It's no secret that I love finding foodie gems in unexpected parts of town. And though “gem” may be an overused term, it perfectly characterizes Luc's Bistro, a sparkly standout in a quiet, conservative setting. It's a solitaire, if you will, though I look forward to digging deeper into the Poway food scene to see what other treasures might be hiding among the trees.
The Luc's Bistro folks say they dish “stylish comfort food,” which is a comfortable spot to sit in as a restaurant, not to mention a pretty smart business model. This isn't the place for experimental foams or gelées; it's a small dining room in a Poway strip mall serving excellent food to people who appreciate extremely well done versions of their own kitchen classics.
One of my companions felt the food was worthy of white tablecloths—or any tablecloth at all, as all the wooden tables in the dining room were bare. But I liked the casual feel; it was still classy and felt like dining at the home of a more talented and culinary-minded pal. I recently enjoyed a great meal with four others at Luc's before catching a show at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts. They were very accommodating of our time frame—in fact, they asked us if we had to get out of there at a certain time before we even thought about mentioning it.
I was impressed with both the traditional “comfort food” offerings on the menu, as well as the unique creations; there's nothing better than creativity in a strip-mall eatery. The meatloaf was incredibly soft and moist with a peppery gravy. It's amazing how a humble loaf of meat can fall anywhere on the spectrum from dry and depressing to luxurious and sophisticated. Luc's version definitely leans toward the latter.
The same could be said for both the macaroni and cheese and the Linguine Bolognese. Both are recognizable and perhaps overdone in our own kitchens. What I loved about Luc's macaroni was that they let the blue cheese sing as the main flavor profile, yet it managed to not be over-the-top. The strong flavor was baked into every crevice of noodle for a sumptuous and right-from-the-oven tongue pleaser.
The Bolognese was a delightful surprise. I find most meat sauces lacking in flavor, but Luc's was exceptional. It's clear they build their sauce in layers using the holy trinity of carrots, onions and celery, then adding garlic, herbs and tomatoes. It's a humble sauce every home cook should master, and it's completely elevated when time is taken to let all the flavors develop.
I enjoyed an entrée that I'd order again in a heartbeat. My pretty plate came filled with fresh chunks of salmon along with delicate crab-stuffed ravioli. All of these fresh offerings from the sea were nestled in a coconut-cauliflower sauce. I don't think coconut haters would be put off by this sauce; it's very subtle, no more than a bit of sweetness added to the creamy puree of cauliflower. The whole shebang was quirkily tied together by a drizzle of coppery curry oil. There was just enough to give the dish a smoky strength without dominating the more delicate flavors. I loved the balance and color, as well as the interesting combination of everyday ingredients.
Wouldn't it be terrible if I said Luc's Bistro puts some “pow” into the Poway food scene? I won't say that. Because that would be ridiculous, and the food deserves a classier conclusion. Bam!