There comes a point in a successful chef’s career where people no longer reference their previous employers and instead start to rattle off disciples they’ve inspired themselves. That’s the case with Suzanne Goin, who worked for Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel at Campanile before partnering with Caroline Styne. The duo started their run of hits in 1998 with Lucques and added A.O.C., Tavern and The Larder at Maple Drive. For dineL.A. Restaurant Week, we returned to Lucques for the first time in years and understand why they’ve endured.
Harold Lloyd’s former carriage house has a warm fireplace and bar up front, brick walls, and a vine-covered back patio with retractable roof. On a summer night under the stars in West Hollywood, we enjoyed a three-course dineLA dinner for $45, which was worth the price.
We started with a dish of olive oil-slathered olives and almonds, bread, butter and sea salt.
We ordered a starter that ended up being more antipasti than salad, including soft, slow-cooked string beans, grilled leeks with Romesco, rosy shaved lomo (dry-cured pork loin) and a generous helping of torta de la serena, a soft sheep’s milk cheese from Southern Spain.
My entree really captured the essence of summer, with a juicy pan-roasted fillet of merluza (hake) plated with corn-centric succotash, coconut milk and curried cherry tomatoes that contributed good acidity.
Of course, steakhouses aren’t just the provenance of steakhouses – at least they don’t have to be – and Lucques serves a very good Mediterranean influenced hanger steak with a winning sear and bright accompaniments like roasted peppers, black olives, chimichurri and crushed fingerling potatoes. Yes, we passed plates, and I’d gladly do it again.
One of the benefits of enjoying dinner with other food lovers is the ability to share, which becomes most important at dessert, which involved a table full of people making plays at plates with forks and spoons.
Chocolate desserts rarely draw my interest, but the caramel nut tart with bittersweet chocolate, crunchy honeycomb, vanilla ice cream and fleur de sel had convincing savory elements.
Moist, slightly tangy crème fraiche cake touted cascading plums, blackberries and almonds, a dollop of whipped cream and a scoop of toasted almond ice cream.
Fromage tart was the lightest dessert, featuring a pastry shell filled with mild cheese, sweet strawberries, crisp shaved fennel, enlightening mint and strawberry sorbet.
Complimentary Mignardises consisted of house-made chocolates, truffles and candies.
Campanile recently closed, meaning that distinguished family tree will no longer sprout seeds in Los Angeles. However, Suzanne Goin continues to expand with business partner Caroline Styne, bringing additional restaurants to Montecito and La Cienega Boulevard’s Restaurant Row. Now graduates of Lucques, A.O.C. and Tavern are opening their own establishments, their Cal-Med approach continues to flourish, and the initial foray – Lucques – remains relevant.