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Lucques

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Full review with photos: http://twofoodiesonejourney.blogspot....

Suzanne Goin has left quite an impact in the dining scene of Los Angeles over the last decade with the opening of several well respected restaurants such as A.O.C., Hungry Cat, Tavern and most prominently Lucques. Her talent is widely recognized and represented in six nomination for James Beard awards including one for her cookbooks, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques”.
As much as we like especially Hungry Cat (we have visited both places in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara), our visits so far to Lucques always left us with mixed feelings. The food and service were mostly good but never really outstanding, and we always felt like that the restaurant had much more potential but for different reasons was never able to fully utilize it. On a recent trip to Los Angeles we thought it was perhaps a good time to try out Lucques again for one of their well-known Sunday Suppers.
Lucques is kind of hidden on Melrose Ave, and if you don’t really know where it is it you can easily miss it. It’s a small building with ivy on the front wall, and once you step inside you feel like entering somebody’s living room. The main dining room has a very comfy but elegant feeling with brick stone walls, a fireplace in the middle of the room and large mirrors on the walls that make the room appear much larger than it is. There is also a beautiful patio in the back which is a nice option especially in the summer.
Unfortunately our evening didn’t start without problems. We had asked for a place in the dining room when making the reservation since we anticipated cold weather for that weekend, but were initially guided to the patio. After a short discussion we were then shown a table in the dining room which was clearly one of the worst in the house (directly at a pass where most of the guests and servers are walking by all the time) even though there were several other tables available. After another discussion we were given a much better table. Interestingly, we saw the same behavior also later in the evening when the restaurant was nearly empty and a new group of guests arrived; they had a very long discussion to get one of the booths (instead of the table they were first offered) even though none of the booths were occupied. It’s surprising that the staff isn’t more interested to let the guest feel more welcome especially if the requests are so easy to accommodate.
The service throughout the evening was professional but at the same time inattentive - we had to ask for the cocktail menu and later for the dessert wine list, dishes were brought out too fast, we asked for coffee after the dessert but were given just the bill and had to remind our server.

We started the evening with two cocktails: A Temple Black (Miller’s Gin and house-made grenadine with orange, Seven-up and a hint of anise) which was nice and mellow but had also a nice kick from the gin. And we also asked the bartender to mix us one non-alcoholic cocktail which was very good, it had different fruit juices and a nice tartness by some lemon juice.

The bread service at Lucques is always very good, and we love their Lucques olives and almonds.

Arugula and blood orange salad with roasted dates, Marcona almonds and Parmesan.
The roasted dates and the almonds were the highlights of the salad. The vinaigrette had a little bit too much vinegar.

Braised veal cheeks with soft polenta, cavolo nero, turnips and Pecorino salsa.
This dish was surprisingly bland, and it doesn’t happen very often that we have to add salt in a restaurant. We liked the sides (polenta and vegetables) more than the veal.

Greek yogurt tart with honey, Schaner farm’s citrus and pistachios
Good but somehow unremarkable tart

Overall this dinner at Lucques was far from really disappointing, but at the same time service and food wasn’t at that level you would expect from a restaurant with such a reputation. We will be back in the future but it will take awhile as there are so many other good options close by.

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  1. My husband and I are also big fans of Hungry Cat and AOC so we went to Lucques last month and had the exactly same experience -- not bad but certainly not great, especially at that price point. The GM came by and asked how our dinner was going so we answered frankly, he was nice enough to send over a free selection of their chocolates (which were good) but we probably won't return. The only thing I really liked were their almonds and olives as well -- the first olives I've ever liked! We were discussing Suzanne Goin's restaurants with a waiter at Hungry Cat and when we expressed our disappointment at Lucques, he said Suzanne Goin has been concentrating her efforts at Tavern in Brentwood so Lucques probably has been overlooked. I guess it's "past its prime" so to speak...

    1. We haven't been back in over 6 years, precisely b/c of the poor FOH attitude. When the waitress disagreed with my husband, he took it up with the manager, who promptly replied she was siding with her waitress.

      Unfortunately, the same poor attitude has been transferred to her newest place, Tavern. We really liked the food at :ucques at the time, but have also read on CH that it has gone downhill in recent years.

      Especially in this economy, I can't imagine why any restaurant would continually provide poor service. There are just too many good places to go and try for us to put up with that kind of attitude.

