Close To Home: Luca Bistro

After visiting the wonderful Household Books in Cincinnati, I thought I might as well grab some dinner since I had driven two hours to the big city. I wasn’t sure where to eat, so I looked up places around me and finally settled on one called Luca Bistro. It advertised itself as French cuisine, and since I’ve never had authentic French food before, I thought I’d give it a try.

It was located in a super cute area of town called Mount Adams. There was free public parking only a block away from the restaurant! The outside was painted bright red, making it easy to find. Upon walking in, I saw it wasn’t very busy, and the bartender told me to have a seat anywhere and she’d be right with me.

The menu had some interesting graphics, including a map of France showing where the chef is from:

The front of the menu. It reads

And a section to learn French terms from:

The backside of the menu. It lists the entrees and sides.

While writing this post I used Google to translate what the French is at the top, and apparently it means “gastronomy is the art of using food to create happiness.” If you know French, let me know how accurate that translation is. I think it’s a pretty neat saying, anyway.

To start, I ordered the Bistro Side Car, mostly because I liked the name.

A martini glass filled with orangish yellow liquid. A glass bottle of water sits next to it on the table.

I’m not positive if I’d had Cognac before this particular drink, but either way it was good!

Looking at the menu, I knew I simply had to try the gazpacho:

A large white bowl filled with gazpacho. The red liquid is filled with small diced vegetables. It looks more like a chunky salsa than a soup, though to be fair it kind of is.

I’ve had gazpacho exactly one time before this, and it was one I made as a freshman in high school. This was better. In fact, it was so much better than I could have ever hoped a bowl of gazpacho to be. It was the perfect encapsulation of a summer garden. Fresh, crunchy, unbelievably ripe produce in a harmonious medley with bright herbs made for a truly light and delicious bowl of soup. It was more like a chunky salsa, really, but that’s no problem as far as I’m concerned. Plus, it was a pretty large portion. A total 10/10 gazpacho, in my mind.

I also got the Tarte Tomatoes Provençale:

A rectangular flatbread cut into five rectangle pieces, on a long white rectangular plate. The flatbread has melty gruyere on top of its flaky base.

This flatbread was truly next level with its perfectly flaky, crispy crust and melty gruyere. Its herbaceousness is not to be understated, as it was intensely flavorful. It was like pizza, but better. You heard me right; better than pizza! Plus it was a great sharing size if you had a dining partner with you.

At this point, it was time for another drink. The bartender was very kind when I told her I wasn’t sure what to get, and she whipped me up a Boulevardier.

A short glass filled with bright red liquid and ice, topped with a maraschino cherry. It looks like a Shirley Temple.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the biggest fan of bourbon, but this was definitely drinkable. I appreciate the bartender giving me something fun to try. And who doesn’t love a maraschino cherry?

At this point I started to look more closely at the decorations. They were quite interesting.

A whole wall of framed (and some unframed) posters and artwork. They're all French.

This one in particular was my favorite:

A large blue poster featuring an illustration of a bottle of Orangina. It's a sparkling orange beverage inside a rotund glass bottle.

My entree of salmon came out, and it tasted every bit as good as it looks:

A large white platter with a filet of salmon atop a heap of mashed potatoes, which is accompanied by a creamy green herb sauce.

The salmon was perfectly cooked and flaked apart nicely. The herb cream sauce was light enough to be the perfect accompaniment to the super creamy mashed potatoes. Everything paired together beautifully, and it was surely a showstopper salmon.

Thanks to the implementation of to-go containers, I had room for dessert, and got this pear and almond tart:

A large, round white plate. Atop it sits a triangular cut of a pear and almond tart. The almonds on top are toasted to a golden brown color. A large mound of whipped cream sits next to the slice of tart, topped with a sprig of mint. The plate is dusted with powdered sugar.

While this pear tart was mild in flavor, I honestly thought it was a better end to this meal than something like an ultra-rich-mega-decadent-chocolate-lava something or other would’ve been. It was light, and not too sweet, and had a wonderful texture and delicate flavor.

Instead of ending on dessert, I ended on one final cocktail, the French martini:

A tall martini glass filled with dark orange liquid. There is a very full slice of an orange garnishing the rim of the glass.

This cocktail ended up being my favorite of the night. It was sweet, totally yumalicious, and came with a huge orange slice! The pineapple juice definitely made this drink for me.

All in all, I had an excellent time at Luca’s. Aside from the food being pretty dang amazing, the service was really excellent. Everyone was so friendly and engaging. I wish it wasn’t two hours from me, because I really want to go back. At least I know the drive will be worth it.

Do you like gazpacho, or is cold soup too weird for you? Have you been to a French restaurant before? Which special would you try? Let me know in the comments, don’t forget to check out their Instagram, and have a great day!


