Lucien - Anyone?
Haven't been back lately but I went several times last year and the food was great. I'd love to go back but so many places to try, so little time. I'll probably go back in the near future to verify my opinions. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it the first few times was the relative newness of the cooking techniques. There are a lot more places experimenting with sous-vide cooking and the other new techniques now but at the time, the sous-vide salmon (which they don't advertise as such) was a new experience for me.
My GF and myself popped by Lucien for a few glasses on wine after some Valentine's Day shopping at the market (being in the industry I know from years of experience that cooking at home is a judicious choice on V Day!).
Anyway, we sat at the bar and enjoyed a few glasses of a delicious Pinot Noir, the 2005 Macedon Ranges from Rochford, Yarra Valley... a selection that the always-charming Simon Bower guided me towards.
As we watched the restaurant slowly fill up with Valentine's Day customers, a very pleasant time was had indeed...
The early evening drinks were made all the more special by a surprise pair of apps that miraculously appeared in front of us, compliments of the house!
I really need to go back for a full dinner.
I was really disappointed with Lucien.
We did the 4 course tasting menu, which ended up meaning smaller portions of everything on the menu.
The foie gras pate served as an amuse bouche had flecks of something crunchy that I at first thought were peppercorns. Velvet textured duck with gravel chunks. Yum? No.
Hadn't yet finished my martini so I didn't get a pairing with that.
The kimchee soup was nice except for the chunk of braised beef rib that was so chewy for the size of the morsel and dry that it was unenjoyable. The quail egg was worth mentioning.
The sunchoke flan was inspired though. Beautiful texture and delicate selection of mushrooms made for a savory complement to the sweet and smooth flan.
I can't even remember the intermezzo except that it was awkward to eat. Was I supposed to lick it off the ice? Something about a campari foam, which was interesting to my ear but not to my tongue.
Thankfully out came the venison. Again, some pieces were chewy but overall it was phenomenal. This dish saved the meal. There were foams and dressings over celeriac and what appeared to me to be lettuce. A rich and dark cherry-like sauce with the venison was heavenly. The pinot noir paired with this was the only successful wine match. Everything else was a white chardonnay, or flat pear juice like white.
A small pot of spiced chocolate was served with the same breadsticks that preceded our first course and no, the salty/sweet thing was not appealing.
Waited forever for the tiramisu ice cream. It was pretty standard...I would have rather had a classic tiramisu.
Service wasn't anything special. Explanations were rushed. Wait times between courses were long and overdue.
If the tasting menu doesn't depart from the main menu, why bother?
Was going to go to Zee's Grill instead and really wish I had.
Went there this evening for about the fifth or sixth time and it was probably the best meal I have had there. The menu continues to be tweaked with the seasons and it was a very comforting place to go on a snowy December evening. It's a place I can rely on for a good meal. Not cheap though...
We tried Lucien for the first time on Saturday (April 08). It was a solid meal, a nice night out with lots of good moments, and I'd be happy to go back once they switch up the menu.
I have a long-ish review and pictures posted here:
I actually think the #1 new resto rating in TL is doing this place a slight dis-service because it's making people think that this place is one of Toronto's "best" while I don't think it would actually even make a top 5 overall (probably not even a top 10). Lucien is a delightful newcomer, but it's no Spendido, Scaramouche, Susur.
Comparisons to Colborne Lane are apt, however, because the restaurants feel similar and have a like approach to food. On that note, I think CL does it better - actually, appreciably better, but that's just my opinion.
Still, Lucien isn't at all shabby. Our table shared Kane's enthusiasm about the kimchee and pork belly app. We were also impressed by how the kitchen prepared meats (lamb and red deer were particularly good). Desserts were a disappoint (and the "chocolate complex" a manifest rip).
But I think Lucien does a great job of delivering what it actually intends to do. This isn't Splendido, Scaramouche or Susur, and it's not fair to try to make it behave like a restaurant of that calibre.
In short, I think Degustation got it about right:
"I don't think you can compare Lucien with Splendido -- for overall quality, service, atmosphere and dining experience - Splendido just wins hands down against all competition in this town. / If you want to try molecular gastronomy, then Lucien seems serviceable; however, I question its #1 placing compared to Colborne. Next week, I'll be returning to do the tasting menu at Colborne Lane (they didn't have this the first time we went) so it will be interesting to compare."
