When the question of where we should go for my mother-in-law's birthday dinner first surfaced, I immediately suggested Luke's.
Curb your enthusiasm, woman.
Truth is though new restaurants have been popping up quicker than you can say, "bill, please" but there are less than a handful of restaurants that I would love to try out and Luke's is one of them.
I was majorly psyched after the reservation was made and I even considered putting on something that could pass off as maternity wear.
And I repeat, curb your enthusiasm, woman.
I was surprised by how small the restaurant was though a large imposing mirror gives off the illusion of a much larger dining area. Undeniably classy, the restaurant helmed by chef Travis Masiero could easily pass off as an Upper East Sider's hangout. The mood was casual and convivial; the service, professional but subtle and friendly, was exemplary.
In place of white crusty bread, we had munchkin-sized cornbread muffins. Small but potentially dangerous in numbers, it was a good thing they didn't offer to replenish these when we were done with them.
The paprika-sprinkled butter came with a wooden paddle that can only be described as ornamental and kitschy. This accompanaint was unnecessary, given the buttery nature of cornbread muffins; then again, I never got the rationale for putting fries in gyro or potatoes on pizza.
While the others lapped, or rather slurped up those briny babies, I turned my attention towards Travis' Tomato Salad, which consisted of feta, red onions, cucumbers and beetroot. I have spent a good deal of my life avoiding tomatoes, believing them to be watery, tasteless thingies; yet for this salad, I found myself picking out the sweetest tomatoes. If I could get my hands on these tomatoes, I would eat enough to make up for lost time.
After the shells were cleared and we were given warm towels to clean up, the mains were served in due time.
The jumbo crab cakes were incredible! Jam-packed with crab and almost devoid of fillers. Pairing them with creamy mustard vinaigrette and coleslaw cuts the potentially overwhelming richness of those pucks.
If you have less than $50 to spare, get this and offer to pay the balance by doing dishes for an hour.
Each might not be bigger than your palm but attempting to finish them on your own would be watching your downfall played out in slow motion. So good. Order and share them please!
We shared two meats that evening, one being a prime ribeye, done medium rare. Sidenote: I love how they offered to slice up our meats since we were sharing everything.
As you can see, the ribeye was perfectly grilled, blessed with a blush of pink that OPI or L'oreal should seriously consider naming their next range of products after. The peppercorn crust, tender pinkish insides and a nugget of saturated fat that made me extremely gleeful.
Luke's bone-in tenderloin drizzled with mustard cognac jus was just as delicious. And I have ran out of adjectives to describe this piece of meat.
The food at Luke's might seem simple for what you are paying for but simple also means easy to screw up. And I rather have simple but well-executed, than unnecessarily frivolous any day.
The only disappointment of the meal was the lobster mac and cheese. Due to a barely there Ritz cracker crust, the mac and cheese came across as one-dimensional; no, the soft chunks of lobster didn't help and neither did the Ritz cracker crust that turned soggy after a while.
Now, where's my 'I Heart Panko' t-shirt?
Luckily, the creamed spinach was a befitting accompaniment and I'm not saying this being it was served with a fried egg. Oh, who am I kidding? Adding fried egg to any dish offers a one-way ticket to Happyville.
Look. At. That. Runny. Yolk. Any deathrow-last-meal-of-mine would include a fried egg. Order this please!
Chocolate chip cookie, pies, brownies... desserts are just as wholesome as they get - in case you didn't get the memo that Luke's serves up all-American dishes.
The blueberry tart and peach yogurt ice cream might not consist of groundbreaking flavour combinations but every component from the light buttery tart structure to the creamy icicle-free ice cream played their part well.
The double fudge chocolate brownie might sound predictable but the addition of torched marshmallows, chocolate-coated cherries and cocoa crisps made this particularly unforgettable.
All in all, Luke's is one of those places where you ought to save - literally and figuratively - for special occasions. I have already given much thought to what I will order on my next visit... I just need a damn good reason to head back soon.