Ace Autumn 1990
BY LUCINDA MASTERTON HALL
A couple of years ago, it seemed as though I was at a la lucie every couple of weeks. Dinner was always a great pick-me-up after long days into evenings at the office. Since then, I have become more of a homebody (kids, carpools... you know) and had not been there for about a year. My husband and I went back recently and found a la lucie to be as wonderfully rambunctious as ever.
a la lucie is a noisy, lively place. Smack in the middle of downtown on North Limestone across from the big post office and court house; it has a cosmopolitan feeling unique in Lexington. If you want a quiet evening in some undiscovered spot with soft music and relaxed ambiance, go somewhere else. But if you want to be in an exciting, almost boisterous atmosphere which, in many respects, has some of the best food in town, a la lucie is for you.
It is the definition of eclectic: dark pink and orange walls with dark green trim; randomly placed pictures of just about everything including a huge portrait of Lucie herself; white linen table cloths, Fiesta dinnerware and cafeteria flatware; and blinking lights around the windows adds to the festive mood.
All of which is not to mention the almost ever-present crowd. The tables are very close together (more like New York than Lexington), and are virtually always filled. On weekends, especially, don't forget to call for reservations. I generally ask for a table in a corner or a booth to avoid some of the hustle and bustle. This is a very busy restaurant.
And for good reason: the food. The menu is imaginative, featuring a variety of offerings with a continental flair. Daily specials take advantage of seasonal fruits, vegetables, and fresh fish.
The menu has recently changed; some new added to old favorites, but there is still a delightful assortment of choices.
The appetizers are lovely, not so large as to spoil dinner -- just a taste of something, a portent of things to come. (The only complaint is that they are a little pricey, especially considering that they are definitely appetizer portions.) Of the two escargot treats ($5.75 - $5.95), I have tried the escargot with mushroom caps and swiss cheese. They are delectable, pungent, earthy, and robust. However, I usually have the special. Once it was baby artichokes with sauce; once it was sauteed soft-shell crabs ($7.95), tender, slightly breaded and flavored, served with cocktail sauce.
I have sometimes had a light supper of bread and a salad at a la lucie. I especially like the Caesar ($3.50), just filling enough. The special salad usually features something a little different, like radicchio or oak leaf lettuce. The house salad which comes with the entree is lovely alone ($2.50); ribbons of romaine, a couple of leaves of bibb and other vegetables with just enough dressing (no pool left on the plate). The vinaigrette with its hint of raspberry sweetness is very nice.
As for the entrees, again, I usually opt for one of the specials, often fish (generally $15 to $17). My favorite is marinated grilled tuna. We often try baked fish with parmesan, a nice foil to the natural flavor of the fish. This last time, I was treated to salmon with artichoke souffle. (The same artichoke souffle appears as a wonderful, light, not-too-rich appetizer, $5.95.) The salmon was flaky, flavorful, a perfect foil to the souffle. If you like fish, a la lucie's specials provide some of the best in town.
The menu offers a few selections of meat, chicken and veal dishes ($11.50 - $14.95). Recently, a friend ordered the Delmonico Steak with whole garlic and vidalia onions ($12.95). The meat was tender, although not particularly flavorful itself, but she enjoyed it with the pungent onion/garlic mix. My favorite on the menu used to be Chicken Davida ($11.95), a sauteed chicken breast stuffed with brie and herbs and served with a fresh, lightly spiced tomato sauce. Delicious. I was concerned that this no longer appears on the menu, but our waiter assured me that it is still available on request. A close substitute is Chicken St. Jerrod ($12.00) which is stuffed with feta cheese and spinach, but graced with the same tomato sauce I am told.
All of the entrees come with an assortment of five or six steamed vegetables, potatoes, and a broiled, seasoned tomato. Apart from color and presentation, I wish this part of the plate offered a bit more. Other than the tomato, which is very nice, these are plain, steamed vegetables. Period. Considering how imaginative the other items are, I am always a little disappointed that I am faced with naked pieces of squash, potato, broccoli, and whatever else appears. Unless there is more than this to it (and I've never asked), I would not order the vegetable plate ($8.95). Everything else is so good though, that I tend not to care too much about the vegetables (who could eat all that anyway)?
Desserts are fabulous, several cheesecakes and other temptations. A terrific chocolate mousse, velvety smooth and rich, is punctuated with fudge-like chocolate chunks throughout, and topped with a perfect strawberry and whipped cream. And the chocolate ganache ($4.00) is addictive, a nut layer on the bottom, with layers of thick chocolate mousse, mocha mousse, and whipped cream. Ganache with panache I always say.
Alive and vibrant, a la lucie is always a treat, an occasion. See you there!