Despite the slightly negative tone of this post, we have a great evening, and I would recommend (just calibrate your expectations accordingly).
Finally going to Lucien tomorrow night with my suburban mommy friend who never gets to go out downtown. Our last big city fling was at Colborne Lane when they first opened, which delighted her to no end especially as the waiter even walked us back to our hotel down the street! (so it was helpful to hear your comparisons with CL on rabbitreporting)
Has anyone tried their current offerings?
re: Food Tourist
We did not enjoy Lucien. From the mediocre service, to the incompetent bartenders, to the overpriced, terrible wines by the glass, to the mostly blah food, it was a waste of money. The only memorable items were the burrata heirloom tomato salad, pork belly (with wasabi mousse and poached egg), and lamb main (with delicious Indian flavours and cardamom made to resemble cocaine). Definitely stay away from the spiny scallops, the bison with hominy cake and poblano smear, and the really, really odd chicken. And the apple crisp martini was indeed crisp.
Colborne Lane is 100 times better in every way. And I'd rather pay $11 for nitro ice cream than $18 for 5 pieces of chocolate (2 of which are from Soma).
Had an amazing meal at Lucien last night. The pork belly with kimchee, cuddlefish and clams was amazing. Loved the table side service of the french onion soup, with the lovely duck consomme poured over the duck and croutons. The fried hen was great, especially the leg, breast slightly over cooked. Lastly the Pork loin dish with brioche pasta was amazing as well. Don't know what the sauces were, but they made the dish. And I can't forget about the house churned buter!
The service was excellent, even though the wait for each course was a bit longer than average the attentive and friendly service made up for it, and created a relaxed dinner. Our waiter even made it a point to follow us out of the restaurant to wish us a good night and shake our hands since we missed him on the way out. Very nice touch.
I also got a chance to talk to a couple of the kitchen staff to tell them how happy we were with everything, they were very gracious and obviously very passionate about what they do, which is great to see.
Highly recommended, and in my opinion a good price point for the caliber of the meal.
Went to Lucien last night for the first time. I've been keen to check it out since it opened. One question.... What is the fuss????? Am I missing something? Sure the food is creative, but it's also over-priced, the portions are small and pretentious - it's very 80's. My fish was funky, and I don't mean it had rhythm, very disappointed with the apple fritters, and they were definitely tight with the wine serving. It's clear to me that they are there to impress the downtown suits with big expense accounts. Given the choice to go, for a free meal at Lucien again or to go to Chinatown, I'd choose Chinatown. This is a business, not a restaurant.
I'm generally one who enjoys a $7 bowl of rare beef pho over a $30 plate of molecular gastro foam, even if I'm not paying. However I have to say I was quite pleased with my recent experience here. Simon Bower was the consumate host - knowlegable and a pleasure to speak with even though I was definitely not one of his "money" covers that night he took plenty of time to speak with me about the food, his recommendations, and pairings (was even comp'd a glass) the food (particularly the pickerel with chickpeas) was exceedingly well executed and not overwrought, and the atmosphere relaxing. You can tell he takes great pride in what he does, and it shows throughout the whole of the restaurant. Sure it might have the potential to be viewed as a tad pretentious (the bartender was doing her best "pretty vacant" impression), but on my night I left feeling quite well taken care of. And to the poster previous to me - any restaurateur who does not view his establishment as a business is not one for long - don't kid yourself.
Thanks for the friendly and delightful debate CriolloLover - I respect your comments, as you sound like you know what you're talking about. You've given me some "food for thought" and a general awareness that I'd better be careful with my future commentary, for fear they be misinterpreted.
It's also nice that you paid attention to the details of what I wrote - makes me appreciate that listening truly is a sign of "respect" ... and I'm not being sarcastic. I never thought Chowhound would also be an educational experience for me.
My only real retort is that I wish I felt differently about Lucien. I really wanted to love it, but I didn't. Every great dining experience I have now is about "soul"... Like the Argentinian family restaurant I went to in Vegas where the grandmother was in the back, hand-making the best empanadas I've ever tasted in a delicate pastry, or even King Palace on Dupont, where the cab drivers go 24/7 for cheap and cheerful Indian... I guess my dining experiences are in a different place these days... I know it's a business... and no doubt that Simon is a great and gracioius host (hey, I didn't get a free glass of wine...), I also had to chuckle at your comments about "gastro foam" and the barmaid - I think we had the same one.
