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Lucien: Tasting menu or A la Carte?

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I'm thinking of Lucien for a birthday dinner tonight.
From their website it looks like the price of the 3 course tasting menu is about equal to ordering 3 courses a la carte. Does anybody know if the tasting menu includes any extra bells and whistles (amuse, sorbet, what-have-you) that might make it a better choice?
I'd also love any recommendations for specific menu items.
I'm a little dubious about Lucien, as I thought Scott Wood's cooking at Habitat was pretentious. But I really like emphasis on local & artisanal approach he seems to be taking at Lucien.

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  1. I've been to Lucien twice. Once for dinner (and sampled a reasonably wide range of menu items) and once for snacks (an OK charcuterie plate with a not-great cocktail).

    We had three three-course menus and one a la carte (diner only wanted two courses) on the night of our dinner visit. No bells and whistles for us, so I don't think there's anything to advise the tasting menu as such.

    Our food was actually quite good (not a revelation, but Lucien's worth a try). Memorable dishes... the pork belly and kimchee was a big sell and the octopus appy was quite nice. The kitchen knows how to treat meat and the lamb, red deer and short ribs were all nicely executed with interesting sides (a fish dish was OK, but the meat dishes shine here, IMHO). Dessert was a disappoint. The kitchen can put together a nice cheese plate, but don't fall for the chocolate tasting (a few stingy bits of hacked up chocolate bars with various distracting sauces and add-ons... i.e. cedar gelee or sea salt).

    Here's a full review of our visit with photos:
    http://www.rabbitreporting.com/restau...

    Cocktails are not-great. Wine list is fair and reasonable (although hard core wine-ys will probably be disappointed).

    Hope this doesn't sound too negative. Lucien will be fun eating for a birthday dinner. Please do report back!