First Taste: Lüke


I confess that I was thinking about what I would write about New Orleans star John Besh's new brasserie Lüke even before my first course. I was wringing my hands over whether it would be responsible—even possible—to write about a New Orleans restaurant without talking about the fact that Katrina still touches everything that happens in this wondrous city, that Katrina is not something that happened, but something that is still happening. I worried about this question as I looked around this brand-new restaurant, even while noting that in 30 years, it finally will look lived-in enough for its gorgeous, evocative belt-driven ceiling fans. The too-bright lights revealed the cleanliness of the dining room, but in a sort of antiseptic way. And then I thought about the contrast between this very put-together room and the Lower Ninth Ward, which is absolutely not yet put back together. And I continued to think about these things even as I ate the Crabmeat Maison, sweet and fragrant with fines herbes and lemon zest. Even as my friend and I put away the smoky and smooth pork rillettes. Even as we snapped into beautifully firm, briny Lousiana shrimp from the shellfish bar. It seemed somehow offensive of me, to be eating these things while thinking of that. But then I crunched into the pied de cochon, a crisp shell delivering a hot shot of molten pig. It was shockingly delicious, so much so that I remembered the value of Louisiana's oldest cliché: Laissez les bons temps rouler. It wasn't time for me to forget about the things that need to be talked about, but it was time for me to honor the good things that are here. And then, for a few hours, I relaxed, and I honored this place by loving my meal. Lüke 333 St Charles, New Orleans, LA 504-378-3840

Subscribe to Gourmet