3239 Helms Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232
Father’s Office is my favorite bar in LA. It’s probably best known for having one of the top burgers in the city (by far their most popular item on the menu), but the rest of the gastropub’s menu is pretty strong as well. Oh, and their craft beer selection is top-notch; it’s been a pioneer in that movement in LA.
Given the popularity of Father’s Office and chef/owner Sang Yoon’s cuisine, I’ve been curious as to why there hasn’t been more rapid expansion – surely, Yoon (who has a fine dining background) would like to step outside of the ‘upscale bar food’ arena. So when Yoon announced he would be opening up an Asian concept almost two years ago, I was all over that. Lukshon finally opened up this week.
Make no mistake from the pictures (taken at the end of the night), the place was packed. As a result, we waited an hour past our reservation time of 8:45 to be seated. Not cool – but there’s a lively bar to help with the wait. The drink menu is not nearly as beer-centric as Father’s Office; rather, a variety of wines and handcrafted cocktails are the focal point (Fujian Cure was my favorite). Once we were seated, service was pretty on-point. I expect the kitchen and service staff to continue to improve, however, as the restaurant gets a little more experience under its belt.
The menu is a mix of small plates and large plates, with some noodle, rice and vegetable sides.
malpeque oysters (prince edward island) sudachi long pepper mignonette
We started with these oysters. There was a nice sweetness to them, and they weren’t fishy at all. The pepper gave just a little bit of heat.
spanish mackerel coconut vinegar, jalapeno, lemongrass, green papaya
Next up was this dish. The mackerel had a mild flavor, complemented by the lemongrass and papaya, with a little heat from jalapeno. A good dish, and reminiscent of something one may find at a Japanese kaiseki.
shrimp toast rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons
This was a must-order, since it’s one of my favorite items at Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings. This had a light, crispy exterior and a moist interior with some good shrimpy flavor. I like.
baby monterey squid chiang mai pork sausage, candlenut, mint, rau ram
This was one of the standout dishes of the night. The squid was tender and full of flavor from the stuffing of pork sausage and herbaceous rau ram.
spicy chicken pops shelton farms drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt
I thought the flavors here were a little muddled. The chicken flavor didn’t come through, and the texture was a little bit chewy.
whole steamed fish (loup de mer) taiwan spinach, black bean ghee, sambal ijo
Next up was the first large plate. A loup de mer (Mediterranean sea bass) is not exactly typical in Asian cooking, but its moist, white flesh fit in well here. The flavors were very southeast Asian with a little bit of chili heat, and I liked the spinach accompaniment, which added some body.
chiang mai curry noodles yellow curry, lemongrass, pork belly, prawn, rice noodles
This was one of the noodle dishes. The curry was kind of rich and a little milky, which I liked. The pork belly lended just a little bit more richness and depth of flavor to it. Great blend of flavors, while the deep fried noodles added a crispy texture.
heirloom black rice lap cheong, onion, roasted garlic, fried egg
The black rice had a heartiness not present in white rice. A little bit of Chinese sausage added some savory saltiness, while the fried egg provided an oozing yolk that really brought everything together.
x.o. rice jasmine rice, house-made x.o. sauce, long beans, egg
This fried rice was a bit typical of a Chinese restaurant. It was a good version, and a little less greasy than what I’m accustomed to.
wok charred baby eggplant panch puran, tomato sambal, mint
The eggplant was fairly unmemorable. It was cooked to a nice tender texture, but did not have a lot of flavor.
sonoma lamb chops market spices, herb butter
The lamb had a nice seared crust and was pretty tender. Not too gamey. A good dish, though nothing special.
skirt steak sichuan “au poivre,” shishito peppers
I really enjoyed this dish. The steak was cooked perfectly, leaving it very tender. Skirt steak is a pretty beefy cut, and the peppers (which I didn’t find too hot at all) added a nice savory heat to the dish. Nice colors too.
dandan noodles kurobuta pork, sesame, preserved mustard greens, sichuan peppercorns, peanuts
This is a little embarrassing, but I’ve only had dandan noodles once before – at P.F. Chang’s, which means I’ve never really had it before. No one in our table of 7 had any experience with it, so we weren’t expecting the minty-metallic taste and odd, numbing sensation of the sichuan peppers. We didn’t enjoy it. However, I found out soon afterward that’s pretty typical of those peppers. Oh well.
banana cake, mango panna cotta, kiwi soup
Desserts are always complimentary at Lukshon – I think that’s a nice touch. Here we had three different desserts which were all pretty solid. The mango panna cotta (middle) was my favorite for being light and smooth, with just the right amount of mango flavor.
Overall, Lukshon was a success. Sang Yoon blends traditional flavors from throughout Asia in some familiar and some new preparations. I think the flavors are authentic enough to ring home with traditionalists, while still satisfying Americanized palates as well. Along with Father’s Office and the Spanish concept replacing Beacon, Lukshon adds another good option on Helms and to the plethora of good restaurants in downtown Culver City. Given the buzz around the restaurant and its strong food and drinks, I expect Lukshon to be a popular stop for a while.