Thursday, March 24, 2011
Lukshon, the new restaurant from Father's Office chef Sang Yoon, has been packed ever since it opened last month in the Helms Bakery complex in Culver City. It is an Asian restaurant and unlike either location of Father's Office, it takes reservations. There is a decent sized bar, some communal tables, an interior and exterior tables. The cocktail program is small, only five cocktails including their take on the classic Singapore Sling. The Fujian Cure (below) is made with Isle of Skye 8 year Scotch, lemon, galangal and lapsang souchong black tea. The cocktails are measured with jiggers, a good sign. The cocktail was fine, a little smoky, but nothing to get excited about one way or the other. The bar is only stocked with the ingredients for the five cocktails, so the bartenders do not have the flexibility to go off menu, even to make a standard such as a martini or Manhattan.
The menu states at the bottom "no menu modifications or substitutions please", which is not a surprise from Chef Yoon. On a recent visit with writer Simon Majumdar and another friend, we began with the Spanish mackerel (below). This was a refreshing way to start and the fish tasted fresh with the vinegar bringing out flavor.
Next to arrive was the beef tartare, which arrived in a row of little pyramids stacked on top of cucumber slices along a long rectangular plate. The tartare also included chilies and herbs. The beef was diced into very small chunks and each serving could be eaten in a single bite. The five on our plate did not last long.
The duck popiah were like a summer roll, with the delicate soft wrapper and the duck inside. The sauce for it was a house made hoisin sauce, which went well with the confit of duck. I enjoyed it, but preferred the beef tartare. I didn't love the texture of the wrapper.
The spicy chicken pops lived up to their description. These drumettes are seasoned with garlic, kecap manis and spicy sichuan salt. They were not as sticky as they looked but packed a punch. Not everyone in our party was into this dish. When so much Asian food on the Westside (and sometimes Thai town) has the spice level toned down to Western tastes, it is refreshing to see a genuinely potent dish like this on the menu, although I wish the aggressiveness had been lowered just one notch to provide more nuanced flavor. The concept of chicken lollipops is playful and they are easy to eat finger food.
A favorite was the lamb sausage roti canai with chana dal, cumin, mint and pickled cauliflower. Others at my table quibbled with the description of the base as a roti. The lamb, mint and garbanzo beans were a great combination.
A rice dish and the chang mai curry noodles were enjoyed by the others but were not photographed. The Short Rib Rendang (below) is described as being prepared with Malay spices, red chile lemongrass rempah and coconut cream. This dish was not what we had expected. The meat tasted like cured brisked, more like pastrami than corned beef, but not like short ribs. It was interesting and had a soft texture. It was good but just different. Not something I'd rush to order again.
The okra and potato side dish was one we had difficulty getting. A runner first brought the brussels sprouts, which we hadn't ordered, but took it away when we said we had ordered the okra. A bit later a new batch of veggies arrived, and you guessed it, brussels sprouts again. We told the runner that we had asked for okra and this was the second time we had received sprouts. He then said that he had brought us okra before and we had sent it back. Okra and sprouts look nothing alike and all three of us at the table know what each one looks like. The runner's obnoxious attitude was not appreciated. It was annoying enough to have the wrong dish brought to us twice without the runner giving us attitude. Our server was apologetic for the unprofessional manner in which the runner acted and comped the veggies, which were actually quite tasty.
We finished up with the complementary dessert. It is a nice touch to offer each diner a small dessert on the house to end the meal on a sweet note. We drank the 2001 Prinz Riesling which was recommended to us by the excellent sommelier. The wine list was full of rieslings, gruners etc, which complement the food. The main drawback to the list is that there are no red wines by the glass. There are half a dozen whites, but no reds as they have yet to find a red that works well with their wine system of taps. This seems kind of silly. They are leaving money on the table by not having an option for red wine by the glass. When we made it clear that we weren't interested in another bottle, the sommelier said he understood and was polite. However our server was kind of pushing the liquor and wasn't exactly subtle about it. No we didn't want another glass of scotch or a cocktail.
The service issues and the relatively high price point overall make it unlikely that I will add Lukshon to my rotation any time soon. I'd go back, but don't need to rush over there. Hopefully on my next visit they will be in a rhythm and will have figured out a way to make red wine by the glass work.
Lukshon: 3239 Helms Avenue, Culver City. Phone: (310) 202-6808. Website: http://www.lukshon.com/