Last weekend, I visited my wonderful friends Justin and Brian at their home in West Hollywood. Whenver I’m there, we lounge around the house in our pajamas and sip champagne, we walk the dogs, we go to yoga and we shop. Most of all though, we cook and eat. They live off Melrose and Fairfax, so we’d walked by Lucques many times. I decided to take advantage of their location in early anticipation of October’s book selection, as well as reconnect with my college roommate, who was now living across the street. I apologize in advance for jumping the gun.
The ivy-overed building is understated, with a dark wood door. The bar and the main inside dining room have cozy looking mahogany or sage colored banquettes. The walls are brick, and the ceiling has exposed wooden beams. In the center of the room is a large fireplace. The main dining room opens into a covered patio with ivy covered high walls and a tree in the middle. How the tree photosynthesizes I have no idea.
As soon as we were seated, our waiter set down a basket of crusty levain bread and a little dish of oiled almonds and (you guessed it) lucques olives. I love lucques olives, especially the color, and these were the best I’d tasted. They were meatier and richer tasting – umami is how I would put it – than the other lucques olives I’d tasted before. I would be surprised if they did not cure their own. The almonds were okay, but really, marconas would have been better.
On Sundays, Lucques offers a $40 3 course prix fixe. Our first course was a “summer salad of Peter Schaner’s eggpland, cherry tomatoes, French feta and black olives.” I though it was going to be a light, mediterranean style salad. Actually, it was very rich and luxurious. Both the eggplant and the tomatoes were roasted. The eggplant tasted as if it might have been poached in olive oil, only not oily. And the little leaves of homegrown arugula offered a spicy counter to the richness of the eggplant.
We were offered a choice between pancetta-wrapped trout a la crema with shaved summer squash and young spinich, and duck braised in rose with rice soubise, tiny onions and spiced peach relish. Half of the table chose the trout, and the other half chose the duck. The trout, despite the pancetta and the cream, was very light and sweet. It did not have that earthy flavor that freshwater fish often do.
Although I had seared duck breast the night before, I opted for the duck, which was actually braised duck leg. The soubise is actually made with onion and arborio rice, except the rice is the binding agent and the onion is the main part of the dish. It was good, but very, very rich. The duck was braised perfectly, with the meat falling off of the bone. The onions offered sweetness, while the peach relish gave the dish tanginess.
When my friends saw the dessert on the menu, they were highly doubtful – chilled cavaillon melon soup with basil and last-of-the season strawberries. I knew, after as rich a meal as I had just eaten, that this would be perfect. It was light, tangy and refreshing.
All in all, an enjoyable meal. I must admit a certain Bay Area bias, with restaurants like Chez Panisse and French Laundry within my reach. I just don’t think any restaurants in LA compare. Still, it was wonderful to spend time and pass the end-of-summer twilight with old friends.