ness of Luqa. This place is definitely more about style than substance. We went on a Saturday night at 7:30pm and the place was mostly empty (sinking ship?). The tables are cramped together and we were seated at a booth table that was really too small for 4 to dine comfortably. Service was just ok. Tried calamari for appetizer. Entrees included seared scallops (black-tea lobster broth didn't taste tea-ey), beef short rib (best dish of the night, but even then not necessarily worth $35), rack of lamb (not a big lamb fan, can't give you an unbiased opionion), and pork 3 ways (only 1 way impressed, really excellent garlic whipped mashed potatoes on the side). Also had an overpriced whipped mascarpone cream dessert.
For $30-$40/entree, there are definitely better places in Dallas to spend a Saturday evening. This place has gotten mixed reviews on these boards, some seem to love it. Others have had experiences more like mine. I wonder if it's just on a downhill trend (sous chef left for Dragonfly)? Let the beautiful people gather in the stylish space, but this 'hound won't be returning.
For more detailed descriptions, complaints, and photographs: http://donnacooks.wordpress.com/2007/...
I sure hope your experience at dinner is better. I did find the service to be very young - but he was also very eager to please. The whole honeycomb thing/BN squash ravs for a lunch entree seems a little strange... It seemed to me like there were all kinds of experimental things going on in the kitchen (ie. the whole suck the foam thing). Maybe it will take some time before service and the menu settle in... I look forward to your dinner review!!