LUKE joins the ever-growing list of restaurants that showcases new-age, contemporary, American-based fusion and other such ‘in’ descriptors across LA. The place has certainly done its homework, creating a hip and trendy layout complete with rustic industrial-meets-moody modern dining room, a long backlit bar and dim lighting with a soundtrack that keeps the energy pumping. A worldly menu hits just about every food fad out there, and the drink list features cleverly named cocktails and distinct labels.
Deconstructed truffle grilled cheese looks much better than it tastes
LUKE has checked off a lot of boxes with good intentions. It even has some standout flavors—their Creole shrimp and roasted chicken boast bold, spectacular flavor and rich, buttery consistency.
The problem, however, comes with the restaurant’s follow-through. LUKE joins LA’s ever-growing list of trend-savvy eateries that puts on a great show but fails to execute where it truly counts: quality and value.
While LUKE’s menu delivers intriguing ingredient combinations beautifully plated atop showy porcelain, the flavors themselves amount to average at best. A prime ribeye dip that could just as easily be found at a 24-hour dive and braised beef shank sugo that needed something beyond meat and pasta to spruce it up are but two examples.
The restaurant also loses itself by trying to stay atop too many trends. LUKE has loose ties to its owners’ Cajun roots, but that identity resonates through few dishes. Items are ‘deconstructed’ that shouldn’t be deconstructed, such as chicken pot pie, which would have been great if everything would have just come together, or ‘truffle grilled cheese’ that came out as a cast-iron skillet full of delicious accouterments atop a flavorless block of provolone. Perhaps LUKE can take notes from a spot that knows cheese.
Few of LUKE’s dishes provide enough food to suffice as stand-alone meals, so guests will likely find themselves shelling out much more than expected. Same goes for their drinks, which latch onto the novelty of overpowering tastes condensed into small glasses. Sure they pack a punch, but these cocktails break down to a few dollars per sip.
It also should be noted that for a restaurant that touts its food coolness, it would help if everyone on staff actually knew how to pronounce ‘bruschetta’ [FYI the sch makes a ‘k’ sound]. That might reassure guests who pay $22 for this appetizer equivalent [which while overpriced, was actually great. Giving credit where credit is due].
Oh, and they ‘politely deny any substitutions.’ LUKE, customization is the biggest food trend of our time…how did you miss that one?
Sorry LUKE, but at this point the crowd that would find your product appealing is limited to hipsters who can’t afford your restaurant and their parents who get dragged along to foot the bill. I certainly hope to see you improve over time.
Benjamin Brown, MBA is a seasoned restaurant writer and consultant. Expert in F&B marketing, pricing, analytics, consumer insights and business development. Ben also writes a monthly restaurant business column, "The Bottom Line," in Socal and Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional Magazines.