Twice a year Los Angeles has, as most cities do, its Restaurant Week. For anyone who’s not familiar with Restaurant Week, it’s basically a week where restaurants across the city run special prix fixe “deal” menus for lunch and dinner, encouraging people to try new places. Now, we’ve found it’s somewhat debatable as to whether these special menus really are deals (sometimes it’s cheaper or at least equivalent to just order off the regular menu), but it is a great excuse to get out there and try some of the places we’ve had on our list (and oh, it’s quite a list).
For this summer’s Dine L.A. Restaurant Week, we opted for Lukshon and its modern Southeast Asian cuisine (and its convenient location in Culver City’s Helms Bakery).
Drinks aren’t generally included with Restaurant Week menus, but we dove in anyway – the Boy got the Hot n’ Sour Gimlet ($12) with vodka, dragon chile, lime, thai basil, and kinh gioi, and I got the Lukshon Sour ($12) with rye, lemon, tamarind, palm sugar, and kumquat. Oh, and apologies for the crappy pictures – it was a bit dark in there and I didn’t want to disturb the other diners with a flash.
The Gimlet was the winner of the two drinks with its spicy kick – the Sour was drinkable, but a bit lacking in flavor, though it actually got better with time.
The Dine L.A. menu ($30), offered three courses with a set of choices for each course – excellent, as it allowed us to get six different dishes to share. Some of the dishes were exclusive to the Dine L.A. menu, and some were off the regular menu (a few had supplementary charges, which we avoided), and we were able to figure that this particular menu was a decent deal.
We started with the Compressed Watermelon Salad (shrimp, avocado, tomatoes, watermelon lime sorbet, compressed watermelon) and the Hawaiian Butterfish (lime cells, thai chile, herbs, coconut snow).
The Watermelon Salad was delicious, fresh and refreshing and just unusual enough, with every part going well together and the sweetness of the watermelon well bridged with just enough savoriness.
The Hawaiian Butterfish was equally yummy despite my dislike of coconut – creamy and smooth fish brightened by a fresh, green herb salad.
The second “course” was Thai Clam Chowder (coconut cream lemongrass, galangal, lime fingerling potatoes) and the well-Yelp-reviewed Sichuan Dumplings (kurobuta pork, ma-la vinaigrette, sesame, peanuts). My picture of the chowder is especially horrific, but hopefully you get the gist.
Terrible photography aside, the chowder was very tasty – so much so that we sipped up every bit of the (again, coconut, and again, tasty) broth. I particularly enjoyed the potatoes, which sopped up every bit of the well-spiced flavors in the soup.
The Sichuan Dumplings were…not bad, just more expected than what we’d eaten thus far. I’m not sure either of us particularly enjoy Sichuan peppercorns, which have the weird property of making one’s mouth go numb, so despite these dumplings’ popularity and excellent execution, they weren’t our favorite dish of the meal. Still, that’s probably more our fault than theirs, as they were certainly juicy and flavorful and still got eaten.
The final “course” brought us Chinese Eggplant (fennel raita, tomato sambal, eggplant “fries”) and Dandan Fries (kurobuta pork, sesame, sichaun peppercorns, peanuts).
The Boy is not a huge eggplant fan, but I LOVED the eggplant – soft cooked eggplant below and crispy “fries” on top, with lots of roasted eggplant flavor. Again, I don’t love fennel, but this was good anyway, and my mother the eggplant lover would have adored it.
The Dandan Fries (though we were admittedly getting full) were probably my least favorite dish – they just didn’t have the same depth of flavor, and it felt like the flavors they did have were better used in other dishes. Plus, those pesky Sichuan peppercorns were back again.
The meal ended with a little surprise – chocolate coconut biscotti and green tea rice krispy treats – simple, light, tasty little bites.
In the end, I was very glad we opted to try Lukshon for Restaurant Week – it’s an excellent restaurant, and the chef’s use of flavor is truly stunning. The dishes went together, but also exhibited a lot of variation, and the space itself it quite nice with a gorgeous patio as well. Go! Eat! Enjoy!
3239 Helms Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232