Let whoever wants to judge do so as much as they like, but I will admit that I have always loved Dan Ryan’s for its stereotypical, wholesome American-style comfort food. Taking over the DR space in Harbour City’s Ocean Terminal, the same group – Windy City – has now brought us a completely different kind of restaurant with the same likeability factor that goes by the name of LUCQUES tavern.
Although LUCQUES tavern, which opened in the latter half of last year, is also an American restaurant, it doesn’t serve the sort of guilt-inducing (however delicious) food you can only limit yourself to on weekends or birthdays; LUCQUES has gone for a more So-Cal approach, with organic farm-to-table ingredients and much healthier options. There is a focus on sustainability, seasonality, freshness and, of course, quality, resulting in delicious and nutritious food that we can eat whenever we feel like it. Naturally, there are still some hearty American dishes on the menu, so don’t go shining your halo too early, particularly before you’ve tried the desserts!
The space is less American diner style and more chic, sophisticated wine bar style, with plush leather seating, a beautiful bar at the front and a big open kitchen.
After enjoying one of LUCQUES’ signature cocktails at the bar – the Ching, consisting of yuzu liqueur and cucumber on ice – we moved to a cosy booth table and began nibbling on some chicken lollipops. Smothered in a delicious spicy barbecue sauce, these lollipops (basically chicken wings pulled back on themselves) were fantastic. The meat was succulent, with a satisfyingly crispy layer of skin, and we also enjoyed the chipotle mayo hiding beneath the sliced vegetables.
To follow came an impressive seafood platter, laden with Dutch oysters, grilled shrimps, steamed mussels and steamed lobster tail. All of the seafood was wonderfully fresh and paired well with the four options of sauces – cocktail, wasabi mayonnaise, mignonette and ginger vinegar, the latter being my personal favourite.
The Green Goddess Shrimp Garden was a beautiful salad made with lettuce, seasonal garden vegetables, avocado and poached shrimp, served with a generous helping of ‘Green Goddess’ dressing for you to add as little or as much as you like. This gorgeous blend of yoghurt, mint, basil and coriander was light, fresh and almost totally guilt-free. If we closed our eyes we could almost taste summer.
The ‘dinosaur’ ribs, as the staff like to call them, were not on the original menu, but were brought in to please fans of Dan Ryans’ ribs. Forget Dan Ryans’; these ribs are much better. Each rib itself is pretty sizeable (hence the nickname), coated in a sweet, sticky pomegranate BBQ sauce that I could not get enough of. A side order of crispy sweet potato fries dipped in this sauce were to die for.
I was less impressed by the line-caught fish of the day (in this case cod). Although the assorted garlicky mushrooms and fingerling potatoes were all delicious, the fish itself was a little dry and lacked seasoning.
The sheer sight of the ginormous 28oz Tomahawk rib-eye steak was enough to stop all conversation, as we ‘ooh-ed’ and ‘ahh-ed’ at its arrival. Following the dinosaur theme, certain members of our group insisted on picking the steak up by the bone and pretending to eat it caveman-style – I may or may not have pretended not to know them (or in fact be related to one of them!). The meat was cooked to a perfect medium-rare and was so tender it could be cut with a butter knife. Its flavour wasn’t overpoweringly meaty, but went amazingly with a clove or three of roasted garlic spread on top.
As I mentioned, desserts at LUCQUES tavern veer slightly away from the idea of healthy eating, although I’m sure they’re better for us than certain classic American desserts. Either way, who cares?! The Limoncello cheesecake (lemons are healthy!) offered the perfect balance of creamy and tart, with delicious candied lemons and fresh raspberries on top.
The apple tart tatin had a lovely rustic, homemade quality to it, with only a thin layer of pastry and a chunky layer of apple – this was particularly appreciated, given the fact that I had given up wheat for Lent, so had to avoid the pastry entirely. The vanilla bean ice cream, natural honeycomb and wild Thai jungle honey completed this lovely dish.
Lastly came the ‘Chocolate Explosion’, a dish I could sadly only gaze at. It was quite literally an explosion of hot chocolate, puffed rice, toasted almonds, brownie crumble and toasted marshmallows, sprinkled with chilli powder and finished with a drizzle of salted caramel. The comments around the table made me certain of one thing: as soon as Lent is over, I’m heading straight to LUCQUES tavern to get my hands on one of these!
Dishes at LUCQUES hover around $150 for starters, whilst mains range from $128 to nearer $800 for some of the big shares. Staff are friendly, efficient and more than happy to accommodate awkward dietary requests. For me, LUCQUES ticks a lot of boxes and it’s certainly somewhere I would choose to revisit, even if just to try the chocolate explosion – oh, and the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese…!
Shop OT 315, Level 3, Ocean Terminal
Tel: +852 2735 6111