Friday, October 7, 2011

Lukshon (DineLA)

Last Monday, as per a typical weekday night, my man and I turned on the TV for some late night Food Network but this time, we were rewarded with an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate (one of the few shows left on that network that I can stand). Within 5 minutes into watching the episode, Sang Yoon's handsome (?) mug showed up on my TV screen, and before the next frame even appeared, I shouted "chicken pops!" Needless to say, Ian was very impressed with my psychic skills when the episode continued with Chef Yoon demonstrating how he makes those spicy balls of chicken on a stick. It also sparked the urge to immediately visit Lukshon the next afternoon and be physically reunited with spicy chicken pops. 

Lukshon happened to be participating in DineLA when we visited for lunch, though I found their version of the DineLA system to be rather convoluted. Instead of choosing your own three courses--like you would from any other restaurant's DineLA set menu--Lukshon forces a party of two to choose only one course from each section to share family style. It gets even more complicated for parties of three or four with some obscure algorithm that involves half-sized dishes, full-sized dishes, and a-little-larger-than-normal sized dishes. All I know is, paying $44 total for 2 people for 1 appetizer, 1 entree, and 1 side is not really a "good deal" at Lukshon for lunch. Luckily, we could improvise and order one set of the DineLA menu (with 1/2 sized portions) and also some individual dishes to be able to try a greater variety of dishes.

3239 Helms Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232
tel: 310-202-6808

spicy chicken pops
shelton farms' drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt

We started, of course, with spicy chicken pops! We love these so much we ordered a regular sized portion in addition to the half-sized DineLA appetizer portion. I sweat and tear up at the tiniest bit of spice like a real wuss, but for these balls, I tough it out. They were just as good as I remembered, with a creeping heat and a sweet and salty glaze that I love so much. 

pork belly lettuce cups
cabbage, crispy pig ear, thai chile, lime, mint, aromatic rice powder

For the entree option in the DineLA set, we got a half-sized order of tender pork belly. To be honest, I don't think I'd be able to handle a full-sized portion of that pork belly. It was delicious and all, but oh so rich! I really needed the light, acidic cabbage slaw in this dish to cut the fattiness of the pork. The slaw was topped with beyond crunchy bits of pig ears which had a nice, almost nutty, flavor. This was Ian's first encounter with pig ears, and he really enjoyed them fried to a crisp, though I tend to like preparations that retain at least some of their gelatinous nature. 

Halfway through our meal, we overheard the table next to us talking about how they just saw the spicy chicken pops on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. I had a little giggle. Then an elderly couple sitting at the table next to them said, "Hey! We're also here because of that episode!" I had an even bigger giggle.

thai beef salad "deconstructed" 
gem lettuc, radish, carrot, tomato, herbs, spicy lime vinaigrette

We also ordered the thai beef salad off of the regular lunch menu. Though it's advertised as being "deconstructed," I'm not quite sure where the deconstruction occurred. It seemed like a very pedestrian salad, though all the flavors you would expect from a thai beef salad--fish sauce, lime, peppers, garlic--were there. The beef also wasn't particularly memorable. I could easily recreate this in my kitchen. 

bhutanese red rice
lamb bacon, maitake mushroom, egg, scallion, chinese celery 

The side dish on the DineLA menu was the only one that came in it's usual size. The bits of lamb bacon were appropriately smokey and lamb-y, though to me, the most important part of the dish was actually the slivers of celery. They provided a much needed crunch of freshness to the otherwise salty and slightly sour rice dish. Overall, it was enjoyable though we were unable to finish the entire portion and ended up taking the rest home. However, it smelled like sour cream and onions in the car. Odd, no? 

Vietnamese iced coffee
dark palm sugar butterscotch brownie

Dessert at Lukshon is always a complimentary little bite at the end of the meal. I love this concept and so far, every dessert I've had there has been surprisingly refined. This time, we had a little square inch gooey, butterscotch goodness. It was warm out of the oven and was so dense, it seemed more like a caramel candy than a brownie. Rich and sweet, the small square was more than enough to satisfy my need for something sweet after any meal. I also ordered an iced Vietnamese coffee which left me happily caffeinated for the rest of the day. It was a great way to end the meal. 

I really really really want to sit in the corner sofa seat on the outside patio (especially in the beautiful weather we had that day), but every time I've been, some lucky person is already sitting time...


So, do I still love Lukshon? Yes, I do. 
Do you need to visit Lukshon? Yes, you do. 
Does it need to be during DineLA week? No.