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Report: Luke's! in Kingston

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It's been over a month since the hounds chowed down at Luke's in Kingston, but I don't think anyone has reported back yet. This was based on the winter menu, so it's out of date, unfortunately, but I thought it was still worth sharing.

The 2+ hour drive out to Kingston in the pouring rain certainly had me wondering if it was worth the journey before we even got there, but there were plenty of snacks and lots of good chow conversation on the way.

We arrived at Luke's before it had even opened and waited for them to let us in. They had us seated at two separate tables because they didn't have a spot for 10. They'd also warned us in advance that the tables would have to be served separately, since Luke does all the cooking himself and he couldn't plate for 10 people at the same time.

My table of four opted for an assortment of dishes to be shared amongst all of us right from the start. We all end up eating off each others plates anyway, so there's no point in pretending that your dinner is going to be your dinner. Plus, this way, we're sure to get more variety.

We were presented with a generous amuse, that I remember being a skewer of something or other, and I remember liking, but I don't remember what it was. D'oh! Lamb, maybe?

We opted for the crisp smoked pork belly, house chevre napolean, charcuterie plate and winter caesar (we wanted some vegetables to give us a break from all the meat).

The chevre was finished, so we had house ricotta in its place, which was fine, though I would have liked to try the chevre. The charcuterie plate was excellent, with stellar accompaniments for each item, including a really fantastic mustard, that I could have happily eaten off a spoon. The winter caesar didn't actually include much in the way of vegetables -- it was totally deconstructed and there were just tiny sprigs of lettuce, more of a garnish than a part of the dish. It was delicious, but some more lettuce to go with the dressing would have been nice. The really fantastic thing, though, was the pork belly. We could have quite happily eaten nothing but that all night.

For mains, we ordered the linguine all carbonara, rabbit thrice, tete de cochon and mixed grill. The linguine was eh. The triple-smoked bacon in it was lovely, but that was drowned out by a gloopy, creamy sauce that did it no favours -- I'd have have preferred to just have a side of bacon.

Rabbit thrice had rabbit rillette (it was a recurring theme on the night, it showed up in all sorts of places, too many really), rabbit loin and rabbit confit. I've never been a fan of rabbit, and haven't eaten it in years, both the loin and confit, though, I thought were excellent, so perhaps I need to reconsider my anti-rabbit stance. I also loved the leek confiture on the side.

The tete de cochon was served with a vast variety of accompaniments, including more of the pork belly (woo!). It made for lots of interesting flavour combinations, and a lot of care is obviously taken with the plating and the choice of sides.

The mixed grill had more pork belly (did I mention woo?), two kinds of sausage (one of which was good and the other of which was fantastic!), more rabbit rillette (the rillette and the pork belly made about the same number of appearances, but I loved the pork belly, so I was never sorry to see it, unlike the rillette which got a little tiresome) and an excellent parsnip veloute.

Bacon ice cream -- fun concept, way too salty -- came after dinner.

Desserts were good, especially the cinnamon ice cream.

We also got to try a black olive ice cream that I liked quite a lot more than I liked the bacon. Still, weird ice cream flavours just aren't my thing.

Luke's mom was acting as the host, and she's a *very* proud mom -- really anxious to share her joy in her son with all of her customers.

Not everything put on our plates was a winner, but it was certainly worth the drive -- even in the pouring rain -- to Kingston.

(For anyone who is interested in joining in on the local hound dinners, see the Google group: http://groups.google.com/group/chowho... ).

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Luke's
264 Princess St, Kingston, ON K7L1B5, CA

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  1. The pork belly was heavenly...

    As for other dishes we sampled that night:

    * The pacific salmon sous vide was a generous-sized, well-prepared salmon filet, accompanied by mounds of candied walnuts and mushrooms, along with a cabbage puree that made a nice accompaniment.

    * The smoked salmon on the charcuterie plate had a good peppery afterburn that snuck up on you.

    * The amuse was a tender piece of lamb shank on a stick, accompanied by rhubarb puree (trying to remember the quote about how can one go wrong with meat on sticks...)

    * The main complaint at my table was the amount of salt used, which seemed to grow as the night wore on. Even the desserts had salt - a chocolate-based plate was tasty except for the addition of salt crystals on the bottom of the chocolate-chianti cream.

    * I was surprised to find myself liking the black olive ice cream (given my general dislike of olives, though that may be changing). The smoked cinnamon ice cream tasted fine for the first bite or two, but the smoke flavouring overpower after awhile, with a taste like the smell of your clothes after coming out of a cigarette-drenched bar.

    I've posted a few pictures of the meal described in this thread - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbcurio/...

    1. I went to Luke's June 29th with hubby. Best meal I've had in years. The dishes were intriguing, inventive, and humorous.

      The dishes were heavy on umami (a.k.a. the "5th taste"). By the end of the meal my brain was doing that little tap dance that I associate with eating foie gras.

      My favourite was the pork belly with scallop "gnocci". The pork belly was wonderfully crispy outside, and soft/smoky/salty inside. The scallops complemented it very well.

      I found the deconstructed caesar to be funny, in the same way that a good joke includes an element of surprise that makes you break out in laughter. Yes, it tasted like a caesar, but in the most unusual way.

      The other highlight for me was the confit de canard. I'm a sucker for confit, and this was perfectly prepared. It was on top of a rectangle of very fresh bright green pureed peas. They tasted exactly like they had just been picked, and I could be quite happy just eating a meal of those peas with some good bread.

      We were unfortunately too stuffed for dessert. But that's a good excuse to make another trip to Kingston.

      1. I'm crazed with jealousy. I was in Kingston for a christening in May, and hoped to make it to Luke's, but had no time. It sounds like I'll have to make the expedition specifically for dinner.

        1. I ate there just the other day with a few friends…charcuterie was some of the best we ever had. Food was Innovative enough but sometimes to clever, Duck crème brulee? Not our thing. We had a total of 9 dishes or so tete de cochon was very good, so was the pork belly an scallops….vanilla with rabbit rillette was a mess about the third bite in, Didn’t work either. For an establishment that promotes local, where are the veggies?? Asparagus puree (Asparagus is out of season when we ate) and pea puree that’s it!
          We tried the “Luke’s” vineyard house wine at $39 a bottle, that wine won’t be winning any awards anytime soon. Over all nice to experience at least once but won’t be returning.

          1 Reply
          1. re: time.to.eat.

            This place benefits from the theory of relativity...since there isnt anything like this around Kingston it comes off as uberhip and daringly creative. He's got the right idea...but there is a serious price-product mismatch. It's a good addition to K-town though...

          2. I had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago. His more traditional dishes were well executed - especially the confit duck - just perfect. A number of his adventurous dishes were certainly inventive but not always great-tasting food - i.e. the beef cheeks 'filet mignon' was shaped braised beef that had been ?seared? - yup, pretty dry

            He is a good writer - might benefit from an editor though.