Saturday, February 25, 2012
Lucking Out at LucLac
Scheduling to meet a friend for lunch downtown is always a dance. First, there's parking. I'm an inveterate street parker, eschewing unpleasant parking structures for the challenge of finding a space nearby where I can demonstrate my superior parallel parking skills. (Me? Competitive? What makes you think that?)
Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen, had opened recently and was still experiencing buzz overkill, which meant the potential of a long wait in line. Fortunately my friend's schedule was flexible enough to accommodate an early meeting time, so we slipped in slightly after they opened and before the noon rush.
We got to the counter and placed our order, got our number and found a table for two near the kitchen in the back with a nice view of the room. This way we got to see what was coming out of the kitchen as well as gloat about our good sense of timing as the lunch line eventually snaked its way out the door. Ha!
We opted to share some small plates rather than going for a bowl of pho, which has drawn raves, or their eponymous Luc Lac, cubes of seared beef tenderloin. The mussels (top photo), which I have a hard time not ordering if I see them on a menu, were steamed in a lemongrass/tamarind broth with mushrooms and proved how versatile this native shellfish is. Whether inflected with Indian spices, Italian herbs or Mexican chiles, mussels are uniformly heavenly as long as they're taken off the heat as soon as they pop open. But let's not get off topic.
Something I really liked about this place was the fact that, for a new place with lots of buzz, it doesn't feel over-designed. The flower-shaped umbrellas hanging from the ceiling give it a fanciful feel and the large mural on one wall provides a nice backdrop, but the funky wallpaper and the 50s tuck-and-roll banquette make it more homey than toney.
Details: Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen, 835 SW 2nd Ave. 503-222-0047.