: views from the Hill

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

[FOOD] Lüx, Luke and Kitty Sung's new place on Chestnut

We got the word yesterday in e-mail.

Today we are excited to announce Luke and Kitty Sung's new restaurant, Lüx, which will open on June 8th.

Lüx will be serving Asian small plates from a French chef's point of view.

Lüx is located at 2263 Chestnut Street, between Pierce and Scott, in San Francisco. We will be open Monday through Saturday for dinner from 5:30 until 11:00 beginning on June 8th.

Lüx will be open Monday through Sunday for lunch from 11:30-3:00 beginning on June fifteenth. To make reservations call us at 415.567.2998

We look forward to seeing you at Lüx!

Luke and Kitty Sung

Our younger son is spending part of each week in San Francisco as an unpaid intern at a non-profit at the Presidio. "Wanna come?" we asked. He did, so his nibs made a reservation for 8:30P and we walked over. (Fifty minutes to walk over. Fifty minutes to walk back. At least it makes some dent in the calories consumed.)

The place was rocking, packed full of people. Some had been drawn by an e-mail from Luke and Kitty. Some had stumbled over the place, not realizing they were attending a first night.

Luke came over and introduced himself to our son when we came in. Luke hadn't been at Isa last summer when the three of us ate there. "Hi, I'm Luke," he said, offering his hand. "Hi," the younger younger guy replied, giving his name in return. "I've heard a lot about you."

Dinner was filled with good things. Our son was suitably enamored. No foie, alas. Luke had told us that the closest thing to foie on the menu was a chicken liver dish I might like. The point of Lüx is to have a less formal restaurant experience, with light Asian/French fare. Less cream and rich foods, more seafood, more citrus.

When Luke came by to talk, we were reminiscing about the day we'd discovered Isa in spring 2001, nine months or so after he'd opened. We'd been drawn in by the menu he had posted on his window, drawn in by the fact he had both foie and sweetbreads on his menu.

Ah, he said, his eyes lighting up. Those are two of my best dishes, but I can't have foie on this menu. This menu has lighter fare than Isa and foie wouldn't fit. ...Sweetbreads, though. ... Maybe a sweetbread salad with mixed greens, arugula, a light fruity vinaigrette ... ah, he said. You could see his mind whirling about the possibilities of a sweetbread salad, light enough to suit the menu.

Luke and Kitty closed Isa for the next two weeks while they concentrate on Lüx. They've brought staff from Isa to supplement their new staff. Our waiter was the same waiter we'd had a couple weeks ago at Isa.

We ordered eight plates, but I wasn't keeping track so I can't give the ins and outs of flavors and decorative pieces of green. Here are my memories, brief as they are:

ceviche - yummy. The broth was spicy and when spooned up after the fish was gone, tasted very gazpacho-ish. The youngest of us doesn't much care for seafood, so he tried this dish and left it to his elders to split the rest.

chicken livers on a mixed green bed - delicious. Grilled -- with bacon fat? Tasted like it. Even better than the chicken livers I had on Monday night at The House.

wonton filled with warm goat cheese served with a relish made with dried apricots - yummy. We squabbled over how to split the plate equitably.

crab soup with corn - my least favorite of the dishes, but being as the rest were so extraordinary, this isn't to say the dish wasn't good. The soup was thickened with egg swirled into the broth. Our non-seafood eater had several spoonfuls and left the rest for us. Unlike Isa, Lüx doesn't arrange to split bowls of soup, so if you don't want to spoon out of the same bowl, you need to order separate bowls. We were just in a tasting mode, though, so we shared the same bowl.

zucchini croquettes - melt in your mouth. "This is the way you'd like to always eat vegetables, isn't it, Mom?" Oh, indeedy it is, I thought. The croquettes were served simply, on a black napkin set on a plate. There were five. How do you divide five by three? Very carefully.

Peking duck wraps - delicious. The Peking duck came with a touch of hoisin. The "wraps" weren't really. The hoison-flavored shredded duck meat was served in lettuce cups with pinenuts and shredded cabbage. A hit with all three of us.

hanger steak - deliciously spiced. Served in three pieces so it was easy to share. Cooked medium rare. I gave my son an extra portion of mine, being as he'd given up his fair share of the ceviche and the crab soup. The steak could've been more tender or the steak knives sharper, but the flavor was superb.

flash deep-fried green beans - called green beans tempura, iirc. Can't say what the flavoring was, but these beans were delicious. Thin, very thin green beans. The beans were tossed in the hot oil just long enough to crisp the outside and warm the beans through. Despite that description, the beans weren't greasy. The spices were perfect.

We each had a creme caramel for dessert. Our son had ordered a chocolate mousse, but they'd run out so Luke comp'd him a creme caramel in exchange. When we got our bill we found out that Kitty had put all our desserts on the house. Eight dishes, comp'd desserts, coffee for two of us and a bottle of wine set us back $$$, which was approximately what we'd paid for the exceptional dinner we had on Monday night at the House.

Our younger son much preferred Lüx and I'd make the same choice, if I had to choose. The nice thing is we can eat at Isa or Lüx, if we don't mind walking fifty minutes each way or taking the bus or calling a cab, but we also have the House serving up delicious food in North Beach within a ten-minute walk of home.

Luke seemed pleased with the opening night. There were things, he said, he was already thinking of changing. I hope he adds the sweetbread salad. I also hope he opts for a new menu design. The menus last night had black lettering on a roast coffee brown background. Pretty, but the contrast was insufficient, making the menu hard for older folks like me to read in the subdued lighting.

Yummy dinner. We'll definitely be back on a regular basis to see whether a sweetbread salad appears on the menu, but there are so many other places we haven't been.

A restaurant must be above average, usually far above average, for us to return. Lüx definitely meets that criteria. Isa. Aqua. The House. Piperade. Zarzuela. Others...

We're going with friends back to Rubicon next week. Going with other friends back to Isa in July. We're taking our older son and his husband out to dinner somewhere this weekend. We'll see how adventurous they're feeling, and how far they're willing to walk.

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