Keep in touch. I'd be interested in hearing about your favourite "joints"...
I had the opprotunity to dine at Lucien tonight. It was rather busy for a Thursday evening and the dining room produced a nice vibe. The 3 of us each ordered different firsts, mains and desserts. Everything was well executed and we enjoyed every course. The service was attentive and I plan to definitely return in the near future.
http://img214.imageshack.us/img214/5236/cimg1969hx0.jpg - Foie Gras Ravioli
http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/3516/cimg1970bs8.jpg - Sushi Pizza
http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/541/cimg1971oa5.jpg - Berkshire Pork Belly
http://img251.imageshack.us/img251/6465/cimg1972uf0.jpg - Milk Fed Lamb Loin
http://img526.imageshack.us/img526/6983/cimg1973xn1.jpg - Red Deer
http://img526.imageshack.us/img526/9493/cimg1974ze5.jpg - Beef Tenderloin
http://img206.imageshack.us/img206/5041/cimg1976hw8.jpg - Indian Spiced Monkfish
http://img130.imageshack.us/img130/802/cimg1979ix5.jpg - House Made Ice Cream Bars
http://img255.imageshack.us/img255/1940/cimg1980eg8.jpg - Warm Ontario Apple Fritters
http://img255.imageshack.us/img255/26... - Creme Catalan
My wife and I had dinner at Lucien this past Saturday and we enjoyed it immensely. Before any remarks about the food I have to say that Simon is one of the most gracious hosts I have encountered. We walked in at 8 PM, without a reservation and he and his staff did everything the could to accomodate us. They seated us at the bar and when two better seats (more central rather than facing the pillar and espresso machine) became available the two bartenders moved our coats, set-ups and dishes down before seating us again.
The food was well executed, flavors were clear and complex and the presentation was well done - no squeeze bottle wizardry in evidence. I had the pumpkin tart which was excellent and my wife had the chanterelle consomme - the broth was excellent and the mushrooms were well prepared. We then had the duck ramen (the duck was prepared spot on and the ramen broth, mushrooms and noodles were cooked perfectly) and the "fried" chicken. For dessert we shared the Catalan creme brulee with spiced grapes - a light, creamy, sweet finish to an excellent meal.
If there were any opportunities for improvement I would hope the wine list continues to grow in terms of the choice though I commend the restaurant for selecting sane price points. Also, if the pace of service the night we were there is typical, I'd characterize it as leisurely. Nearly 40 minutes elapsed between appetizer and main and we were not alone - many dinners in the room were waiting for their entrees. Its a partially open kitchen and we could see that it wasn't in the weeds and there wasn't a line up at the door so I can only guess that this is a typical approach.
However, given the food and the pleasant reception we received from Simon and his staff we would definitely return.
I saw two decent reviews this weekend, too. I believe it was probably these:
I posted a (perhaps slightly premature) query about Lucien a few weeks back and got some responses. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/448508
And their full website is now active, with menu: http://www.lucienrestaurant.com
We were at Lucien this week.
The Chanterelle consomme was intriguing, and I appreciated all of the elements involved.
Hubby loved it, but I was less enchanted.
I had the pork belly, squid, etc. comb app., lightly spiced, and quite good.
Our friend had the sushi pizza, she said that it was excellent, but the portion was too small for us to request a taste.
The mains, S had the duck, and thought it very good.
I had the chicken, breast crisped topping, and quite tender, with a roulade of leg , and many small interesting tastes, as with all of their dishes.
Our guest had the monkfish, and also very pleased.
We three shared the apple fritter dessert, and it too was very good.
I cannot even think about the amount of time required to finish each plate with the tease of flavours on each plate.
Overall it was an excellent meal, and Simon was at every table greeting guests, and inquiring as to the enjoyment of the dishes.
Only drawback (for me) but not for most was the noise level.
We were fortunate, as there are three tables, a little away from the bar, on a platform facing the kitchen, a little quieter than the rest of the place, and were able to be seated there.
I do suggest asking for seating in this section.
I don't like too much distraction from serious food, and pleasant conversation.
It wouldn't stop me from returning, , but I would have been happier without the music, and din.