Welcome to part two of my birthday celebration on Date Night. Part one took us to Hook, Line and Schooner, where we enjoyed the food, but bemoaned the long wait between courses. Tonight, we are at a hip and happening spot in Brookwood Hills where all of the cool kids apparently eat.
Lusca was a Cafe Intermezzo back in the day. Now it’s an interesting mix of a sushi bar along with a menu that is influenced by many countries.
Evidently, the “Lusca” is a legendary Caribbean octopus. It dominates the decor as there is one over the sushi bar and another over the drinks bar.
The decor is plain yet interesting.
The ceiling is metal and the floor is concrete. The tables and chairs add even more hard surfaces to the mix. It is pretty quiet when we arrive for our 7PM reservation, but that’s about to change. Tonight, we are joined by our solo offspring Elliott and his adorable girlfriend Skye. We start off with beers from a strange list.
One is British, and one is from Brooklyn. The list features way too many Japanese beers (remember that sushi bar) and we almost go with the house red wine instead.
We are hungry and begin with two small plates.
Check out those heirloom tomatoes on a big slab of French bread. Throw in a little mayo, dill and a crunchy dried Japanese fish and you have a great appetizer. We also order the fritto misto.
This plate is also a winner. Everything is fried–the oysters, anchovies, fennel and even the lemon. Your taste buds get a workout with this dish. Depending on what’s in your mouth, you taste sweet, salty, spicy and sour, all in the same serving. Kudos to the person who came up with this one.
Sharing is the order of the night with our entrees. From chicken to burgers to fish to pork, they have something for everyone. Vegetarians can get side dishes that should make them happy. Eve and I share a whole roasted branzino. Here it is whole.
And here it is cut in half.
I know it’s me, but every time we get one of these, I feel like I am eating all of the bones as well as the fish. Someone needs to show me how to get the bones out so I can concentrate on the fish and not have to worry about choking. Our fish is nice and moist. The spinach is cooked in chili oil, which makes my date break out into a sweat and decline the rest of hers. I liked it, but beware of the extra fire.
The “kids” split a huge order of chicken.
The arugula on top covers how gorgeous the chicken skin is. They pan fry the skin after it is baked, which gives it a crispy texture on the outside, while retaining the moistness inside. I snatch a taste and it’s really good.
The side orders are enough for a table of four. We get two of them. Here’s the torn potatoes.
We are not sure why they call them “torn”, but that doesn’t matter. They are crispy and very tasty. The parmesan cheese on top is an extra treat. We also get an order of elote, which in Mexican restaurants, is corn on the cob.
This is corn on steroids and perhaps our favorite dish of the night. They mix the corn with Japanese mushrooms, Italian cheese and French peppers to make a dish worthy of its international heritage.
We have enjoyed all of our food tonight and can see that there’s a lot of talent in the kitchen. In our eyes (or is it ears?), Lusca has a big problem. A couple of hours into our visit, the place is packed and it’s so loud that WE HAVE TO SCREAM TO TALK TO EACH OTHER. There is not an inch of sound-deadening material in the construction. Every sound wave bounces off of tile, metal, or concrete, gaining more velocity as it does. It is deafening in here. The people who designed this restaurant should be forced to eat here every night. Their stomachs would be very happy, but they would be deaf in a week.
Meanwhile, back at our table, it’s time for a light dessert, the fig tart.
The dessert menu tonight is pretty basic. A fig tart or ice cream are the only choices. Did the pastry chef called in sick? Anyway, it tastes a lot like pecan pie. Happy birthday to me (again).
The bottom line on Lusca: It’s great to see a crowded, energetic restaurant that does well. People enjoy themselves here and we did too. The food and service were both excellent. We had a long dinner and we never felt any pressure to turn our table. However, the noise level will keep us from returning. We don’t want to sound cranky, but this could be the loudest restaurant in the city. We were both hoarse by the end of our meal. If you can handle the noise, the food is worth trying. If not, pick a different spot, perhaps one where you can hold a conversation with your date without screaming.