new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Luke New Orleans: Besh goes Euro

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Luke New Orleans: Besh goes Euro

333 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130
Open Daily: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Luke is John Besh's riff on a European bistro, located smack dab in the heart of New Orlean's Central Business District. The rather art-nouveau interior is wood-accented and generally full of solo businessmen noshing on meat dishes, couples slurping oysters, and nattily attired and hyperactive wait staff. It's a fine ambience.

The menu focuses on fairly traditional European favorites, accompanied by John Besh's trademark nods to Louisiana produce and products. There's a special every day, and the menu seems to change with some measure of limberness to suit the season. This is a good thing.

A fine beet salad with gorgonzola, walnuts, and nicely roasted red beets. My gripe involves presentation: one can't see the beets when the dish is brought to the table, as they are buried under a mat of rather pedestrian looking spring mix. Pretty it up, folks.

These crab ravioli were quite tasty with a subtle flavor and a suitalby light Meyer lemon cream sauce. However, they could definitely have been warmer - and lukewarm cream ravioli is not a particularly wonderful thing.

This vanilla scented duck with local red cabbage, mayhaw, and fried potatoes was falling-apart tender and decadently rich, with an alluring, slightly dessert-like flavor form the vanilla infusion. There was, again, a temperature issue. The kitchen needs to keep an eye on this.

Some nice local oysters, served with saltine crackers on a special plate. I would be lying if I said this didn't amuse me.

A fresh crab salad with tarragon and a bit of egg tossed in, served over spring mix. This is a simple and rather traditional Southern dish, and it is carried off very nicely here. Crab does not require over-embellishment, and the kitchen thoughtfully held back some here.

A very nice rendering of moules frites, in a light and herbacious broth with garlic and thyme, and accompanied by tasty shoe-string french fries. These were nice fresh big guys and there were only a few shut-in bummers in the batch.

We also sampled two side dishes: a superbly flavorful and meaty sauerkraut with a hint of apple and bacon, and an insanely porky serving of collard greens with a macho hit of flavor. Both are knock-outs and you really should order them if you know what's good for you.

Service at Luke is friendly and personable, and the food came out admirably quickly - sitting in the back room garners a nice view of the open kitchen and busily working chefs within. On the whole, Luke is a dependable spot to nosh on some upmarket bistro food in a gracious setting. Let's just get those temperature issues figured out, and I'll be heading here for sauerkraut and duck for a while to come.