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Luke Last Night

I just wanted to throw out a few comments on our experience at Luke last night. For those that don't know, Luke is the new Besh restaurant, located in a hotel so it's serving breakfast lunch and dinner. Admittadly, this is the first week of it's opening, so I'm willing to cut them a touch of slack, but not too much.

Last night's dinner might be the perfect example of what happens when there's a complete disconnect between the front of house staff and the kitchen. There are almost two reviews to be had here- one of the food coming out of the kitchen when it came out promptly, and one of the service.

When we first arrived for a 9:30 reservation we were told to have a drink at the bar as the table they originally wanted to seat us at just had a light bulb burn out above it and it would be terribly dark. No problem, we were told it would be 15 minutes. We end up seated in the far rear of the restaurant in an equally dark table, not far across from the table where we were supposed to be seated.

We sat down, ordered more drinks and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the drinks came and we ordered- a table of 6 ordered a couple of dozen oysters (P&J's and Blue Pointes), beet salads for 2 of us, a pork rillete, and some matzoh ball soup for 2 (why this is on the menu in a French brasserie I'll never understand, but that's besides the point). For meals we ordered the entrecote frites, 2 of the veal cheeks, a veal pannee (I believe), pate for one (she wasn't so hungry), and I honestly can't remember the 6th dish.

Here's where the service goes from sloppy to bad. I ordered a glass of blanc de blanc to go with my oysters (I like champagne with my oysters, my girlfriend prefers sancerre). The first glass that came out was sauvinion blanc and it had to be sent back.

Side note that they serve their wine in these little drink glasses. Pony up and buy wine glasses, even if they are cheap. Straight edged highballs don't suit wine at all.

Then the appetizers came. Yes, the appetizers came before the oysters. I didn't get it, but after a 35 minute wait for them, it was nice to see them. Appetizers of soup were served warm, but not hot, the rilletes were fantastic, the beats were good as well. I couldn't figure out at this point if the kitchen wasn't serving hot soup or if it was sitting on the station waiting to be picked up. Also, note that soups weren't served with spoons and it took about 3-4 minutes to flag down a waiter to get them. This might be part of the reason for them not being served hot, but no steam was coming off of the soup when it was served.

Appetizers were cleared and we weren't even sure if we were getting our oysters. Another 10 or so minutes later came the oysters. The oysters were admittadly very good, though we were perplexed as to why these came between appetizers and a main.

At this point several glasses are empty and the server isn't asking if people want more drinks. Also, empty oyster trays are sitting on the table with used shells.

From nowhere our entrees appear and they start to serve the mains. Without taking the trays away. They are having to move the trays around to get plates down. We ask people to take the trays and they walk away emptyhanded. We are astounded at this point. My entrecote is served luke warm (i touched it to feel it) and without a steak knife. By the time I can cut it, the steak is then medium well to well done. Had to be sent back and I asked not to send another.

You'd think that at this point either Besh, who had been lounging at the bar all night or one of the 3 managers would come by and ask us how the meal was, but not at all.

Finally when all was said and done, another half hour later or so Besh's partner came by to apologize again for the steak and asked how the meal had gone. We told him of all the gaffs- the inattentive wait staff, the I could care less attidude and whatnot. He was appauled and did the right thing- comped the entire meal for everyone. An extrodinary gesture of kindness that we attempted to turn down as it really wasn't the kitchen's fault, it seemed all the fault of service.

All in all this experience leads me to think a few things: One, this is exactly the experience I expect out of hotel food, but not the experience I expect out of a Besh restaurant. Two, if you're sitting front of house, who's cooking my food? Three, if you are FOH, why aren't you spending any time running your restaurant? Four, you can solve these issues easily by checking in with your customers regularly- not obtrusively, but between courses with a "hey, how are things going" and then you need not bother with comping a meal. Five, if Luke can get its act together it can be a very good place to eat, but until then they have a lot to work on.

I apologize for the disjointed nature of these comments, but it reflects a very disjointed meal.

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  1. I had the complete opposite experience. I was staying in the hotel and dined the first night Luke opened. The service was good, and the atmosphere was excellent. The timing was fine and the food made up for any hiccups in service that are excpected on opening night. From the Crabmeat Maison to the Shrimp Farci, everything was delicious. I loved the nostalgic old New Orleans feeling of pouring my own wine from the carafe into the small glasses. I have become a repeat customer and things have gotten better every time.

    4 Replies
    1. re: happy12

      Has the service been the same the last few times? I mean they've only been open for a week or so, so I'd imagine you've only gone back once or twice since then. I wish I had your experience though.

