Friday, June 20, 2008

The Gospel According to Lüke

Lüke may be the most popular lunch spot in the CBD. In fact, my guess is that several of you hundreds of devoted readers probably have 12:30 reservations there today. I have lunched at Lüke 5 times over the past month - all with different groups of people. What does that say about John Besh's Alsatian bistro? One word: consistency. If you are looking for a solid meal with good service, then Lüke is a safe bet.

The menu is a melange of culinary fare. Just glance at the list of appetizers. Where else can you order rustic pates and terines, crabmeat maison, and an onion tarte all from the same menu? On my latest lunch at Lüke, I was fortunate enough to dine with the extended Papal family, and we sampled a wide array of Chef Besh's culinary delights.

The pâté de campagne of wild boar comes in a mason jar with a 1/4 inch layer of fat on tap. One serving of this was more than enough for 8 people to enjoy hefty samples. The pâté was rich beyond belief, but the housemade mustard and cornichons provided enough acidity to cut through the fat. The crabmeat maison was excellent, and it just goes to show that when crabmeat is as bountiful and sweet as it is right now, little needs to be added to this wonderful seafood. The boudin noir was a deliciously course grind; but I thought the saute of potato, onions, and apples all caramelized into a menage a trois of goodness was the best part of the dish. Rene would fire me if I forgot to mention the pork rilletes, though I am sad to say that I have never tried them. Last but not least the flamenküche - that wonderful onion tart covered with bacon and Emmenthaler cheese. Simply divine.

The daily specials should be your first stop in deciding on a main course. The whole roasted cochon de lait is succulent. (Ask the waiter to toss in a few slices of skin. Just tell him that you know Rene, and he will hook you up). The veal cheeks with potato gnocchi might be favorite dish on the menu - tender morsels of veal accompanied by soft pillows of potato pasta.

All of the regular menu options are good, but might be a little on the heavy side for lunch. Ordering the shrimp and grits, steak au poivre, or jagerschnitzle with spätzle will guarantee you two things: a deliciously filling meal and zero billables hours for the afternoon.

So if either you are starting to get full from appetizers or need to hit your 2000 hours for the year, I would go with a sandwich. I mean, think about it: How would you make the aforementioned cochon de lait a lighter meal? Why throw it on some bread and call it a sandwich, of course. The BLT of bacon and buster crab is an ingenious invention, and the Luke Burger - a massive pattie of beef covered in bacon, sauteed onions, and Emmenthaler cheese - is one of the top 3 burgers in the city. But the best part about ordering one of these sandwiches is that they all served with the housemade fries, which are cooked in duck fat. Yes, you read that correctly - DUCK FAT.

OK, I just realized something. There is nothing "light" about eating at Lüke. Actually, the grilled paillard of chicken is rather light, but it is nonetheless flavorful.

So there it is. Lüke. You go there because you know what you're going to get. A good meal with fine service. It's an easy 3 foot birdie putt on a short par 4.


Rene said...

No, I would fire you if you forgot to mention the pied de cochon. The single most amazing thing pig related in the entire CBD.

Step into my office...Why? Because you're fired.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece!! A couple of things to note though...
1) the Chef is Jared Tees;
2) the fries are NOT cooked in duck fat, they are cooked in fat that has a bit of duck fat added to it;
3) breakfast and lunch are hits, but dinner seems to fail miserably and I can't figure out why; and
4) Rene mentioned my favorite dish, the pig's feet croquettes that are, well, Rene said it perfectly.

Anonymous said...

I thought Jared was in Italy for 12 months researching for Besh's new Italian spot in the Roosevelt Hotel?

Agree with Dinner, the rookies must work it. However, for a post work drink and a half dozen raw, one could do a lot worse. The smooth zinc bar, bottles of Pernod staring you in the face, and the satisfaction of another day down, now that is an experience.

Anonymous said...

Nah, that's Alon Shaya (from Besh Steaks) who's in Italy. Jared is here at Luke.

Good point re: raw bar and pernod