First off, the space is amazing. The high ceilings, the clean modern design, the sturdy and fresh bar furniture, and open kitchen, the sleek wine bar, even the open patio. Overall a great place for some dining - and we're talking real food done well at (I'd say) reasonable prices.
I know I'm going to be back here fairly often, if only to sample some of Sang Yoon's cooking. I never had the chance to try his cuisine when he was the chef de cuisine at Michael's in Santa Monica, but from what I've heard, when Sang is behind the stove, the cooking can be unparalleled. Of course I'm personally interested in Sang Yoon's success as a chef because he's one of the top Korean American chefs in the country, along with David Chang in New York, Corey Lee in the Bay Area, Bill Kim in Chicago, and Roy Choi here in L.A.
I started out with a quick cocktail (called the Fujian Cure) of 8-year old Isle of Skye scotch and black tea with a piece of candied ginger as garnish, a refreshing way to start the meal. The raw scallop with a perfect brunoise of crunchy water chestnuts and cucumber had just the right acidic, spice, and textural balance to the slippery tender scallop.
I'm just enamored by the spicy chicken pops, which are essentially an elegant of spicy-sweet glazed chicken wings. It's kind of great to see Sang's riff off nouvelle cuisine (chicken lollipops or Loiseau's frog-leg pops) with what is basically Korean-Chinese fried chicken wings. These are the chicken wings I grew up eating at places like The Dragon in Koreatown, and I would venture to guess that they're the inspiration for these chicken pops. The texture is magnificent, with a slightly firm outside and a toothsome bite that's full of flavor (if perhaps a tad salty). They're addictive and fun to eat, and perfectly shareable.
We also got to try a bit of the sausage roti from our neighbors at the communal table - it's pretty good though I'd probably save stomach space for the noodles.
The yellow curry noodles arrived first. The curry was rich and layered in flavors, comforting and smooth without too much sweetness that plagues other Thai curries. A whole shrimp was nicely displayed though the meat was a little tough - they probably cooked it beforehand and heated it a la minute, though I sort of wish they threw it onto the bottom of the broth and let the residual heat barely cook it, yielding a tender, slippery flesh. Either way, the noodles were terrific and the dish a great deal at around $11. There was even leftover curry so we asked for some steamed white rice ($3) that we used to mop it up - amazing.
The dan dan mien was another revelation. I've had dan dan noodles a number of times in San Gabriel, but I've never had a version as good as this one. The sichuan heat is vibrant, almost overpowering, though it tapers off enough without blinding the palate too much. The noodles have a great bite while the rest of the sauce just marries all the flavors together. I could eat this bowl fairly regularly with its modest price (considering the location, quality of ingredients, and ambiance).
Two final notes about service and ambiance. Lukshon was designed by Ana Henton of MASS Architecture, the Eastside standout that's designed places like Silver Lake Wine and Intelligentsia Pasadena. This might be one of my favorite designs - slick, modern, dark, yet filled with small details that delight the diner. The space is just stunning, all the way from the bar to the open kitchen to the patio. In addition the service was about was present as one could ask for without being distracting. The whole staff worked cohesively as a team, an impressive feat considering it was just the first week or so.
I hope to return often, if only to try more of Chef Sang Yoon's main entrees and desserts. We did get a complimentary dessert of mango panna cotta and a banana cake with caramel ice cream - both were stellar.
5:30PM - 10:30PM