      1. re: jpschust

        I think it is unfair to rant like you did about a BRAND NEW restaurant, especially when your disappointments were addressed your entire meal was comped. Would you have had so much to say if it was a great meal?

        1. re: Tonto

          I would have, but the service gaffs were unacceptable, plus I think my comments were quite balanced in that the food was excellent.

        2. re: jpschust

          Yes, the service has been the same. I have had dinner twice and lunch once. They opened last Tues and the food has been great every time. I've seen the same customers that I met on opening night.

      2. In addition to only being open a short time, they've opened to one of the peak restaurant weekends in the city: 2nd Jazz Fest weekend. Many locals skip the eating out because it throws more than they can handle to even the most professionally run operations. I'm sure they've got some things to learn, however, some extra slack might be offered for the bravery of setting sail in a tidal wave.
        If you're in town long enough, try Meauxbar Bistro on North Rampart. It's small enough that they can pay attention to you, but just large enough to have good energy. Also, they've been around long enough to know the service rhythms that work in their place. Ginger-crawfish dumplings are a favorite of mine. Cheers!

        1. For what it's worth, John Besh is not the chef at Luke. Jared Tees is the chef.

          1. I didn't think your post was a rant at all; I understand your frustration and sometimes when you're actually sitting there waiting for food, 35 minutes seems like an eternity.

            But I think that in general we're hearing the same thing in these threads, that as we all already knew, good waitstaff are in short supply here, so a lot of restaurants, maybe even most, have at least some inexperienced servers. Unfortunately, as others have mentioned on other threads, that is one of many lasting effects of Katrina. Clearly when the manager came by, he knew how to deal with your situation in a responsible and professional way, but it is unrealistic at this point to expect every waiter to have the same finesse.

            Thank you for patronizing New Orleans... please be patient with our progress.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Adrienne

              Well put Adrienne. I think everyone could use a gentle reminder of the fact that FOH staffing in NOLA has been plaguing the restaurant equation post-Katrina. Hopefully as the infrastructure of affordable housing, quality schools and safe hospitals begins to take shape in the city, the qualified professionals to fill these positions will follow.

              1. re: culinarycorps

                I certainly hope so, and I've been back many many times since Katrina, though while I will always cut some extra slack for NOLA restaurants for the issue you raise, I guess the question that arises with me, is when is it no longer ok? You know when it comes down to it, it's not so much that it takes forever, but moreso that it felt like no one cared about what we asked for. The irony is had someone just addressed this earlier it would have never been an issue, but when the proprietor and managers are milling about the restaurant and ignoring us as we get more and more upset it does no one any good.

                1. re: jpschust

                  "I guess the question that arises with me, is when is it no longer ok? You know when it comes down to it, it's not so much that it takes forever, but moreso that it felt like no one cared about what we asked for."

                  You could change just a couple of words there and apply it to New Orleans' relationship with the United States. If you don't have the patience for it, then don't come here, I guess, but don't come to a city that has been through so much and received such meagre help and then be surprised when your service isn't perfect. It's just how it is. No one was actually rude to you, the manager more than made up for the service problems, so what do you want?

                  1. re: Adrienne

                    Come one, there is a point when we can start holding restaurants to national standards of service. Now, I would cut Luke lots of slack because it's been open all of one week. Almost any restaurant is rough during the first few months.

                    On the other hand, I think that once Luke, and any other new restaurant, gets up to speed that they just don't get a Katrina pass. After operating in post-Katrina New Orleans for nearly two years, with a full understanding of the labor difficulties, you should only launch concepts that you can staff.

                    Besh runs a good operation, and I'm pretty confident that these problems will be fixed soon. On the other hand, he has a very experienced management team and they should have been watching for problems and checking in with customers. Getting a meal comped is a very generous gesture and a nice acknowledgment that things could have been handled better, but it does not magically make two frustrating hours into a enjoyable memory.

                    1. re: Frolic

                      Happened to go with out planning to. I thought Cobault was pretty and interesting and worth preserving. It has a new feel and I found the chairs uncomfortable. Food was terrific, very hotel-esque, but the kind of hotel food that eclipses all others.

                      1. re: Frolic

                        You took the words right out of my mouth.

                        I had lunch at Luke for the first time today, and I thought the food was outstanding. There were some minor issues with the service - they did tend to leave stuff on the table when bringing new courses - but all in all it was very polished for a new restaurant that was nearly full by noon.

