Friday, February 04, 2011

Lukshon (Culver City, CA)

3239 Helms Ave, Culver City, CA 90034
Fri 02/04/2011, 06:45p-09:20p

Lukshon Exterior
It's a small (foodie) world. Regular readers may recall the Molecular Menu dinner at AnQi from a while back. Well AnQi's previous "molecular chef," Jacob Kear, happened to read that particular post, and ended up emailing me as a result. It turns out that he's now co-Chef de Cuisine at Lukshon, Father's Office mogul Sang Yoon's new temple of Southeast Asian cookery situated in the Helm's Bakery Building. Prior to Lukshon and AnQi, the Tarzana, CA-born, Japanese-raised Chef cooked at the Michelin-starred Tapas Molecular Bar at Tokyo's Mandarin Oriental hotel. He also served a stint in Korea, and worked for four years at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel.

Under Yoon's oversight, Kear commands the kitchen with fellow CdC Johnny Yoo. Yoo, for his part, graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu program at Pasadena's CSCA in 2003. Following, he cooked at a number of noted Southern California restaurants, including Koi, Sona, Melisse, Ortolan, the Restaurant at the Getty Center, Anisette, and Drago Centro before joining Yoon's team last year.

Lukshon, apparently, was the place to be this evening. Other notable diners present included Twitter power couple Christine & Julian, Darin of Darin Dines, Beer Belly founder Jimmy Han, Scoops Westside owner Matt Kang (a.k.a. Mattatouille) with Matt Kim, Ryan of Epicuryan, Sam of Bites For Me, and I could've sworn I even saw Govind Armstrong up in here.

Lukshon Interior
Penned by Ana Henton of MASS Architecture and Design (who also did Corkbar and Breadbar), the space features contrasting swaths of stainless steel and wood, anchored by a gleaming white open kitchen (replete with Chef's Counter, where we were sitting, natch), glass communal table, and 12-seater bar with state-of-the-art wine-dispensing system. Additional seating is also available on an outdoor patio at the front of the restaurant.

Lukshon Menu Lukshon Libations Menu Lukshon Wine List
Divided neatly into six self-explanatory sections, Lukshon's menu is fairly diverse, drawing from the varied culinary traditions of Southeast Asia. Complementing the food is a small selection of craft beers, spirits, and wine, along with tea and a handful of Asian-y cocktails. Click for larger versions.

hot & sour gimlet fujian cure
hot & sour gimlet [$10.00] | monopolova vodka, dragon chile, lime, thai basil, kinh gioi
fujian cure [$11.00] | isle of skye 8yr scotch, lemon, galangal, lapsang souchong black tea
Speaking of those cocktails, we began with a twosome. A gimlet is a cocktail traditionally composed of vodka or gin and lime juice, but Lukshon's version adds in a trio of Asian greenery, giving the drink a spicy, herbaceous character to counter the fresh, sweet 'n' sour flavor of the libation--quite nice. The Fujian Cure, meanwhile, was more intriguing, featuring a marked citrus tinge (from the lemon and galangal) intermingled with the weight of the Scotch, all under overarching tones of smoke, courtesy of the lapsang souchong tea. Loved the bit of candied ginger here as well.

malpeque oysters (prince edward island)
malpeque oysters (prince edward island) [$14.00] | sudachi long pepper mignonette
Oysters from Canada's Malpeque Bay were surprisingly mild in flavor, delicate and clean, with a slight bitterness. The paired mignonette, brightened by the application of spicy long pepper and tangy sudachi, thus, was a necessary accompaniment.

baby monterey squid
baby monterey squid [$13.00] | chiang mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram
Squid arrived stuffed with Chiang Mai sausage, an amazing pairing that gave the cephalopods a juicy "pop" upon mastication. The sausage's intensely meaty, savory, slightly spicy, slightly herbaceous flavor played perfectly with the mild sweetness of the squid, and I absolutely adored the countering astringency of the Vietnamese coriander. The little bits of fried legs were a bonus. My favorite course of the evening, and easily one of the best preparations of squid that I've ever had.

spanish mackerel
spanish mackerel [$14.00] | coconut vinegar, jalapeño, lemongrass, green papaya
Following the squid was another tremendous course. Mackerel was tasty alone, deftly showing off its characteristic oily brine. However, the fish just went beautifully with its simultaneously sweet and spicy accoutrements, resulting a faultless mélange of tastes and textures. I especially appreciated the crunch of the green papaya. Interestingly, we were reminded somewhat of Ludo's excellent "Hamachi, Vietnamese Style" dish from the last LudoBites iteration.

