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Mar 27, 2008 03:45 PM

Lucien Lately?

After reading Chatto's '10 Best New Restaurants' article. Am thinking of giving Lucien a try. Any one been recently? Is the food really that good to justify #1? Thanks!

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  1. My wife and I went to Lucien's tonight for dinner. I had the pork belly as an appetizer (which was amazing) and the braised short rib as a main (tasty but a bit tough). My wife had the scallops & crab as an appetizer (a bit of molecular gastronimic mess) and the fried hen (the bird was well cooked but the whole dish didn't work). The chef there has serious skills, but the food on the plate seems a bit disjointed. I can only come up with the term culinary masturbation, like a guitarist who likes to solo for the sake of soloing, to show how good he or she is. That's how I view Lucien. The dishes show all the culinary skills that the kitchen has, but sometimes they lose focus on the cohesion of the dish and focus on each part too much. We've been there twice now and have felt the same way twice.

    One more thing -- with such complex dishes, servers should explain the dish. Both times we were there, the server dumped our main courses on our table and walked away, although appetizers were explained. Go figure,.

    9 Replies
    1. re: snackventurer

      Many thanks for your detail and 'interesting' feed back! Though costing a bit more, guess I'll give Lucien a pass and just stick with my perennial favourites of George or Splendido.

      1. re: Charles Yu

        My last time at George was my worst experience yet. And the prices seem to have jumped dramatically (tasting menu was the same price as Susur - not that that will impress you - but significant $ anyway).
        Have you been recently?
        Of course, no argument with Splendido!

        1. re: estufarian

          I was at George last month, did not have the tasting menu, order from a la carte. Found the food still very good, quite a lots of ingradients are used in each dish which gives me a lots of different tastes, but overall the dishes are delicious. Personally, I I found the food not too much off Splendido.

          1. re: skylineR33

            Maybe it was just a very bad night - with the emphasis on VERY. Food was competent at best. By far my worst experience there (in January this year). And I was surprised at the bill (around $500 for two) - in my mind I had anticipated substantially less than that.

          2. re: estufarian

            My last visit to George was about 4-5 months ago. The chef's tasting menu was sublime. Especially some of the game dishes. However. I heard they have lost some key kitchen members recently including the sous chef, a line chef and the pastry chef. May be one should wait a while for them to get their house back into order?! However, I have lots of confidence with chef Lorenzo Losato. On a good night his dishes are really hard to beat.

            1. re: Charles Yu

              Please do report back when you next go. I need some reassurance before returning.
              However, I do love their patio - so will probably return when the weather is warmer.

        2. re: snackventurer

          Charles, to me you seem to be "about the food," so on that basis I have to agree with snackventurer and Degustation. snack-v, you are so right about the lack of cohesion in the overall dishes; the individual elements are beyond reproach (even beautiful), but in my view an imaginitive "deconstruction" also implies a satisfying "reconstruction" - in this case my overall impression of the dishes we sampled (admittedly based on a single visit) really did not match that expectation. Per Degustation, I agree that Colborne Lane (which I found fantastic) does a much better job on this style of cuisine.

          1. re: snackventurer

            Sounds just like Habitat. Let's throw (OK that's too emotional a word - they don't throw them, just place them around the plate in a manner that will confuse) the ingredients on a plate - regardless of whether they go together!

            1. re: snackventurer

              I was at Lucien last week (June 3) with some colleagues. The food was great, very comparable to George. The atmosphere was perfect, very lively, but not too loud - especially given that it was a working dinner.

              I recommend the Bison Steak it was second to none (the tuna my colleague was eating did not look to compare).

              the dishes are very complex, so there needs to be a discription of each course. I guess that adds to the excitement?!

              All in all, I would recommend.

            2. My friend took me out for a birthday celebration in mid-Jan and we had the five course tasting menu. Though it was good, it certainly wasn't as memorable as the Fat Duck but then again, FD is in a totally different league.

              From what I do remember, we had the pickerel with "flash-fried brocolli" and the Quebec porcelait -- deconstructed cassoulet. The Creme Catalan seemed to have a bit of skin indicating it was sitting around too long. We had the cheese plate -- mostly from Quebec.

              Service was quite good, with detailed descriptions of the dishes, along with knowledgeable answers to questions. Simon Bower greeted and seated us, and worked the room.

              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.

              1. I took a friend out for a belated birthday dinner last night. This was our first trip to Lucien. We were greeted at the door by Simon and given a nice, intimate table. There seemed to be a large number of staff for the size of the restaurant, so service was never a problem. In fact, a few minutes after the appetizers arrived and were explained, someone else came over to ensure that they had been explained. :)

                I had the Berkshire Pork Belly. The favours of the individual items on the plate were odd but when eaten all together, worked. It was quite salty, however. My guest had a new item: scallops, which he thoroughly enjoyed. They were just barely cooked and very tender.

                I had the Milk Fed Lamb Loin as my main. The plate was lovely: it looked like an artist's palate with various smudges of puree. The lamb was very tender and perfectly cooked. It was excellent. My companion had the tuna. I didn't taste any of it but it looked seared and just barely cooked, which was perfect. He enjoyed it.

                We didn't have dessert but coffee instead which was dark and rich. We both liked the French bistro atmosphere of the place. Nothing was over-cooked. I would certainly go back again. It was nice to have a lovely dinner for two and not have to shell out over $300 like the last two times I went to one of the city's better establishments.

