Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lukshon - 02/04/2011

3239 Helms Ave
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 202-6808

Upscale Asian restaurants seem to be enjoying a renaissance in Los Angeles with WP24 and Red Medicine opening within the last year. They are now joined by Lukshon, Sang Yoon's (Mr. Father's Office) entree into the world of contemporary Asian cuisine. Lukshon features a Pan-Asian menu that draws heavily from China and Southeast Asia. Though Sang is the owner and executive chef, day to day operations will be handled by Johnny Yoo who has experience in both Eastern and Western cuisine. Sharing leadership duties is Chef Jacob Kear, formerly of AnQi who spent much of his childhood in Japan and amusingly describes himself as a FOB.

In keeping with the menu, the decor at Lukshon feels clean and modern. The restaurant has 5 distinct dining areas, a covered patio with fire pit, a long communal table in the center of the restaurant, a formal dining area to the left, a long bar to the right, and six seats along the chef's counter where diners can watch the action in the kitchen.

fujian cure - isle of skye 8yr scotch, lemon, galangal, lapsang souchong black tea
Consensus seems to indicate that the Fujian Cure seems to be the restaurant's best cocktail. Though I appreciated the subtle peat and blue smoke, but the supporting elements felt a bit muted.

hot & sour gimlet - monopolova vodka, dragon chile, lime, thai basil, kinh gioi
Our waiter said this was his second favorite after the Fujian Cure but this was definitely more up my alley. The vegetal aroma of the chile was apparent. The drink coupled the hot and sour elements so seamlessly that it was difficult to determine where one ended.

malpeque oysters - (prince edward island) sudachi long pepper mignonette
The meal began with a sextet of immaculate looking oysters, sublimely textured with a incredibly mild salinity; rather the bivalves exhibited a creeping bitterness that was countered by the citrus tinged mignonette.

baby monterey squid - chaing mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram
We saw this course flying out of the kitchen which makes sense as it was one of the strongest of the night. The taut squid forms a snappy casing for the sausage and exhibits a palpable pop upon mastication releasing a gush of rich pork juices. The airy fried legs were enjoyable but almost an afterthought in comparison to the sausage stuffed bodies.

spanish mackerel - coconut vinegar, jalepeño, lemongrass, green papaya
This course immediately reminded me of the stellar Vietnamese-style Hamachi at LudoBites 6.0. If anything the Spanish Mackerel worked even better than the Hamachi, its robust oiliness standing in start contrast to the tangy vinegar and crisp refreshing salad of papaya, lemongrass, and jalepeño.

beef tartare - pickled cucumber, chiles, onion, herbs, aromatic rice powder
This reminded me heavily of the tartare at Red Medicine, with both preparations relying heavily on Southeast Asian herbs sauces giving the dish heavy elements of spice and acidity. The texture of the beef here was noticeably softer that most tartares, making the contrast with the crunch of the cucumber all the more apparent.

lukshon sour - michler's rye, lemon, tamarind, palm sugar, kalamansi
The drink opens with a flavor of tangy ripe fruit reminiscent of suan-mei. The bourbon is just slightly detectable adding a savory spice to the finish.

hitachino xh - sochu barrel aged ale, japan
An intriguing beer that drew compliments from our entire group, aromas of tart citrus are compounded by an earthy funk as well as pepper and spice.

shrimp toast - rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons
I was expecting something like the Prawn Toast at WP24 but what arrived was more like a deep fried shrimp ball. The interior had a texture midway between paste and finely diced shrimp. While the well-fried tiny croutons gave the dish a satisfyingly deep-fried exterior. The savoriness of this dish was strong enough to stand on its own but the sharp heat of the sauce was a welcome accompaniment.

duck popiah - cilantro stems, pickled jicama, house-made hoisin chile sauce
Popiah is a type of fresh spring roll that originated in Fujian and Chaozhou provinces in China but is also popular in Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. Interesting that with both these rolls and the ones at AnQi, the headlining ingredient were both lost. The duck felt kind of dry with a stringy graininess to it and while I detected some smokiness, the bird could have used a more robust flavor. The skin of the roll itself felt a bit off too, flabby and soft instead of the spry "Q" texture I was expecting.

singapore sling - plymouth gin, cherry heering, benadictine, combier orange, pineapple, bitters
This libation proved to be a bit sweet for my tastes, the light tropical freshness of the pineapple and citrus overwhelming the aromatic notes of the Benedictine and bitters.

deer island scallops - water chestnut cucumber relish, prawn salt
Hailing from a small area off the coast of Maine, these scallops possessed a denser texture and more pronounced sweetness than your typical scallop. The lithe relish was the perfect accompaniment, adding measured shades of acidity and pepper to the delicate yet expressive shellfish.

