There's a saying among parents of small children charged with cutting up birthday cake amidst shouts of "I want a star" or "I want the pink piece": You get what you get and you don't get upset. It could also be the motto of Sang Yoon, the proprietor of Father's Office and the new Lukshon who has become known for his refusal to offer substitutions or even provide any ketchup for his burgers.
Now, I try to avoid restaurants that have recently been reviewed in the LA Times, so I was a bit miffed when, two days before my reservation, Irene Virbila came out with a review. The only saving grace was that she only gave the restauarnt one and a half stars, which I figured might cut down on the craziness that usually follows a Times review.
Sitting directly adjacent to the Culver City Father's Office, in the old Helms Bakery building, Lukshon is a pan-Asian restaurant with family style service. It bills itself as Southeast Asian, but the flavors run from South Asia to Japan with everything in between.
Overall, I was very impressed with the food, bright Asian flavors and whimsical concepts resulted in a really good meal. I started with a Lukshon sour, a play on a whiskey sour using Michter's Rye and tamarind. It had a nice sweet/sour/salty interplay which seemed to reference both tamarind drinks and the salty limeade you get at Vietnamese restaurants.
The menu features a number of small plates. Shrimp toasts were satisfying little fried grease bombs. Lamb roti was a nicely seasoned lamb with a raita-type sauce on a deep fried roti, sort of an Indian lamb pizza. From the raw menu, mackerel slices topped with a green papaya salad were pleasant but not very exciting.
Both of our entree sized dishes were big hits. Short Ribs Rendang, a Malaysian treatment, were melt in your mouth soft with a nice crust. They were served with fried coconut rice cakes which had a satisfying combination of crisp and stick-to-your-teeth chewy; they were highly craveable, tasting like deep fried popcorn. Garlic pork belly was a Chinese style stir fry. The pork belly was in small bites, each featuring equal parts of nicely caramelized, chewy meat and luscious, slippery fat. The bowl also included cabbage and little rice cakes, of the tubular variety, that had a nice crispy crust, another nice textural contrast.
While the food was very good, the service was chaotic. We were brought one dish that wasn't ours while our dish was served to another table, we waited a very long time between the small plates and mains and the waiter forgot one of our dishes entirely. Part of it might have to do with the fact that the waiters use hand-held computers to place orders and run credit cards (like at the Apple Store) and they may not have mastered the technology yet (or maybe our waiter just hadn't).
After dinner, they offered Vietnamese Coffee, but they didn't have decaf, so we regrettably passed.
Strangely, there is no dessert menu. Everyone is served a small, complimentary dessert. The night we were there, there were two plates. A mango panna cotta with coconut sorbet was very nice. The panna cotta was creamy and the mango and coconut blended well (there was a citrus element which tied it all together well but I can't remember what it was). The second dish was a Vietnamese Coffee Truffle and a marshmallow. The truffle was a basic chocolate truffle without any discernible coffee flavor and the marshmallow was fine but unexciting.
The desserts are quite small, and the table next to us asked if they could get a bit more of the delicious coconut sorbet. The waiter was fairly gracious in his refusal, but didn't they know this was a Sang Yoon restaurant - you get what you get, and you don't get upset.
3239 Helms Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232