                2 Replies
                1. re: daverblond

                  Welcome to chowhound daverblond. Sounds like you had a good meal. I'm curious as to what the other establishments are that you refer to above?

                  1. re: daverblond

                    If the other establishments are better, as you put it, aren't they worth more?

                  2. I had the worst meal I have ever ever had when I went to Lucien. I was visiting for the week and made this my last stop on the foodie tour. Big mistake. I can usually eat anything, finish anything, even if it's awful, but this dish was intolerable for me.

                    I got there and the hostess who took my reservation was super nice - she gave me the best seat in the house, yada yada.

                    The server on the other hand, was totally pompous and cold. He asked if I wanted wine and I asked for a non alcoholic drink. He wasn't nice, or welcoming even before I skipped the wine. Immediately and snootily took the wine list away. Then he asked if I had decided. I said "I'm going with the organic fried hen". He then said "Is that IT?" I said "yes, I have an early flight tomorrow" and he said "fair enough" and walked away as I was still saying "I want to keep it light".

                    Dish comes out - it looks really good. Server comes back to drolly explain it and then leaves. I am excited. But it is super salty. Way way way too much salt. The creamed collards tasted awfully bitter and did not pair well with the salty chicken. The leg meat was ok but totally over seasoned. The pink breast really freaked me out (I suspected it was from being sous vided, but having have suffered from food poisoning before and having an early flight, I didn't want to risk it), so I left it until someone came back to ask me how everything was to ask about it.

                    No one ever did. He walked by quite a few times, watched me eat my meal, refilled other wine glasses, etc. but never asked.

                    Finally when I got some water b/c the dish was so crazy salty, I asked about it. He assured me it was fine and said he totally understood. I felt more comfortable eating it but the entire dish was so bad that I left half of my plate untouched.

                    He then asked what I would like for dessert and I said I was keeping it light and skipping it. He said "fine" or something. I knew their desserts wouldn't be great thanks to Rabbit's review, so I wanted to go to Solferino's after.

                    I really thought it was terrible service, terrible food and I would highly recommend against it.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: freelancer

                      I would absolutely agree with freelancer. The service at Lucien is atrocious. The owner seems quite willing to mix and mingle with guests, and I suppose I can't fault him for comping desserts for 'friends of the restaurant'. However, when this is done in close proximity to other diners, it makes one feel like a second-class citizen. Please comp things discretely!

                      However, the service issues were more with the waiter - tall, dour-looking older gentleman. We were seated, and waited probably 7 or 8 minutes before anyone came by the table to ask about a drink/welcome us. We had a wine-list in front of us, but, more in the mood for a martini we asked the aforementioned waiter 'what are the options' when he inquired as to our beverage selection. He very sarcastically replied 'well, it's liquid and comes in a glass'. Lovely. I sarcastically replied that I was thinking of a martini and he went off to get the menu, no apology for the 'misunderstanding'. Bad tone set right from the start.

                      His other big faux pas was constantly pointing to every little item on our plates as they were served, fingers literally 2-3 inches from our food, and noting 'this is x, that's y'...perhaps helpful, but get your fingers away from the food, please!!

                      As for the food - mixed bag, bison was quite good, the sides it came with were not - overly dry. Scallop starter - reasonably good. Fish - fine. But, portions were very small, and food was far too 'over-done'. We don't need to see the chef try and create 40 different flavours on one plate. Just do it competently and cleanly. And when your service is as atrocious as this, having overly-wrought and pretentious food absolutely does not match - we felt like we were eating at a poorly-run Swiss Chalet, from a service perspective.

                      Couldn't wait to get out of there, paid within 30 seconds of getting the bill, and happily went next door for gelato at Solferino for dessert - by far the best part of the meal, and our service was probably 40 times better, at 1/20th the cost.

                      1. re: georgebell11

                        "His other big faux pas was constantly pointing to every little item on our plates as they were served, fingers literally 2-3 inches from our food, and noting 'this is x, that's y'...perhaps helpful, but get your fingers away from the food, please!!"

                        Ewwww!!! Nothing turns me off more than this.

                        1. re: georgebell11

                          Sounds like you and I had the same dour server. Does Lucien have an email address I can write to? I sure would like to bring this to their attention.

                          UGH! Still bitter about that.

                          Word on Solferino being the best thing about the night! Thankfully, that was the way to cap off the wonderful visit to Toronto!

                      2. I dined at Lucien recently for the first time. Mr. Clicquot and I were intending to go to JKWB but there was such a long waiting list we decided to try somewhere else in the area. We were able to get a seat at Lucien almost immediately. Overall, I found the service decent - our waiter helped us select a wine that wouldn't overpower our food choices and was able to answer questions and describe each of the dishes. As for the food: the highlight of the meal was our starters - the Berkshire pork and some Ontario asparagus. For mains, we had the char and another pork dish. Dessert consisted of a rhubarb concoction and some cheeses. My general impression is similar to what others have said - there was a LOT going on with each of the dishes. If you are using quality ingredients (ie. fresh Ontario asparagus or locally raised pork), I don't think the dishes require so many components - let the ingredients shine. Like others, I found my main (the pork) incredibly salty but I've been trying to cut back on my sodium intake recently so I thought maybe I was overly sensitive to it (Mr. C. did not find things too salty) . We enjoyed our meal overall but it might be nice to see some of the dishes stripped back a little so we can really taste the ingredients and chef's talents.