lukshon sour sochu barrel aged ale hitachino xh japan
lukshon sour [$11.00] | michter's rye, lemon, tamarind, palm sugar, kalamansi
sochu barrel aged ale hitachino xh japan [$12.00]
Our next round of drinks brought us the Lukshon Sour, a surprisingly restrained commixture of sweet, sour, and boozy flavors that went down really easy. We also ordered a beer, the Hitachino Nest Extra High (XH). It was my first time having the brew, a Belgian-style dark ale, and I was thoroughly impressed. I loved its marked citrus-y tartness and malty caramel sweetness, all finished with a bit of funkiness from the sake barrel aging.

beef tartare
beef tartare [$14.00] | pickled cucumber, chiles, onion, herbs, aromatic rice powder
Beef tartar can often be somewhat tepid, but Lukshon's version definitely amped things up. I really enjoyed how the pickles, chiles, and other piquant components of the dish lifted and accentuated the beef, while still preserving the meat as the star of the show.

shrimp toast
shrimp toast [$14.00] | rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons
Shrimp toast was the best version of the dish that I've had, beating out WP24's already strong preparation. Toast and shrimp were blended into a crisp, delicious amalgamation that was still somewhat creamy on the inside, and which skillfully showed off the inherent essence of the shrimp. At the same time, the inclusion of chile and coriander served to balance the dish. Delectable alone, and similarly so when consumed with the included "sweet 'n' sour" sauce.

duck popiah
duck popiah [$12.00] | cilantro stems, pickled jicama, house-made hoisin chile sauce
Popiah refers to a sort of Fujian-style spring roll. The duck arrived tender and sweetly flavored, nicely accented by the bright bits of pickled jicama, while the dark, heady sapor of the homemade hoisin wrapped everything together. Tasty enough, but I really wanted to have more of a duck-y character to the dish.

singapore sling
singapore sling [$12.00] | plymouth gin, cherry heering, benedictine, combier orange, pineapple, bitters
The Singapore Sling was a fairly traditional preparation, showing off a sweet, tropical fruit flavor counterbalancing the power of the gin, with just a touch of complexity from the bitters and Bénédictine.

deer island scallops
deer island scallops [$15.00] | water chestnut cucumber relish, prawn salt
Scallops from Maine's Deer Isle were light, mild, and clean tasting, with a subtle sweet brine that linked up nicely with the tang of the paired cucumber relish, while the water chestnuts added an enjoyable crunch to the course.

foie gras ganache
foie gras ganache [$16.00] | carob, ceylon cinnamon, tamarind gastrique, almond, puffed rice
I swear, when I popped one of these cubes into my mouth, I thought of breakfast cereal. Really though, the sweet spice of the carob-cinnamon-tamarind trifecta played beautifully with the foie gras, making for a delectably sweet experience at first, with the heady flavor of the liver creeping up on you near the finish.

riesling sekt, brut von buhl 2008 pfalz, germany
riesling sekt, brut von buhl 2008 pfalz, germany [$42.00]
Moving on to the wein now, we popped a bottle of the 2008 Reichsrat Von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut. This was a dry sparkler made from the Riesling grape. Think crisp, light, acidic flavors, with lovely hints of apple and a bracing touch of minerality. Very nice to cut through some of the heavier courses to follow.

spicy chicken pops
spicy chicken pops [$11.00] | shelton farms' drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt
Chicken "lollipops" were tender and still juicy, awash with the dark, sweet and savory smack of kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce) and perked up by the creeping zing of Sichuan salt. It was actually a tad overwhelming for me, and thus, the greenery here was absolutely key, nicely moderating the heavy flavors of the bird.

lamb sausage roti canai
lamb sausage roti canai [$14.00] | chana dal, cumin, mint, pickled cauliflower
One of my favorite courses was the roti canai, a Malaysian-style flatbread. The roti had a superb texture, dense and firm, but with a delightful flakiness. It served as a fitting base for the delectable bits of lamb, which were beautifully tempered by the use of the mint, while the cauliflower pickles acted as a piquant counterpoint to the entire dish.

kurobuta pork ribs
kurobuta pork ribs [$16.00] | spicy chicory coffee bbq sauce
I'm generally not a huge fan of BBQ ribs, but quite enjoyed these. The meat itself was suitably tender, almost falling-off-the-bone, but with just enough bite and a pleasant amount of char. I usually find various barbeque sauces overly saccharine, so I appreciated the spicy, slightly bitter flavor of the dressing used here.

