If there's one thing Sang Yoon knows how to do, it's build anticipation. After months of preparation, rampant media speculation, publicist road blocks, and a few days of preview dinners last week, he finally debuts his new Culver City restaurant, Lukshon, tomorrow. It's safe to say, it was probably worth the wait.
The space–simple, crisp and minimalist–overflows with stunning, subtle details, courtesy Ana Henton and MASS Architecture & Design. The open kitchen is the focal point, with seats along the bar for front-row viewing of all the action. Those flower patterns etched into the wood panels around the dining room? They came from vintage Chinoiserie fabric. The silvery beaded tiles in the ladies room? Real platinum. Chefs will envy the kitchen Yoon's built, and the wine-tap system is one of the most exclusive and custom-made anywhere.
And for you, the diners?
The menu is filled with a world of ingredients, spices and peppers most people won't recognize unless they've spent some serious time eating through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and China. Amped-up flavor profiles coupled with Yoon's pedigree, which goes way beyond the burger, will probably make this one of the more difficult reservations to get in town.
You'll be schooled on rau ram, Vietnamese coriander in the Monterey Bay squid stuffed with house-made chiang mai pork sausage; mussels with green chile rempah, a flavorful spice paste for curry; garlic pork belly with peppery Sichuan do ban jian; his special X.O. sauce with heirloom black rice; and tongue-numbing decontsructed dandan noodles. The chicken pops, drumettes coated in garlic, kecap manis (a sort of sweet Indonesian soy sauce) and Sichaun salt, are nothing like the wings you'll find in Buffalo.
The wine list, overseen by Eduardo Carriero (Grace's former sommelier), perfectly matches this food. And the staff knows their stuff: recommendations come easily. While Yoon has served kegged wine since the Helms Bakery Father's Office debuted, here you'll find even more and often exclusive, small-production offerings, such as Tatomer Gruner Veltliner from Edna Valley (there were only 100 cases made, and Lukshon got half of it).
Cocktails and spirits are limited, as they are next door, but at least you can get vodka here (Monopolova from Austria), plus the really interesting, peaty, single-malt Whisky Amrut from India. Even the teas are taken seriously.
One thing you'll always get at Lukshon: free dessert. Every table gets something sweet at the end of the meal, maybe pandan panna cotta or kiwi soup, and it will always change.
The restaurant will be open for dinner, Monday through Saturday, beginning tomorrow, February 1.