A proper Sunday supper by way of the Mediterranean at Lucques
June 6, 2011
LOS ANGELES, USA – After a trip to the farmers market on Sunday morning, I often have visions of fixing a market-fresh Sunday supper that will incorporate all that produce, close out my weekend on a relaxed and nourishing note, and provide me yummy leftovers for the week ahead. It’s a perpetual ambition, but somehow I always underestimate how long errands and outings and other Sunday catch-up stuff will take me, and my Sunday supper winds up involving me eating directly from last night’s takeout box leftovers at my desk while cramming for a Monday morning meeting. Ugh.
That’s part of why I was delighted to discover Lucques, Suzanne Goin’s gem of a Cal-Med restaurant in West Hollywood. The veteran chef has been cooking seasonally driven, market-to-table three-course meals on Sunday evenings at the restaurant for over a decade (her endeavor has even spawned a popular cookbook, the aptly titled Sunday Suppers at Lucques). While the menu selections for these Sunday shindigs are rustic, almost homey (like arugula salad followed by grilled market fish with spring vegetables and a Meyer lemon tart), the demand for a seat at Goin’s Sunday table can be cutthroat. Reservations book up sometimes weeks in advance ($45/person; check out the set menu, which changes weekly, posted online).
But if you can’t snag a seat on Sunday, Lucques is consistently good the rest of the days of the week too, when the full range of Goin’s simple and carefully constructed Mediterranean-inflected menu is on offer. The restaurant gets its name from a South-of-France variety of green olives, and these babies are served along with salted almonds and La Brea Bakery bread as a precursor to every delectable meal. Seasonal selections might include such treats as citrus and avocado salad and braised beef short ribs.
The vibe here is as elegantly unpretentious as the food. Housed in an old ivy-covered carriage house (which used to belong to film star Harold Lloyd), the dining room cradles you in comfort with earthy exposed brick walls, a warm stone fireplace, and soft leather sofas. But in nice weather (which is most of the year in LA!), the place to be is definitely the wide, inviting patio with leafy landscaping, which transports you to a Mediterranean state of mind.
Inside or out, this a lovely spot for a conversation over dinner, be it with an important colleague or an old friend. The crowd tends toward the well-heeled but laidback, a mix of foodies, professionals, and couples on romantic dates. If you want ultimate privacy, though, you might be disappointed…the one pit in this olive is that the tables are too close together, especially on the patio.
For those as harried as I am throughout the week (not just on Sunday!), one of the restaurant’s best-kept secrets is its special bar menu. Served after 9:00pm Monday-Thursday and after 9:30pm Friday-Saturday, the bar offers ridiculously delicious and well-priced meals not available on the regular menu, like steak frites béarnaise for $19 or an omelette with soft herbs and cantal for $14. It’s the perfect solution either for a casual after-movie meal…or an I-have-no-time-to-cook-and-didn’t-realize-it-’til-ravenous situation. Why eat from the takeout carton at your desk when supper is waiting at Lucques?
Read more about Lucques in our Los Angeles Guide