chicken dumpling soup
chicken dumpling soup [$10.00] | superior broth, pea sprouts, 63° egg
Superior broth (traditionally made with chicken and Jinhua ham) was clean, refined, teeming with plenty of umami flavor and augmented with the additional luxury of a 63° egg (which we broke apart and mixed). The dumplings themselves, meanwhile, were quite savory, with a lovely herbaceousness and a touch of peppery goodness to boot. The combination of soup and dumplings was rather satisfying to eat, and I definitely enjoyed the countervailing lightness of the pea sprouts.

x.o. rice
x.o. rice [$9.00] | jasmine rice, house-made x.o. sauce, long beans, egg
The X.O. fried rice was one of the stronger preparations that I've had. XO sauce is a spicy, savory sauce made from various types of seafood and aromatics, and as a result, it gave the rice an intensely fragrant, deep xian wei that I really enjoyed. The long beans, meanwhile, did an admirable job in balancing the dish.

garlic pork belly
garlic pork belly [$21.00] | do ban jian, rice cakes, cabbage, garlic chives
Next up was one of the better versions of pork belly that I've had in recent memory. The meat was expectedly fatty, but fortunately not overwhelmingly so, with a good fat-to-lean ratio. The heat of the doubanjiang (fermented bean paste) really did an excellent job in moderating the heft of the pork, and I definitely liked the comparatively bright flavors of the chives and cabbage, while the rice cakes helped to ground the dish.

yu choy sum
yu choy sum [$8.00] | aged ham, shoxing wine, garlic
Yu choy sum was slightly crunchy, with a refreshingly bitter flavor mitigated in part by the saltiness of the included ham.

heirloom black rice heirloom black rice
heirloom black rice [$9.00] | lap cheong, onion, roasted garlic, fried egg
Black rice (also known as forbidden rice) formed the base for our penultimate course. It went swimmingly with the savory essence of the lap cheong (Chinese sausage), and I loved the inclusion of fried egg. Quite satisfying.

dandan noodles
dandan noodles [$12.00] | kurobuta pork, sesame, preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts
What we have here is dan dan mein, a classic Sichuan dish of pork and mustard greens in a spicy Sichuanese pepper sauce, served over noodles. You may want to save this one for last given the mala numbing effect of the Sichuan peppercorn. My sense of taste was dulled for quite a while after consuming the dish. Pain and pleasure, folks.

Vietnamese coffee Vietnamese iced coffee
Vietnamese coffee is available in hot and iced preparations, both priced at $5. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but enjoyed both.

Lukshon Dessert Trio
Perhaps taking a cue from Chinese restaurants, dessert at Lukshon is complementary, though I really wish that each person could get a sampling of all three items (desserts are currently allocated one per diner, making sharing somewhat awkward). Starting from the front, we have:
  • Mango panna cotta with coconut tapioca and black sesame shortbread, showing off a strong mango sweetness counteracted by the relative mildness of tapioca, while the shortbread added a nice touch of crunchiness to the fray
  • Kiwi soup with jasmine, pineapple, and Beijing yogurt (nai lao), my favorite of the trio, with a refreshing tartness balanced by the creaminess of yogurt
  • Banana cake with pine nut streusel, salted palm sugar, and caramel ice cream, with the decadence of the ice cream playing nicely with the comparative austerity of the cake, all underscored by the crunchy bits of streusel
I was a tad bit wary coming into this dinner, but Lukshon exceeded my expectations with flying colors. Dishes were bold, lustily-flavored, and though not necessarily 100% authentic, true to the quintessence of their Southeast Asian roots. I liked everything I ate, and discounting a couple minor nits, every dish was at least solid, with a number of true standouts to boot. Lukshon is a great addition to the neighborhood, and I suspect that Sang will do very well with the place.

Lukshon Kitchen


OpenID effingdericious said...

Kev, have you been to A-Frame? Is the food comparable? Is one better than the other?

Monday, February 07, 2011 9:19:00 AM  
Blogger KrisDub said...

What? You weren't there on the first night? Just kidding, great post, those dishes sound amazing. Though I still can't wrap my taste buds around mackerel. One of these days, we're going to have to dine together.

Monday, February 07, 2011 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Darin said...

Funny running into you guys. I really liked the meal as well - Lukshon has the combination of good vibe, good food and good drinks.

Monday, February 07, 2011 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Fritos and Foie Gras said...

What a great looking meal! The stuffed squid looks especially delightful. I am not a huge riesling fan, but after reading your description, I am going to try to locate a bottle of the riesling you had - it sounds like an the type of clean, light wine that I love!

Monday, February 07, 2011 3:39:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Daniel: Nope, still haven't been to A-Frame yet. A-Frame does seem a bit more casual in its approach, though.