      1. I went on a Saturday.It was amazing. Next time, I am coming on a Sunday for the special dinner.

        1. The food at Lucques, as well as Tavern and AOC, was never spectacular...just fairly well prepared Mediterranean/California cuisine. I always found the plating really sloppy and unappetizing (this applies to a recent meal at Tavern as well), but the food was fine...unfortunately, fine doesn't cut it when you have dozens of other options in a city as large as LA.

          The sunday suppers were always a mystery to me - $45 + tax + tips + drinks = $80pp+...dining out for $160 per couple is no deal, IMHO.

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          AOC
          8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

          Lucques
          8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

          1. I always want to go to Lucques so a friend took me in July for my birthday. We had a nice table on the patio & the host was very gracious. Service sucked. We never could figure out who our waiter was as the person who took our order was never seen again. No one ever came back to check on us which is a shame for them as we wanted to order an extra cocktail after we started our meal. It took forever between salad course & entree---& I mean forever with no one coming over to reassure us that it was coming soon or apologize. No one offered to refill bread. I have never felt so neglected. I even called the next day to let them know of my disappointment. Food was very good--short ribs were way fatty but tasty---but I don't think I'd go back based on service. A few weeks after that I went to Eva and the service could not have been more gracious and they truly were happy to have us there---big contrast.

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            Lucques
            8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

            1. IMO Lucques and Josie are 2 of the most overhyped restaurants on the LA Boards. They're solid but hardly worth the price point and not by any means "top dining destination".

              I too was shown that shoddy table you speak of. The MO is to try to pawn off that table to the guest that first accepts it. They should just remove that table because it makes it nearly impossible to enjoy any dining experience and I'm sure they lose more customers that way.

              I do like AOC though and have never had problems with bunk seating and service has always been friendly on every occasion over the past 5 years or so since I started going to AOC. I also liked Tavern the 3 times I was there.

              -----
              AOC
              8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

              Lucques
              8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

              13 Replies
              1. re: Porthos

                I agree AOC is much better than Lucques

                1. re: honkman

                  The staff at AOC was rude and condescending. Not even the greatest cheese in LA could make up for how we felt when we left.

                  The staff at Lucques was professional but kind. (I can't stop thinking about their short rib, either).

                  -----
                  AOC
                  8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                  Lucques
                  8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                  1. re: honkman

                    Actually, I recently went to AOC and felt it was way past its prime (even tho I spotted Christopher Nolan departing with friend, just before "Inception" opened) and probably will never return.

                    Have not been to Lucques lately, but consider it a solid fave until I have a poor experience.

                    I think the thing Goin does best is the braised fare, so I am surprised to read that the OP found the veal cheeks under-seasoned. That's disappointing.

                    I also think 'lucques' olives are the nicest around, next to nicoise.

                    What a shame!

                    -----
                    AOC
                    8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                    Lucques
                    8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                    1. re: Maxmillion

                      Just curious - what didn't you like at AOC ? We went three times over the last 3-4 months and enjoyed it every time with well executed food and good service.

                      1. re: honkman

                        Well, I've been to AOC a number of times over the past few years and finally tried the stuffed dates (among other dishes) and was a bit disappointed. I dunno - nothing was overtly amiss - it all just seemed passe... Too many other places in LA vying for my attention. Can't fault the service or execution.

                        -----
                        AOC
                        8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                  2. re: Porthos

                    I agree with you 100% about Lucques and Josie. I have actually had better meals and service for less money at Houston's than these two overhyped places. My experiences at AOC have been great though.

                    -----
                    AOC
                    8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                    Lucques
                    8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Re; Porthos

                      I completely disagree with your knock on Josie. Love the vibe. It's anti-hipster and you can easily hold a conversation; plus, the service is top notch. I've never had a bad meal; in fact, meals have always been first rate. The cuttlefish, short-ribs (a staple on the menu well before it was trendy) and bread pudding can't be beat. Heck, it's the only place I would order chicken as an entree!

