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Intelligence Is Etched Deep Into the Menu at the New Lucques


Am I dreaming? Remembering the funky look of Mars, the restaurant that preceded the Shed and that has now become Lucques, I'm thrilled at the transformation of Harold Lloyd's old carriage house. Los Angeles hasn't seen such a smart, sophisticated restaurant debut in quite a while.

Named after the French olive, Lucques (pronounced Luke's) is the project of Suzanne Goin, former executive chef at Campanile, and Caroline Styne, who ran Jones Hollywood for the last several years. The two put their heads together with designer Barbara Barrie and came up with an understated contemporary look with opulent booths, subtle lighting and tall doors at the back opening onto an enclosed patio with a single olive tree beneath an indigo sky.

Goin's menu is just one page mounted on an elegant board, but every dish on it sounds alluring. She tops a soft cushion of mascarpone polenta with lovely summer chanterelles and wilted frisee and tosses heirloom tomatoes with tender nuggets of burrata cheese and crunchy torn croutons. You can really taste the salt cod in her brandade tart, a pie-shaped wedge decorated with hard-boiled egg. Luscious ripe figs and prosciutto are drizzled with a mint-infused cream.

Bluefish! It's the first time I've ever seen it on a menu in California simply grilled and napped with a little aioli that, for once, tastes like the real thing. She makes a Sicilian rabbit dish, too, with escarole, currants and pine nuts on a bed of delicious, nutty barley. Osso buco here is lamb, with a ragu of shell beans (which are just a little too al dente), haricots verts and purple-black Nicoise olives. This is intelligent, sensual cooking.

The small bar has its own menu, which includes a prosciutto and butter sandwich, chickpeas and chorizo and steamed mussels with Moroccan spices. After 10, you can get an omelet, spaghetti carbonara or steak frites, too. That's some appealing late-night noshing.

Lucques, I'm happy to say, is off to an impressive start.


Lucques, 8474 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 655-6277. Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner only; bar is open until 1:30 a.m. Appetizers $7 to $12; main courses $16 to $25. Valet parking.

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