                        I am absolutely going back, and soon.

                        1. re: Frolic

                          I recently had breakfast at Luke and I was terribly dissappointed. We waited at least 6 minutes in the lobby before anyone aknowleged our presence. The breakfast was ok but nothing to write home about. Unless the prices are being reduced to accomodate the bad service and mediocre food....Katrina is not a good excuse. Its not ok to receive bad service at a pretty expensive restaurant anywhere in the country and New Orleans is no exception!

                          1. re: rchill

                            Luke is terrible! I have tried it 3 times now and had the worst service!!! One other table and I waited 30 minutes for a pork sandwich in which the pork was old and gamey! Terrible service and cafeteria quality food. I give this bomb 6-12 months tops.

                2. Luke Tonight...

                  Just got back from Luke and "disjointed," is a very apt way of describing the experience. The food was good but the entrees were a bit on the luke warm side. The appetizers of Blue point Oysters were delicious! I am familiar with the exexutive chef (Jared Tees) and have always enjoyed his food but on this night the speckled trout was cold and mushy. The Cochon du Lait sandwich was trying to be a gourmet cuban sandwich with deli ham and cornichons added to the mix. It didn't work. Nor did the hotel issue mini bottles of ketchup and mayo that were plunked down on the table. I understand we are in a hotel, but c'mon!

                  The service is where we ran into problems. We both started with a glass of wine and once that was gone the empty glasses sat on the table for a good 20 minutes before we were even checked on again. There was a general lack of attentiveness from the staff. Once I ordered a bottle of wine we waited for twenty minutes again before one of the managers came over to say that he had sent that particular case of wine back to the distributor because he had pulled a couple of bottles that were bad. Fair enough but to wait 20 minutes while someone was obviously searching for the bottle says a lot about the state of internal communications.

                  One of the managers was all over the place trying to do what he could, but the other MOD was slung up behind the bar slamming Oysters and red wine without a care in the world. I hate to say it but someone has either created or tolerated this culture in this restaurant. It honestly seemed like the servers were trying their best but hadn't been properly trained and weren't receiving anywhere close to sufficient back up from the management.

                  I am a New Orleans native and have spent a considerable amount of time in the business. The Katrina card can't be played any longer nor can the "we're new," card for that matter. It seems as people are using it as a crutch so they don't actually have to strive for excellence.

                  I will give it another go for dinner but at this rate it might just be relegated to lunch status for me. True, I did expect a lot but not unreasonably so; Instead it was the most disappointing experience I've had in a restaurant in quite some time

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: d.lish

                    I dined at Luke last night and I had a fantastic experience. There were a few gaps in service butt he atmosphere and attitudes of the staff certainly made up for it. Everyone around us seemed to also be hhaving a great time. We got the seafood tower which was fabulous and fresh. For entrees we got the veal (huge portion!) and the hamburger. The fries were the best I have ever tasted (that is alot coming from me- I love my fries) . Overall a great experience. I did not get the hotel- vibe that others have mentioned. We felt well cared for and satisifed when we left.

                    1. re: Robertpw

                      Any restaurant in the country would use the "we're new" excuse. If you chose to go to a restaurant in the first couple of months of opening you should expect that there will be issues. Great restaurants do not just appear they have to made and the process of making them can be bumpy and you have to work out the kinks. As for the "Katrina card" it is very valid that there are not enough servers in New Orleans right now. As diners we have to be patient.

                    2. I ate at Luke this past Thursday and last night (Saturday). Our waiter was a real foody who wanted the group to have a fine dining experience and a good time. We tried the trio of three beers brewed on site, sampled several appetizers and sat back and relaxed. The staff was attentive and must have read the original note by jpschust because our plates and glasses were cleared promptly and several members of the staff checked with us during every course to make sure we were enjoying it.

                      Some of the things that were delicious: crawfish bisque; fried oyster salad; oysters on the half shell; couchon de lait sandwich; turrine of foie gras.

                      We ate early both evenings, but the restaurant was full by 7:30 or so. Well worth a visit -- seems they have had the necessary shake out period and have hit their stride.

                      1. Granted I'm late getting into the loop, but I have a different view of your experience at Luke's. Many places would offer you a complimentary dessert if you complained about service. Some may have simply apologized and asked you to give them another try at a later date. I've also had a restaurant offer me a complimentary meal, good for up to $50, at a future date. That locks you into going back to the restaurant. Instead, the manager/owner of Luke's took care of the whole thing. While you may not have had the night of your dreams, you claim to have enjoyed the food. And I'm sure you enjoyed walking out with your greenbacks in tow. Sorry that you were let down. But good on the management for coming through in the end. I actually hate when someone comes around during the meal checking up on things. I like to enjoy my dinner conversation. And if I have a problem, I prefer to quietly ask to speak to the manager.