                      1. re: vinosnob

                        I'm pretty anti-hipster myself. I never said I didn't like the decor. That might be the best thing there. My one meal there several years back was very disappointing. The sepia was good and the highlight of the meal. The short ribs in tagine was fatty and untrimmed. And no, I'm not one of those that complains about foie gras or pork belly being fatty. This was just untrimmed short ribs. The bison burger with truffle infused fries...not sure if they're still doing truffle infused fries since the NYTimes piece on synthetic truffle oil...but truffle infused fries IMO is a an easy out and not very original or cal cuisine. The duck breast was only memorable for being unremarkable. Service was friendly, I'll give you that.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          I've had the short-ribs on a couple of different occasions and never had that problem. Surprising given the kitchen's expertise with meat/game, but hey, every kitchen can have an off night.

                          Can't speak to the truffled frites (or bison burger). BTW, there are plenty of restaurants using truffle oil. I don't see the issue there. If they somehow incorporated real white truffles instead of the oil the frites would cost about $120. .

                          To each his own I guess. I'll always go back.

                          1. re: vinosnob

                            I too have had the short ribs at Josie on 3 different visits and they have always been beautifully done. Never too fatty. In fact I would put the ones I've had there up against any I've had in LA.

                            1. re: vinosnob

                              There was a time when restaurants high end and hipster alike were dousing everything in truffle oil. Since the NYTimes piece reporting that most truffle oil was synthetic, many restaurants have stopped. My point is that cal-med cuisine is about the freshness, quality, and taste of real ingredients. There really is no reason for a serious restaurant of any calibre to put 2,4-dithiapentane on their fries. Especially one advertising the use of organic ingredients and such. In fact, I'm sure the fries would actually be better if it was just the garlic and parsley alone. The truffle oil/thioether really is unnecessary and overkill.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                Funny that you mention the truffle oil thingy.
                                In my one ( and only ) visit to Bite Bar & Bakery, a lady ( I assume to be the owner) approached and suggested the truffle fries. I declined, with pretty much the well-known arguments you mentioned above. She said she was well aware of the facts, however she had to put it in the menu due to "overwhelming demand". Go figure!

                                -----
                                Bite Bar & Bakery
                                3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

                        2. re: Porthos

                          i took some out of towners to lucques (thankfully on an expense account), and they all mentioned that EVERY item that was brought to the table was coated in oil, even the almonds.

                          needless to say, i'll never bring any member of that group back, nor will i spend my own money on the oily food.

                        3. While I understand a lot of the comments about Lucques, I just want to add that personally I've almost always had nights with warm service and very good food. It's not a perfect place, but it was her very first restaurant and it shows with all of it's quirks etc. Lucques shows the roots of that mini-empire and really how much she has grown as a restaurateur since.

                          My favorite thing to do there is to sit at the bar for dinner. Talk to the bartender about their latest cocktails (and try one or two) and then move into the food and wine. Christian is one of the exceptional bartenders and I wish I could remember some of the other names. But it really feels like a neighborhood place with a solid vibe to me. It is one of those restaurants that I'm just happy it's there for when the mood strikes.

                          -----
                          Lucques
                          8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: LATrapp

                            Well stated, LATrapp. That is also my feeling about Tavern. I suspect that there were high expectations that Tavern would become a foodie haven Fortunately, it has evolved into a much-loved neighborhood restaurant which has even embraced flat-screen TVs and sports in the bar.
                            " But it really feels like a neighborhood place with a solid vibe to me. It is one of those restaurants that I'm just happy it's there for when the mood strikes." Completely echoes my feelings. Thanks, LATrapp.

                            1. re: LATrapp

                              Re: LATrapp's Post

                              +1 on the accolades for Christian. He's very talented and extremely cool.

                            2. Although I respect everyones opinion it seems like there are a lot of haters when it comes to Goin and her restaurants. I've been to Lucques about a dozen times and always have had exceptional service and beautifully prepared food. I like it because it doesnt attract the ultra hip Hollywood crowd and the people who eat there go for the food and not the scence. Lucques is basically upscale Cal./Med. comfort food but I appreciate it for what it is. Goin doesn't blow me away with her creativity but she also doesn't need to. I will say that she might be stretched too thin these days...

                              -----
                              Lucques
                              8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: toonoble

                                I'm sorry not to see the suckling pig on the menu any longer. Thank goodness that the short ribs didn't get pulled off.

                                1. re: toonoble

                                  As for those in defense of Lucques. I understand cal-med cuisine. I lived in the bay area for 3 years, have dined at Chez Panisse...I understand what the goal of cal cuisine is and I enjoy it very much. However, cal cuisine is not an excuse to sautee cavolo nero and dump some braised veal cheeks or short ribs on it with excessive sauce and call it cal cuisine. The excessive amount of sauce and how it obscured the actual taste of cavolo nero was not the embodiment of cal-med cuisine as I understand it.

