Monday, February 8, 2016

Off the Map: We're the Types of People Waiters Get Warned About

Braised Shortribs with Horseradish Cream -- Lucques, Los Angeles, CA

Fresh off a pot roast dinner, we ford the way to our next braised meat of the evening.  Ginger, in her continuing paranoia that LA is going to throw us out of the city for attempting to consume a single entree in one of their esteemed establishments, is nervous as we approach Lucques, particularly when she sees how crowded the dining room is.
We're the Restaurant Version of Squatters
Vodka, ever the more shameless of the duo, approaches the host stand and explains our conundrum: that not only are we approximately ninety minutes early for our reservation, but we're really just here to eat Frank Bruni's Best Thing I Ever Ate FRENCH FAVORITES dish, the braised short ribs with horseradish cream.  
In Other Words, Hand Over the Short Ribs and No One Gets Hurt
Trying to be as self-deprecating as possible in the hopes of acknowledging that yes, we know we're royal pains in the neck, and no, please don't toss us out on the street without a short rib to go, Vodka promises that we would be more than happy to sit at the bar (which Ginger's research has shown serves a different menu than the dining room -- one that does not include short ribs) and not take a table away from a more conventional customer, as long as we can be given our desired dish.
See How "Accommodating" We Can Be?
The host's reaction to this long-winded explanation?  Disdain?  No.  Resigned, bitter agreement?  Nope.  Abject refusal?  Not that either.

He says, and we quote, "Oh, absolutely.  Just go relax by the fire, and I'll work something out for you."

What sweet heaven is this place?!

As we try to contemplate what exactly about Los Angeles makes its residents so bloody affable, Vodka quips, "I'm going to go relax in the bathroom" while Ginger settles down on the couches in front of a roaring fireplace.  Moments later, we are escorted to a table, which, since we're not on a bar stool, we fear means we're going to have to explain ourselves all over again.
Yes, You May Have Heard of Us? We're the Ones Who Were Relaxing by the Fire
When our waiter arrives, Vodka begins, "So we're a bit of a problem: we only want one order of the short ribs, plus wine," and then smiles in a way she thinks makes her looks "sweet" (picture the Wicked Witch of the West grinning madly for an appropriate visual).

"Why would that be a problem?" the waiter responds pleasantly.

"Well, because there are two of us, and we only want one thing...," Vodka explains.

"That's not a problem at all!" the waiter assures us.  "It would be a problem if you wanted the short rib dish without the short ribs, but this is nothing!  The host already explained to me what your wishes were."

So at Lucques, not only are we the customers about whom the waitstaff talks about amongst themselves, and for once in our lives, it seems to not be with a negative connotation.

Our waiter then fetches us a basket of bread, which Ginger immediately begins consuming, despite the fact that just seconds before, she had been complaining about how full she was.  "He should have just not put the bread down," she says between bites.  "Put food in front of me, I'll eat it."  When we are given our wine, Ginger holds out her own toward Vodka and says, "Cheers," to which, without a word, Vodka removes the glass from Ginger's hand and places next to her own for a photo op.  
Drink AFTER Pictures -- The Rules Never Change, Ginger!
When Ginger is eventually allowed to drink, we discuss just what it could be that makes everyone we encounter in LA so nice.  Is it a quality of life issue?  The fact that people aren't stacked on top of one another?  The ever-present sunshine?  Or are all the wannabe actors here who are employed by restaurants and Uber and everything in between just, well, BETTER actors than those in New York?  Because if they're not genuinely pleasant people, they're certainly better at acting like they are.
Boom, Roasted, Grouchy NYC Waiters
We have a brief moment of panic when our plate of short ribs arrive, namely because there are PLATES of short ribs.  As in we both have our own plate.  With an enormous portion of the short ribs, horseradish cream, mashed potatoes, and assorted greens.  After all that, did our waiter misunderstand our desire for just ONE order?  Could this possibly be a split portion of the dish, because there is just SO MUCH food on each plate.
Picture This Plate Times Two
Rather than question the circumstance, we forge ahead and begin eating, and once again, even though short ribs would never be a meal either of us would necessarily order on our own, we can't deny that Lucques's version is delicious.  Even though as a whole, the dish is very similar to the pot roast at Jar, we are more taken with Lucques's version, more so because we think their potatoes and horseradish are better.  
In Other Words, We're More Taken with Lucques's Carbs and Condiments
We brace ourselves before looking at our check, half expecting to be charged for two separate short rib entrees, based on the sheer volume of food we received.  But in the continuing miracle that is LA's acceptance of splitting dishes, there on our receipt, plain as day, is the charge for just one plate of short ribs.  We are given a warm wave goodbye from both our waiter and the host as we exit the premises, which is in stark contrast to the usual Grinch-type reactions we elicit from restaurant workers in New York.  We practically skip out onto the sidewalk, high off of the pure humanity we've witnessed in this place (and truth be told, off of the wine, too).
Story of Our Lives: The Empty Wine Glass
As we settle into the backseat of our next Uber ride, heading off to our final Los Angeles Best Thing I Ever Ate stop, it seems our hearts, as they say, have grown three sizes today.

Well, they did for the next five minutes.  Until, in true Grinch-style, we were annoyed once again

Lucques's Braised Shortribs with Horseradish Cream: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

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