Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cafe Luck

Cafe Luck is located in Santa Barbara just off of State Street a few doors down from The Palace Resturant. The restaurant opened Sept 2008 and it's menu is French Bistro inspired. I'm lucky enough to be great friends with the assistant to the owner and looked forward to the meal.

The restaurant has a very casual feel, as do most places in Santa Barbara. There were three of us and we had reservations for 8pm on a Saturday night. We were seated immediately seated and I started to peruse the menu. I wanted to see if menu had what I was expecting for a French Bistro. The menu was divided into standard bistro style categories, Fruits de mer, soups et salads, hors d'oeuvres, plats principaux, and plats du jour decorate. I was hoping to see some classic French dishes and most were included, Steak Tartare, Moules Mariniere and Duck a L'Orange. Since this was my first visit and my hosts had eaten at Cafe Luck several times, we decided to get some dishes that they had really enjoyed and some items they have never tried.

The meal started with a half dozen oysters, a mix of Fanny Bay and Blue Point, served with a Mignonette Sauce. The oysters were very mild and not very meaty, but not bad. The oysters were paired with Champagne, Baumard Carte Turquoise Cremant De Loire Brut NV, it was very crisp, a bit pricey but nice. Next came the Escargot and Steak Tartare, the Escargot was served without the shells and bathing in garlic butter. It was very good, not chewy but had just enough texture and what can be bad about butter and garlic? The Steak Tartare was not as impressive, the tartare was missing just a bit of acid, the tartare I had at Comme Ca was much better.

The last of our starters was the "Farmers Salad", a version of the classic warm Frisee salad with Poached Egg, for anyone that enjoys bacon and eggs, this is a great starter. We ordered two of these salads and one of them had a poached egg that was overcooked. The yolk is very important to the success of this dish. Nonetheless the lardons, the vinagrette and the fingerling potato chips all worked well together.

It was time to move on to the Entrees and our first bottle of wine. We had a hard time trying to figure out what to order, we were kinda full, but also wanted to try something different. I had my mind set on the Whole Roasted Chicken with Truffle Butter. Since we had "connections" we went to the source and asked the executive chef what we should get. He suggested that if we get the chicken, we should get the whole fish en croute. We went with his suggestion, even though the chicken would take 45 mins to prepare. We were also recommended the 2007 Brewer-Clifton Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir to go with the rest of our meal. The chicken, fish and wine were all high ticket items and my expectations were also high. The wine was very good, I'm not a connoisseur of wine, but I do know what I like. This wine was good.

The whole fish was brought out with the salt crust partially removed. The fish was then removed from the bone and plated with roasted fingerling potatoes and assorted vegetables. The vegetables included grilled pearl onions, grilled tomatoes and baby zucchini, they complimented the subtle flavors of the striped bass. The bass was moist and the salt crust added a nice flavor, the roasted potatoes were very salty. Overall the fish en croute was very good, unfortunately our appetites weren't and we still had the whole chicken coming.

The roasted chicken was presented whole in the roasting pan. The chicken was then carved and served on a platter. It was served with the Pomme Puree and Roasted Baby Vegetables and Croutons. The Pomme Puree was super smooth and rich, I'm afraid to know how much butter was used to make it. The roasted baby vegetables were also very nice, there were baby carrots, Swiss Chard and Pearl Onions. But a very nice surprise were the croutons served with the vegetables. When you dipped the croutons into the delicious pan juices from the chicken and then dipped it into the pomme puree, it was close to heaven. That's saying something when your completely full. The chicken skin was nice and crispy, the meat was moist, but there was no sign of truffle flavor. Most of the chicken was packed up in a to go container.

The surprise of the evening was still to come. With barely any room for air, we decided to take a look at the dessert menu. We ordered the Pot de Creme and a Passion Fruit Sorbet. The Pot de Creme was a new add on to the menu,let me just say this, it was awesome. It was an absolutely perfect way to end the meal. The custard was silky smooth and had a very nice sweetness. Normally a creme brulee is served in a ramkin style dish, Cafe Luck served their creme brulee is a more of a cup like container. It had a smaller opening on the top so their was less of the bruleed sugar. This was nice, the sugar was not needed as the custard was the star.

Overall Cafe Luck was good, but the price is way too high for the French Bistro dishes they offer. Even with a discount, our bill exceed $280. If I do go again, I will try to tame my cravings to taste everything.

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