foie gras ganache - carob, ceylon cinnamon, tamarind gastrique, almond, puffed rice
Not sure what part of Asia this dish came from but I need to pay that place a visit. I adored the refined uniform creaminess of the foie as well as the rich essence of the liver which seemed to gradually suffuse the palate as the ganache warmed.

riesling sekt, brut von buhl 2008 pfalz, germany
One of the driest Rieslings I can remember, this sparkler offers both aromas of stone fruit and toast with a high acidity that cut through the weighty courses we had coming up.

spicy chicken pops - shelton farms' drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt
A daunting looking course, the liberal application of kecap manis gave the drummets an inky blackness. The chicken has a heavy sticky bitter sweet char while the greens provide a welcome relief from the dark weight of the bird. The pops finish with a creeping numbness, a precursor to the intense Sichuan spiciness of the Dan Dan Mien.

kurobuta pork ribs - spicy chicory coffee bbq sauce
The kurobuta ribs were more nuanced than the preceding dish with subtle spice, dark earthiness, and sweetness. The meat was just shy of falling off the bone and remained remarkably tender despite being fairly lean.

lamb sausage roti canai - chana dal, cumin, mint, pickled cauliflower
I originally thought this was an Indian dish, but roti canai actually refers to a Malaysian flatbread albeit Indian inspired. Crisp, flaky, and savory, the flatbread pairs quite nicely with the light game of the sausage and tart mint yogurt.

chicken dumpling soup - superior broth, pea sprouts, 63 egg
Pure comfort food right here. The pea sprouts featured prominently, adding a vegetal zestiness to the delicate broth. Breaking the egg alters the complexion of the soup, giving it a fuller texture and heartier feel. The dumplings themselves are fairly archetypal, though I wish the skin were the slightest bit firmer.

x.o. rice - jasmine rice, house-made x.o. sauce, long beans, egg
The first of our two rice dishes was a fried rice seasoned with X.O. sauce, giving the rice a heady rush of umami and spice, though the rice needed to be a touch moister.

garlic pork belly - do ban jian, rice cakes, cabbage, garlic chives
Our one selection off the "big" section of the menu was the garlic pork belly. The belly was relatively lean but still quite tender with an equally well balanced flavor and a heady wok-fired char. The rice cakes were a nice change firm and sticky with a slightly crisp exterior their starchy weight formed the perfect base for the belly.

yu choy sum - aged ham, shoxing wine, garlic
I would have normally shied away from the vegetable sides but we felt compelled to order at least one thing off each section of the menu. The garlic features heavily in this dish, and along with the smoky aged ham helps to temper the bitterness of the vegetable.

dandan noodles - kurobuta pork, sesame preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts
Be warned if you choose to try this faithful if gentrified preparation of the classic Sichuan dish, save this for the final course. While the peppercorns aren't spicy in a traditional sense they produce this distinctive tingling sensation that turns into full blown numbness will rob you of the ability to taste subsequent dishes just as surely as a habañero would.

heirloom black rice - lap cheong, onion, roasted garlic, fried egg
Black rice or "forbidden rice" in China is not as glutinous as say the typical Jasmine rice, instead the grain has a texture more like brown rice and a similar nutty flavor. I've never liked brown rice and the same complaints apply here though the fried egg and fatty sausage helped counter some of the rice's heft.

dessert - mango panna cotta with coconut tapioca and black sesame shortbread, kiwi soup with jasmine pickled pineapple and beijing yogurt, banana cake with pine nut streusel and salted palm sugar caramel ice cream
Like at many Chinese restaurants, the dessert comes complimentary with the meal. My favorite of was the kiwi soup; unabashedly tart kiwi coupled with the creamy yogurt and enigmatic jasmine scented pineapple. The banana cake was solid as well particularly the savory sweet caramel ice cream.

Father's Office has always been something of a one trick pony for me; while the burger is excellent, the other dishes that I've tried have all fallen short in some way or another. With that in mind, I approached Lukshon with fairly low expectations and am happy to say my fears were misplaced; while I had minor issues with some dishes, there were also a number of truly standout courses. It was a surprise to see Sang running the pass; though I suspect this is a temporary measure while the restaurant gets its bearings. Hopefully Johnny and company will be able to keep the momentum going once things settle down.


Darin said...

I count 18 dishes for you three, compared to our 14 for my seven. Well done.

Epicuryan said...

That's what happens when you eat with Kevin.

Anonymous said...

I think it's interesting that the haute asian trend hasn't really hit new york in full force.

food je t'aime said...

you guys only had one of the entrées!

Epicuryan said...

I think part of that is because Asian food in general has a stronger presence on the West Coast. Also the Asian Fusion trend got off to a stronger start on the west thanks to the likes of Puck. That being said, NY has its share of contemporary Asian restaurants, Morimoto comes to mind immediately.

Well if someone had come out instead of roasting a chicken we might have been able to order more food.