Kris: I actually wasn't in a huge rush to go to Lukshon given my somewhat tepid experience at FO. It was actually the email from the Chef that even got me out this early!

Darin: Yeah, people I knew kept coming up to us, which was sorta cool; really conveys a sense of community. Next time do try to get the Chef's Counter though, then hopefully you won't have to wait an hour!

Sarah: You have to be careful with the Rieslings though. Some of them can be quite heavy, and some very sweet. I tend to prefer the Germans myself.

Monday, February 07, 2011 4:40:00 PM  
Blogger bagnatic said...

so this is lukshon...i see, i see.

Monday, February 07, 2011 9:44:00 PM  
Blogger food je t'aime said...

i had a feeling the gamut wouldn't have been possible for 3-4 people. you missed out on some great entrées!

Monday, February 07, 2011 10:10:00 PM  
OpenID choisauce said...

chinese sausage, rice & fried egg does sound like the ultimate satisfying combination ;) cant wait to do a full dinner next time and try that dish.

LOVED that riesling. dry rieslings are amazing. nectar-y, juicy with a lil mineral,not too sweet, yum.

Monday, February 07, 2011 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Amy: And what do you see?

Christina: With the right four people, I do believe running the gamut here is possible!

Christine: Yep, you definitely need to have a proper dinner here sometime. BTW, did you notice you and Julian in the interior shot? ;)

Monday, February 07, 2011 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger His Dudeness said...

Jesus. Beautiful kitchen. You could run a Michelin 3 star out of that thing.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011 9:30:00 AM  
Blogger nelehelen said...

i'm so sad i missed this dinner! why oh why do our dinner schedules never work out? haha

oh, you had me at "breakfast cereal" :)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous dining tables said...

The place and the food are all so awesome! So fantastic. I hope I can have the time to visit it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011 6:43:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Dylan: I know, right? It was a pleasure to watch the chefs busily cooking away in there. Speaking of which, when are we going to be able to have dinner at Farmshop?

Helen: Ha! I think it was the combination of crispy rice and sweet spice that made me think of Cocoa Krispies or something.

Erik: You're going to be visiting from Minnesota?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011 7:33:00 PM  
Blogger Pink Foodie said...

Nice write up. I can't wait to try the foie gras ganache and lamb sausage roti canai.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 1:53:00 PM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

Great write up Kevin. Culver City definitely has some good dining options these days. Although I'm not a fan of overpriced Asian food, and I wasn't overly impressed with Father's Office, I'm sure I'll give this place a try sometime this year.

Friday, February 11, 2011 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger stuffycheaks said...

looks awesome Kevin! I'm so bummed I couldn't go but I plan to hit it up next week. Thanks for the tip on the fiery noodles.

Friday, February 11, 2011 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

PF: Two good choices, but do try to get the squid as well. ;)

Danny: I wouldn't call Lukshon overpriced; I think it's priced right given the venue and the quality of the food. I definitely prefer it to FO though.

Stephanie: Be sure to let us know how it turns out. How was Mammoth btw?

Monday, February 14, 2011 2:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So this place was "the place to be?" The "place to be" for a handful of boring, mostly AZN yuppies with digital cameras and an overinflated sense of self-importance. Can't you "foodies" just enjoy your meals without descending upon new restaurants every single opening night like a flock of pigeons chasing after the fecal corn from a hobo's leaking shitbag? Calm down and have some self-respect. It's so fucking jr. high school.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 12:07:00 PM  
OpenID said...

Finally got my butt to Lukshon. The chef might have changed, but the menu hasn't much (my review here). And we had a great meal.

Saturday, October 22, 2011 7:25:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Food still looks tasty Andy, but I really do wish that they would've changed up the menu a bit more. It's been nearly nine months after all!

Monday, October 24, 2011 1:17:00 AM  
OpenID said...

There are some places that have left the menus alone for like decades! Mr. Chows, Chaya etc. But I like to see it change up frequently too.

Monday, October 24, 2011 4:56:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Places like Mr. Chows and Chaya almost seem like relics, so I'm not surprised that their menus are largely static. But Lukshon, it's Sang Yoon for crying out loud!

Sunday, October 30, 2011 10:09:00 PM  
OpenID agavin said...

Mr. Chows is a total relic. I'm not sure it's changed much in 30+ years. Even more antiquated are those occasional 40s/50s "red sauce" Italians with the booths etc. Some of theme are quite popular too, with high prices.

Friday, November 11, 2011 5:21:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Can you point me to some of those "red sauce" places? I'm sort of curious.

Sunday, November 13, 2011 11:53:00 PM  

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