It’s not news that food culture has changed more in the past five years than it had in the previous 100. Put simply, people care about food now. Innovation is the name of the game. Kale? Been there, done that. Avocado toast? So last year. Restaurants are now being forced to change and refine dishes constantly, so much so that some lose sight of what made the food good in the first place.
That’s why it’s refreshing to go to a place like Lüke. The food is unapologetically old-school. The point isn’t to innovate or change; it’s to pay homage to the culinary traditions of both New Orleans and classic French brasseries. Lüke’s place within the Besh Restaurant Group is simple: to be a restaurant that serves time-honored food in a setting with few pretensions.
The classical tone of Lüke is greatly enhanced by its atmosphere, which immediately brought Brooke and I back to the bistros we frequented during our summer in Paris. Lüke is larger than its French counterparts, and some elements such as the gold ceilings are a touch more refined than many Parisian joints. Still, none of this, not even the waiters donned in white jackets, takes away from the casual ambiance of the restaurant. It should be noted that the dining room can get extremely loud, though this didn’t bother us.
On our previous visit to the restaurant, we’d skipped over the seafood platters, a mistake we were determined to correct this time. We ordered the smallest, which is terrific to split as an appetizer for two. Brooke loved the raw oysters, while I was partial to the shrimp. Lightly cooked and chilled, they were perfectly seasoned, particularly when dipped in cocktail sauce. The platter’s mussels and clams were good, but didn’t reach the same levels as the oysters or shrimp.
The only element of the platter we didn’t care for (or finish) was the tuna ceviche, which could have used some seasoning. Additionally, I wasn’t a fan of the saltine crackers still wrapped in Lance packaging that came along with the platter. Saltine crackers are great with raw oysters, but keeping them in the plastic wrap made me feel like I was eating at a cheap roadside seafood joint.
Along with the platter, we ordered the Brussels sprouts and crawfish bisque. The bisque was perfectly creamy and gave off a pleasant heat, but ultimately wasn’t better or worse than any other crawfish bisque I’ve ever had.
The Brussels sprouts were a different story. My expectations for the dish were extremely low – I’m not a huge fan of the vegetable – but nearly everything about it was perfect. Sweet and savory elements were incredibly well-balanced, the sprouts themselves had been charred beautifully, and the finishing of Tabasco honey lent the perfect amount of spice. Brooke and I agreed that we’d go back for the sprouts alone.
Our entrees were, sadly, the lowlights of the meal. I ordered the pork schnitzel, while Brooke had a classic French dish, steak frites. Every individual element of our dishes was done quite well. Brooke’s steak was cooked to perfection, the mushroom ragout that accompanied the pork was packed with flavor. But something was missing, an element that neither of us could put our finger on. Put simply, we weren’t wowed by either of our main courses.
Some of our disappointment may be linked to the fact that it took quite a long time for our entrees to arrive. Our waiter, who provided otherwise fantastic service and recommendations, did his best to keep us happy. But nothing can hide the fact that it took the kitchen nearly 25 minutes to get our dishes to the table.
Food: Good. The seafood platter and Brussels sprouts were highlights of the meal. The main courses of steak frites and pork schnitzel were on the disappointing side.
Service: Good. Our waiter was outstanding, offering great recommendations on wine pairings and food, and our glasses were never empty. But the gap between our appetizers and main courses was simply too long, nearly 25 minutes.
Atmosphere: Great. Lüke is simultaneously relaxed and elegant. There’s a distinct lack of pretension in every aspect of the restaurant, but it stops short of feeling too informal.
Overall: Will we return? Probably, but Lüke certainly doesn’t have the “must-eat” status that many Besh restaurant have for us. This is particularly upsetting for me, as Lüke is a restaurant that I want to love so badly, but the main courses just didn’t live up to the standards set by the rest of the experience.