Take Sunday supper easy at great L.A. restaurants
For a moderately priced fine-dining experience to cap the weekend, try Lucques, Eva Restaurant, Ammo, Noir Food & Wine or Dominick's.
The Sunday supper menu at Noir Food & Wine has included scallop. (Stefano Paltera / For The Times)
You can go out for Chinese, order in or — radical idea — cook. Some of you might get lucky and have a friend invite you over for homemade Korean barbecue or a paella.
Whatever the plan, Sunday is for relaxing, for sneaking in a last dose of pleasure before the Monday-to-Friday blues start up all over again. That's why they call it "Sunday supper" as opposed to the more formal "Sunday dinner."
Lately, some of L.A.'s best restaurants have been tapping into that desire for something simple and delicious on Sunday night by offering prix-fixe suppers. Suzanne Goin started the trend at Lucques early on, and her relaxed three-course suppers, offered at a relatively modest price, became so popular that you sometimes had to reserve weeks in advance.
Other restaurants have joined the movement. Some took on Sunday suppers for short spurts. Others have made it a permanent feature. And yes, there are Sunday night groupies out there. How better to try out an otherwise expensive restaurant at a bargain price? Other diners just love the festive, familial atmosphere and have become regulars.
It's a good deal all around. With the menu already set (with, at most, a couple of choices), it's easier for guests to focus on the company and the conversation. For that one night, waiters' jobs are less stressful because everybody at the table is basically eating the same thing and sharing the same experience. And by cooking just one menu, the kitchen has only to concentrate on executing a few dishes perfectly. Bliss.
But where to go? Here are our picks of the best Sunday suppers around town, gleaned from several months of Sunday eating.
The rustic Mediterranean menus Suzanne Goin created on Sundays for Lucques eventually made their way into her bestselling 2005 cookbook "Sunday Suppers at Lucques." The tradition is still going strong.
On an early October night, I was surprised to find Goin (who co-owns several other restaurants) in the kitchen. It turns out she cooks on Sundays much of the time. Lucques, after all, is her first restaurant — and home. And after a dozen years, Sunday night supper is still going strong. Each week she sends out an e-mail with the menu.
This one sounded too good to pass up. With a fire in the fireplace, candles glowing against brick walls, and the patio awning cinched back, Lucques looked particularly lovely that night. The trend seekers long ago moved on, and the crowd is a mix of ages and genres, with some romantic couples too. We started with a pretty watermelon and tomato salad with mint, watercress and crumbled feta. The watermelon is juicy and sweet against the acid of the tomatoes — yellow, pink, red, green — and the soft crumbled feta adds its salty note. She always offers a choice of fish or meat for the main course. Wild salmon in a crunchy breadcrumb crust with bacon is wonderful with ribbons of soft cabbage, fresh sweet corn and pickled pink onions.
But even more of a standout is the grilled lamb sirloin served with fat pale-green lima beans and black olives on a bed of skordalia, the Greek garlic and potato purée. I'd be happy with either one: Fortunately, we shared. But we each got our own goat cheese and ricotta tart on a buttery short crust for dessert. Drizzled with honey and heaped with pretty pink-fleshed figs and pine nuts, the tart ended the meal with a flirty, sweet note.
A more recent example: cipollini onion tart with Roquefort, arugula and red flame grapes; steamed clams with green garlic, farro, vermouth and green olive toast or harissa-braised lamb with sweet potatoes, long-cooked kale and pomegranate salsa; vanilla panna cotta with roasted dates, pistachio brittle and tangerine sorbet.
Lucques, 8474 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (323) 655-6277; http://www.lucques.com. Three-course menu, $45. Sundays, 5 to 10 p.m.
Mark Gold is in his element at his small midtown restaurant where he seems to be everywhere at once — greeting guests, cooking, carrying out dishes. And on Sundays, it can get very intense. He's been putting out generous, incredibly delicious Sunday night suppers since he opened the restaurant in fall 2009. One toddler comes every week with her parents and eats everything.
It's all served family-style, a platter of this or that set in the middle of the table. His menu is unique in that it includes two offbeat wine discoveries every Sunday, which the sommelier presents with aplomb and pours freely.
It makes for a festive evening, especially if you come with a few friends. In warm weather, there's also seating in the back garden or on the front porch.
The night's menu might begin with a salad of Little Gem lettuce tossed in a velvety green goddess dressing, then a platter of juicy fried chicken and warm, vinegary potato salad. Gold doesn't believe in skimping. He usually sends out a second main course, which could be thick slices of slow-braised brisket and a bowl of creamed heirloom spinach. That's followed, of course, by dessert, maybe a buttered bread pudding drizzled with a caramel sauce or a lemon pudding cake crowned with meringue.