Lukshon, Los Angeles review

On the more memorable end of the dining spectrum, there are basically two distinct types of restaurants: those that inspire you to get up, go home and cook, and those that inspire you to remain seated and keep ordering. Lukshon, Sang Yoon’s Culver City based, pan-Asian tapas bar is definitely the latter – partly because of his über-intricate, process-oriented culinary style, but also because of his unique and utterly unrepeatable flavor combinations.

After having served countless “Office burgers” and micro-brew beers to just about every hipster on the Westside at his 14 year-old gastropub Father’s Office, chef Yoon created a seminal Southeast Asian concept-brasserie that has become a canvas for his distinctive culinary genius.

All of the communal counter tops and private tables in the contemporary teak room seem to reach out lovingly towards the lucite lined, multi megawatt kitchen. (I can only imagine how tough it must be for any of the cooks to pick their nose or adjust their groin while working under such a formidable spotlight.)

Tea Leaf Salad - Lukshon

Tea Leaf Salad

The menu starts off offering a handful of single origin (and surprisingly overlooked) Asian teas, before heading off boldly into exotica. Many items change seasonally (or due to toque boredom) but thankfully the half-dozen or so staples are just too perfect to mess with. I’m referring to the sweet, sour, hot and deliriously smooth Hawaiian Butterfish with Thai chili and lime vesicles, and the most amazingly crunchy Tea Leaf Salad that combines that wonderful chewy sourness of your favorite grandma’s slaw with all sorts of nuts and crispy lentils and even a prawn for extra panache.

Beef Tartare - Lukshon

Beef Tartare

The Beef Tartare arrives as a fresh and zesty foursome of thimble-sized nuggets perched (super briefly) on top of a cucumber disc.

Spicy Chicken Pops - Lukshon

Spicy Chicken Pops

But the two main reasons I have dragged more than forty guests to this Chinoiserie are the Spicy Chicken Pops and the Kurobuta Pork Ribs. The former gently spiced with Sichuan salts and carved into very user-friendly lollipops, and the latter slathered in the darkest of deliciously smoky, vinegary, chicory coffee barbecue sauces I have ever encountered – on an always too small half-slab of fall-off-the-bone ribs. This dish is without doubt on my pre-lethal injection final meal list.

Kurobuta Pork Ribs - Lukshon

Kurobuta Pork Ribs

One of the newer items is Yoon’s Lobster Roll, which is a lighter than average but relatively neutral tarragon-citrus-mayo lobster salad, wedged in between a couple of inches of Labrador-colored butter-laden toast. But it’s the almost translucent slither of smoky, salty pig’s ear terrine that launches this 3-bite snack into super-orbit.

Lobster Roll - Lukshon

Lobster Roll

My favorite of the wok-fried rice dishes is a crispy and hearty Black Wild Rice with a tangy XO sauce, covered by a soft fried egg that adds a luxuriously rich and silky finish.

Asian sweets are seldom a big hit among western diners, but Yoon steals many a familiar flavor like chocolate, toffee and passion fruit in his assortment of ice-cream, crumb and crust deserts, but if you’re still skeptical, do not miss the bold and robust flavored Vietnamese coffee – served with a Barbie doll tea-party-sized jug of sweetened condensed milk.


Betony review

Betony -


I am thrilled to say that I can now join the ranks of the fortunate few who have tried (and loved) former Eleven Madison Park executive sous-chef Bryce Shuman’s Midtown marvel Betony.

The amber-lit duplex sandwiched between office blocks, is lined with impressive wood-carved panels up the walls and across the ceiling. Not a single details gets in the way of arguably one of the best dining experiences the city has to offer. The menu is focused and filler-free, the service is meticulously synchronized, the staff are knowledgeable and approachable, even the seats are sumptuous and cozy.

Shuman encourages his diners to choose from each of the three menu sections to create their own sharing degustation experience. All the hors D’Oeuvres are conveniently built into dispute-free bites of 4, the appetizers require a bit more congenial surgery, whereas the main courses discard the notion of brotherly love entirely.

Betony - Lobster Rolls

Lobster Rolls

The Lobster Rolls have a zesty lobster-créme piped inside little crispy cigarillos, which sit on a bed of parsley infused salt-n-vinegar chip crumbs. The hot Foie Gras served with crispy kale and a salty ham broth underscores the incredible caramel flavor of the liver. The Short Rib could have stopped traffic, not only by virtue of the complexity of its dark flavors but also because it is served with a formidable rib bone to which the tender meat clings for dear life. The Poached Lobster bathed in almond foam and covered with asparagus was cooked until 3 perfect heartbeats before the succulent flesh would have become firm.

Betony - Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken

And finally, the dish that all hoopla is about – the Roasted Chicken! Why is it that so much fuss is being made over baked poultry this far west of the Mississippi? Commerce, Eataly, The Nomad and so many others vie for top hen, and now Betony adds its sublimely memorable and utterly unique contender to that list. A delicate slither of the moistest breast sits on a smear of pea, accompanied by chicken & mint Au Jus with a side salad of dark meat. Unbelievable!

Shuman does an interesting take on desserts by offering an identical trio structure (cake, gelato and mousse) in a variety of interesting and quirky flavor combinations, like Dark chocolate, Olive oil and Bergamot, or Amaranth, Maple and Banana. We settled on the subtle yet sweet Passion Fruit, Ginger and Cilantro to round out my meal of the month for May!