                        1. First, it's beautiful. I was seated int he back with a good view of the windowed kitchen. I'm a line chef at a large restaurant on the Texas Gulf Coast, and had been eager to try Luke or August while I was in NO. Luke worked better with my schedule. Shawn the waitress was prompt but hurried, and thus harried. No bread. She brought me water in a glass that I later discovered was chipped, and the chip resulted in a u-shaped fracture that made it back up to the rim a third of the way around the glass. The piece of glass was hanging in by something, but not much. I wondered why I seemed to have an inordinate amount of water on the table; at first I suspected it was just condensation. It wasn't.

                          Again, bread wasn't even offered. Other folks had bread. Why not my table? Inattention or harriedness on Shawn's part (more on this later). Order was taken quickly. I had the corn and crab bisque and the pressed sandwich of whole roast cochon de lait because of a big and late lunch earlier in the day.

                          The bisque was perhaps the best cup of soup I have ever had in my entire life. But alas, the bread for the sandwich was over-toasted. Beyond the crouton stage. More than just dark toast, at least at two places of the top piece of bread. I've plated food in restaurants and I am very surprised this got out of the kitchen. Maybe you call it rustic and send it out if the bread is a garnish or an accoutrement. But not when it is integral. There are three elements to a sandwich -- filling (meat or something similar), seasoning and bread. Screw any one of them up and the sandwich is screwed up. I ended up discarding half of the two top pieces of bread and eating it open face. Good thing there was some sauce, which was very good. Young suckling pig is very mild, and the meat was not well-seasoned (in the restaurant's defense, you must guard against over-seasoning cochon de lait). But at least I had the sauce.

                          It was about this time I discovered my broken (and leaky) glass when I took a drink and felt the broken chip on my lip. I pointed it out to the waitress, who said she bring another glass. No apology, just removal. It's efficient, but it isn't good service. At least she could have notified a floor manager, who comes and extends another apology. When I told the waitress that the bread on the sandwich was over-done, she seemed surprised that I would even question the quality of the food. I told her anything that was black was definitely over-done. But that was the end of it. Later, when served my tarte tatin (very good, though a little thin -- needed more fruit, IMO), the expeditor asked how my meal was and I told it was just okay, because of the sandwich, no bread, the water glass, waiting far too long for a tea refill (and then getting tea that was plain awful -- the first glass was very good though), and not having the excess water at least attended to by a side towel. She seemed surprised and her "I'm sorry" didn't ring sincere.

                          Besh is an outstanding cook. I've had his food before, and it is very good. The dessert redeemed this meal. Perfect bisque and perfectly seasoned fries cannot overcome an over-toasted sandwich, but the dessert at least put the restaurant in the category of "below avg, but maybe it was an off night and they deserve a second chance."

                          The waitress seemed eager to clear her station; she tried to do too many things at once, and as a result, did none of them well.

                          Am I holding Besh to a higher standard? Probably. I know what he can do. Tonight's meal (and service) wasn't it. When you raise the standard for yourself, folks expect more. Besh has worked hard at establishing himself as one of the new folks to keep an eye on in the culinary world. He was my pick to win the New Iron Chef. Now that the TV show is done, maybe he can get back to the Big Easy and straighten out a restaurant that may have had just an off night, or that may be coasting on the laurels of a great chef.

                          Since Shawn seemed to be in a hurry to leave, I did too. Nothing comped, nor did I ask for it. Didn't speak to a manager; spoke to no one other than the woman who was expediting meals from the window and Shawn.

                          But I will notify the Luke team of my dining misadventures. It's been 6 months, and this kind of Dickensian review (It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...) seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: TXDavid

                            That sucks about your experiance. As I understand it, Chef Besh is not the executive Chef and fuels the imput on the menu, but not the daily runing of that kitchen. Jared Tees is the Exectutive Chef and managing partner. I think that you should definetly write a letter, restaurants can not get better unless they fully understand the problems. Perhaps next time you should have lunch at August where your fine dining expectations will be met.