                                  Cal-med cuisine doesn't mean you can't be creative and be updated. My recent visit to Commonwealth in SF highlighted the gap in cal med cuisine between the bay area and LA. Commonwealth was twice as good at half the price.

                                  No one is "hating" on Goin. I fact, I like AOC and I even like Tavern. I just don't find the cuisine at Lucques to be very good at all, especially considering the price point. Cal-med cuisine or otherwise.

                                  -----
                                  AOC
                                  8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                  Lucques
                                  8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                2. I've been to Lucques three times--once strictly for bar food, the other two times for dinner. I have to say that of the three times, it was the bar food that was most disappointing. Goin has a tendency to saturate her food in oil, and I guess the fact that it was bar food gave her a license to kill. That said, it was by no means bad, and some of it was downright awesome.

                                  The dinners both times were pretty spectacular. She managed to take certain ingredients (like nectarine I think) and infuse them into every morsel. Her tendency to oversaturate worked to the food's advantage (as it often does in AOC) and every bite was moist and delicious (I got fish both times).

                                  The way I see it, Lucques (and AOC even) might not be the most creatively prepared food, and sometimes it might rely on calories to compensate, but it's always pretty tasty in my book. Overall, I find her cooking to be more consistently satisfying than many other restaurants I've tried in LA (Comme Ca for example), and by no means do I think she's overrated.

                                  By the way, I'm pretty sure Hungry Cat is owned and operated by Goin's husband, and she has has little to do with the food there. It is, however, indicative of her style, and it's one of my favorite places in town!

                                  1. I go to Lucques about once a year, and my most recent visit was about a month ago for the Sunday Supper. I've honestly never had anything less than an exquisite meal there. The service has always been great and I think both the dining room and the patio are among the nicest settings for a dinner in Los Angeles.

                                    It's definitely not a deal (even if you do the Sunday Supper), and for the money you spend there are plenty of other delicious restaurants you could try. But after quite a few pricey meals around LA, I've found myself saying, "I wish I'd spent that money at Lucques."

                                    Also, for what it's worth, Chef Goin was in the house for my most recent dinner there.

                                    -----
                                    Lucques
                                    8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: terwilliger

                                      My complaint wasn't about the food or decor--both were great. But from a restaurant of that caliber & for that kind of $$, I expect attentive and gracious service---we had neither at Lucques. I think it was Ruth Reichel who said that while dining at a restaurant you should feel like they appreciate you being there.

                                      -----
                                      Lucques
                                      8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                      1. re: sparkareno

                                        Ruth Reichel is right. This is one reason we continue to frequent Suzanne Goin's restaurants. We always feel as if we are welcome guests in her family home. I can not think of a higher compliment . I am proud of Suzanne that she isn't following the latest food trend ("pigs ears, loco moco:), Suzanne Goin is a classically trained chef. She marches to her own drummer and palate. I have great respect for her cuisine and, indeed, have followed her since her early days at Lucques. Suzanne Goin is a visionary and I suspect that when many of the au courant chefs have moved onward.....Suzanne will still be at the helm of her very successful and satisfying restaurants. Suzanne loves to cook. I consider myself a beneficiary of her creative, satisfying, beautifully prepared cuisine.

                                        -----
                                        Lucques
                                        8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                    2. I went to Lucques for dinner twice last week--on Monday I took colleagues from out of town, and then I went back for Sunday Supper with my mother. Both dinners were lovely. I had the heirloom cherry tomato salad and the ricotta dumplings (an appetizer) for my main course on the earlier visit, and I am still dreaming of the perfect little tomatoes and the amazing little pillows of ricotta with a little crunch of breadcrumbs. On Sunday, when we asked if we could share one dessert instead of 2, they immediately offered to give us the second one to take home, which I thought was a very nice gesture. Service was warm, friendly, but not too hovering. We got fine tables on both evenings.

                                      The atmosphere is lovely, the food was wonderful, and both evenings turned into special and festive occasions. I will absolutely continue to choose Lucques first when I have visitors from out of town.

                                      -----
                                      Lucques
                                      8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069