During my visit to New Orleans I had a conference to work at and I wanted to set up a team dinner for everyone helping out. While my first choice was Cochon, the limited menu makes it tough for a group dining experience so I moved over to Lüke, a well-known New Orleans restaurant from local chef, John Besh. When you talk about New Orleans restaurants and famous chefs, you get the usuals mentioned: Prudhomme, Emile Lagasse, the Brennans, Don Link and John Besh. So his reputation preceded the experience and I’m glad so say that dining at Lüke met all my expectations for a great New Orleans meal!
Out front, Lüke presents a very reserved demeanor. Small store-front, discrete and subdued signage. Inside the action picks up with the classic brasserie experience and decor, you feel as if you might have gone back a 100 years or so. The staff is all decked out in black pants and white coats to enhance that feel and the side oyster bar acts as a central activity spot with lots of folks congregating for cocktails and seafood. Interestingly enough, Lüke is split up into two dining rooms with a lovely hotel foyer in between. The space smells and feels of a classic New Orleans experience from times gone by.
My group of 11 people gets seated in the back room for larger parties, we’ve got one wait person for the party which surprised me a bit. She’s young but seems confident enough, I have to believe they train their staff well here. We order up some wine for the table and Lüke also has a short menu of special cocktails. For the table we get four sharable apps ranging from roasted oysters to an onion tart, pork rillette (pate) and crawfish boudin. I only was able to get tastes of the roasted oysters (delicious, au gratin style) along with the onion tart which was more like a flavorful white pizza, great start Lüke!
With three bottles of wine and cocktails flowing, this back dining room can get a bit loud but not to worry cause the food is great so far! My main entree of choucroute garnie maison is a beast of a dish! Medium sized cast-iron platter with a large sausage, pork shank, pork belly, sauerkraut and let’s throw in some new potatoes for good measure. I eye it warily for a couple of minutes trying to find a weak spot and decide where to start but who wants to live forever?! The bratwurst is the easiest meat to start with. This plump firm sausage paired with the slightly sweet and tangy sauerkraut makes for a nice forkful! The pork belly is nicely braised and tender but probably not my favorite preparation for this deliciously fatty meat. And that brontosaurus-like pork shank? I take to it with fork and knife carving off pieces of tender meat and only get about half way through. There is a LOT of food in this pan and it’s all heavy-weight eats so I barely touch the potatoes. I tap out and watch the rest of the meal at the table. The lamb meatballs special, a Lüke burger which looks fantastic and more. Everyone is tearing into their food and enjoying it tremendously which makes me happy about my choice.
After the main, some folks finished off with coffee, creme brulee (which I tried, super-creamy) and a bread pudding with thumbs up all around. The check comes out and I split the bill with one of my co-workers and we are D-O-N-E! Great meal, solid service and an excellent dining experience all around. John Besh certainly knows how to put out some good food and I really loved the atmosphere here. From the classic raw bar, split dining rooms, sharp looking staff and Continental interior, dinner at Lüke transports you 3,000 miles away to Europe. And while I thought all the food was very good, some of my dining companions said it was the best they’ve had of said meal. So maybe I’m just being a bit tough on the menu. But overall, I’d definitely come back and recommend Lüke to anyone else looking for a classic meal experience with tasty albeit, heavy cuisine. Great job Chef Besh and appreciate all the fantastic food we enjoyed at Lüke Restaurant!