8474 Melrose Avenue near La Cienega Boulevard
About seven years ago, I was working as a studio research assistant for Urs Fischer. At the time, my friend Mina Stone, who was then just "a fashion designer who liked to cook", came in a few days a week to cook lunch for the entire studio. I once asked her what her favorite cookbook was and she told me about Sunday Suppers at Lucques. She even kept a copy of it in the kitchen as reference for whenever she needed a burst of inspiration. We were blessed with Mina's dazzling lunches of seasonally-sourced vegetable dishes, braised meats, and soothing soups. This side gig of cooking studio lunches subsequently launched her private chef career and produced a cookbook: Cooking for Artists. I figured that if a restaurant's cookbook could effectively play a role in shaping someone's trajectory, well, that restaurant must be a very special place.
I've passed Lucques numerous times, but have been too shy to dine there solo. It's a very charming ivy-covered restaurant on Melrose Avenue that melds French tradition with laid-back California vibes. The high, vaulted ceilings gives the space an airiness while the crackling fireplace and convivial atmosphere adds warmth. It's been around since 1998 and has been long-considered an L.A. institution for its approachable sophistication. Thanks to an invitation, I finally had the pleasure of dining there last week and can see why it remains a solid favorite amongst the locals.
Our meal began, as you'd imagine in a French farmhouse, with rustic country bread, a slab of good butter accompanied by a little pile of sel gris, and a dish of roasted almonds and olives. For our first course, we chose a beautiful salad of shaved root vegetables and both ordered Chef Suzanne Goin's signature dish of braised shortribs with horseradish cream as our entrée, which was expertly paired with a bottle of Syrah by sommelier and co-owner Caroline Styne herself. The shortribs were fall-off-the-bone tender while the horseradish cream provided a sharp contrast to the unctuousness of the dish. To end, we had a panna cotta to share. It was the sort of dinner that hit all the right notes.
Had I not been treated to this dinner, I think Lucques would have remained in my mind as one of those restaurants you reserve only for special occasions because, on the way out, I noticed that they offer a #singlegirldinner-friendly bar menu, which includes spaghetti carbonara and steak frites with béarnaise sauce. Now, that's more my speed. I'd definitely return and happily perch myself at the bar for either of those dishes any day of the week!