This week marks the one-year anniversary of one of the most exciting restaurants in Culver City. Located in the Helms District, Lukshon is a modern twist on Southeast Asian cuisine. Executive chef and co-owner Sang Yoon (of Father's Office) has created a menu that combines modern techniques with traditional spices, creating something unique.
At first glance, Lukshon appears to be a rather expensive-looking date night -- a wall of natural light, which cascades over a wide-open dining room and bar, leading to an open kitchen, and décor that is understated and elegant (from the design firm of Intelligentsia Design). But the truth is that the menu, which includes a wide variety of small plates, noodles and rice offerings, is really a reasonable deal and can be experienced even by patrons on a budget.
Co-owner James Bygrave, a Brit by way of Hong Kong (his parents were diplomats for Her Majesty's government), guided my party through several exotic courses, beginning with the Hawaiian butterfish ($10) -- a melt-in-your-mouth row of sliced portions of something akin to monkfish.
We next sampled the spicy chicken pops ($9) -- one of the restaurant's most popular items, and no wonder. The long, slow heat of the garlicky drumettes is nothing short of addictive. You may find yourself picking up your next pop before you've finished your current one.
And for more heat, we tried the Kurobuta pork ribs. The Asian classic has been updated with a spicy chicory coffee barbecue sauce that provides a surprising and unsuspected twist. Again, the delayed heat is just enough to warm you up. It's not overwhelming; something about mild to medium on the spice spectrum.
We sipped jasmine tea to cleanse our palates between dishes. There are a variety of teas to choose from, but the jasmine was amazing and you don't have to be a tea-drinker to enjoy it. It has a light, floral bouquet and compliments the spice of the Asian dishes nicely.
Next, was the lamb belly roti canai -- an Indian-inspired flatbread, almost like an Indian pizza. The heat is offset and contrasted remarkably by the mint and yogurt, which provides a cool, refreshing zest. Be forewarned, this is a dish that would be very easy to load up on, plate after plate.
For our next venture, we headed deeper into the flavors of Myanmar, and had the tea leaf salad. This light combination of cabbage, marcona almonds, peanuts and sesame is complimented with a crispy chana dal. It's a dish Bygrave is rightfully proud of because the chana dal is difficult to import from the Southeast Asian country. The salad is a wonderful and tasty mix of textures.
We continued with heirloom black rice, with chunks of garlic and a fried egg atop. When mixed together, the rice becomes very aromatic. We also had the steamed fish, one of this reviewer's favorite dishes of the lunch -- delicate chunks of fish with Taiwan spinach and ginger and herbs in a tangy, sweet-spicy sauce.
Just as noteworthy was the pork belly lettuce cups. Essentially a handheld salad, the pork belly is placed into the cup and topped with cabbage and crispy strips of pig ear, is ready for a sweet chili sauce to be drizzled over top -- delicious.
Lukshon is perfect for just about any occasion, any budget and any appetite. Congratulations to Lukshon on its first anniversary. Foodies are hoping there will be many to come.