                          2. Is Luke a good place for a group of 7?

                            1. I've been to Luke multiple times and have had a great time overall. I think service has without doubt progressively improved since it first opened. Before I go further, the comment about the wine glasses... its styled after a French Bistro. Eventhough you can get wine glasses in Paris the 'highball' glasses as they were referred to are commonplace there. With that said, I can't say I'd have a light meal there. I'm hooked on the Steak au Poivre. The Mussels are fantastic. I never eat fries but I break that rule there. Dipped in the Mussel broth mmm. Its a great place to go with a group. Its open late. The lunch and daily specials are really good. I haven't had breakfast there so can't comment on that. I'm never up that early. With respect to bad service. I agree it is inexcusable. I too prefer to be left alone during a meal. Constant intrusion is annoying. When I'm in a situation where service is unacceptable, I call over the manager, and it is usually taken care of immediately. If it isn't, I don't go back. The fact the manager comped you the meal was generous. I wouldn't have stewed over the bad service for 2 hours, I would have said something and salvaged the meal and experience. Fortunately this has been a non-issue for me there. Judging this restaurant based on the initial experience within a week of opening is just an unnecessary rant. I'd suggest the initial reviewer go back now. He or she will see a difference.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Foodie4Nola

                                We ate at Luke on Christmas Eve and absolutely loved it. The food was great (limited menu, though). I had the mussels, which were perfect, and those that had the steak were very pleased. Of course, our 7 year old is desperate for a glimpse of Chef Besh after watching NIC so our wallet much prefers the thought of taking her to Luke rather than to August (although she really loves the sugar and spice duckling at August).

                                Our service was lovely, attentive but not intrusive.

                                1. re: grlwprls

                                  You might want to try August on Friday's when they are open for lunch. Our daughter also wanted to meet Chef Besh and he is there and works the dining room at lunch. You can also call and verify when he will be there to make sure, and make reservations at the same time. He came to our table and introduced himself to our daughter and made her feel very special! And the food and service are excellent.

                              2. We ate at Luke Christmas night, the place was jammed, and it was fantastic. We originally had a 9:30 rez (the only time they could fit us in), but I called several times during the day, and they finally agreed to bump us up to 7:30. We were seated promptly by a very friendly maitre d, and were given bread and water within 1-2 minutes of sitting down. Our waiter was young and little laid back, but knew the menu inside and out, had several helpful suggestions, and there was never even a moment where we lacked for anything. After four days of eating and drinking we didn't want to drink that much so we split a very reasonably priced 1/2 carafe. For apps. we had the fried oyster bacon and romaine salad and the crabmeat maison. Both were fantastic. For a main, I had the Shrimp en Cocette which was a little like barbequed shrimp but with andouille on top of grits which absorbed the sauce wonderfully. My mom got the prime rib with oyster stuffing and something else that I can't recall but was yummy. For dessert we split the bread pudding with glazed pecan a la mode which was a perfect finish. Maybe they didn't have their act together before, but I can't imagine a trip to Nola without a meal at Luke.

                                1 Reply
                                1. Sadly, after months, Luke still has yet to solve its serious service problems (but it sounds like they may get it together some nights, as above posts suggest.) I ate there in September and had good food with horrible service. I warned my party of 4 set for Thursday, 12/27, about my experience but we decided that, with the prospects of good food and all, it would be worth another try. They did seat us right away and we were happy (we thought) to get a table by the "exhibition" kitchen. (We enjoy being kitchen voyeurs.) The "show" that night was of an very upset team, yelling at each other and [audibly] cursing at, what we guessed, were each other's mistakes and service problems. A couple of them looked like they could have killed somebody. In our attempt for a happy, dramaless evening, we learned that it be best not to gaze back there any longer. The pickup counter was so overflowing with undelivered food that they had to remove dishes after having sat there 20+ min. They were routinely taking the french fry orders that weren't picked up after a long period (a LOT of them) and throwing them back into the grease, placing them into new little cups. Anyway, it took 1 hour to receive our first course. Some items weren’t delivered at all. We ordered 1 1/2 dozen oysters and got 16. Our waiter completely abandoned us. It took complaints to the manager to do any good. Even so, 1 more hour for the main course. They ended up comping about 1/2 the meal. In some ways, I wish the food were bad so it would be easy just to write the place off. To complicate things, the food was great. The next night at August, when John Besh greeted us at our table it was tempting to say something but we thought, "nahh."

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Hungry4Good

                                    same probs here since the very first time. won't endure it again -- how long can this possibly go on????

                                  2. I agree, how long before Luke is closed? It cant be more than another year! Tried 3 times and every time it was horrible! Food is really average and service is worse, if thats possible! I bet 100 bucks it's gone before mardi gras 2009