25 Comments on “Close To Home: Luca Bistro”

  1. Google translate did a fine job with the translation :)

    That menu looked delicious! Next time, try the pissalidière, for it is such a staple of Provençal cuisine. That and ratatouille, and bouillabaisse… But a well made pissaladière is the best :D

  2. Another great review! you really are good at these. A cold soup I like is vichyssoise, very tasty and silky when done well

  3. Ah, Orangina! “Shake it to wake it” is what I recall as the advice last time I visited France. Which admittedly was so long ago they hadn’t invented guillotines yet.
    Orangina to start a meal, fresh from the garden salad, great food and close with a cappuccino.

  4. That sounds wonderful. I love me some gazpacho, and a favorite memory is of our camp having a gazpacho-off at Burning Man – tasting a dozen different gazpachos in a camp in the middle of the desert was unique.

    I do have to say, I wish this was less than 2500 miles away. This looks excellent, and I’ve developed a fondness for wines from this region as well (Languedoc). A good Provencal restaurant is one of the few styles missing in this area, and I’m unexpectedly envious.

  5. Cold soups are good. You can make them out of melons as well, and that is a refreshing way to start a summer dinner on the porch.

    That’s an interesting gazpacho. Doesn’t look anything like the secret police. But it isn’t traditional. Gazpacho is of Spanish origin rather than French. A traditional Andalusian gazpacho is little more than tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, red onions, garlic, bread and some salt and sherry vinegar, done up in a blender. The bread is there as a thickener. It is best made a day ahead but is plenty good at the last minute too. Sometimes I’ll add a hot pepper.

  6. I’ve noticed that you often test the alcoholic beverages when you go out to try new restaurants. I don’t know how much time you give yourself to metabolize the booze, if the cocktails are low-alcohol and mainly for flavor, or you have a designated driver sometimes; I’m a lightweight and would limit myself severely. Are you ever concerned about getting pulled over on the way home?

  7. I’m another that fondly remembers Orangina “Shake it to Wake it!”, refreshing on a hot summer day.

    It looks as if it is French with other Mediterranean influences, but clearly done well, so I’m not going to nit-pick.

  8. That all looked delicious! I’ve had (and even made) gazpacho before, and I love it. I’ve been to few French restaurants before, but not one with the southern-inflected menu that this one has… looks like there are some strong Mediterranean influences there…

  9. Good photographs; food can be difficult to capture well.
    I’m fascinated by the gazpacho. I thought that was a Spanish dish!
    Boo-hiss to the person low-key criticizing your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is food and those who enjoy it responsibly shouldn’t be questioned or criticized for it. Athena has given us no reason to believe she’s an irresponsable person.
    “yumalicious” is a great word.

  10. We have a local Mexican restaurant that evolved from a diner type restaurant when one of the cooks bought the place. In summer, they offer a watermelon gazpacho on special and it is a wonderful summer variation on the standard cold soup. It is deeelicious!

  11. Athena: It all looked really good, but, what selfrespecting authenic French cuisine brasserie wouldn’t placed escarcot on the menu. I’ve had escarcot in France and in Morocco and recall their being on menus wherever we dined in both countries. Not to denigrate you selections – as I said they all appeared to be par excellece, but if not escarcot, then where was the creme brule’ to finish?

  12. The quote on the front side of the menu is something along the lines of, “Laughs ring out better/happier when the food is good.”

  13. I love gazpacho and it’s a summer staple in my household. As others have noted, it’s a Spanish soup, not French.

    My parents got me started on French food before I was 15, but we also lived in or adjacent to NYC for my entire life. My favorite French foods include sweetbreads (ris de veau), French onion soup, cassoulet, choucroute Garni, bouillabaise, various kinds of paté, and French pastries.

  14. I went to Paris for my honeymoon with second husband, the chef. ZOMG. And still, the best food was 1) the ham and butter sandwich on a baguette at Invalides and 2) the simple but devastatingly good roast chicken half and pommes frites at a brasserie on Champs Elyseses. And the meal at the Danish restaurant, some sort of Danish duck compote. No clue what that was but it was meltingly delicious.

  15. There’s a French/Vietnamese bistro here in Reston that has gazpacho in the warm weather months. Hoping it’s on the menu this week as we’re expecting upper 70’s. Summer I usually get gazpacho and quiche. It has great desserts too. Light, tasty, perfect for topping off dinner. Followed by Vietnamese iced coffee. Excellent, not overfilling, (and also not inexpensive), and walking distance from home.

    IAW TheMadLibrarian above that three drinks with dinner might be a bit much. Especially given what your dad has said about his family’s issues with intoxicants.

    (I’ve been in AA for a few decades now so I have some personal experience with over indulgence.)

  16. If you had never tried authentic French cuisine before, I suppose that means you have not yet visited France?

    Well when you do visit, once you leave Paris you could do worse than Vaucluse, and in particular its eponymous spring, the Fontaine de Vaucluse. (“Vaucluse” is derived from “vallis clausa”, “closed valley”, in which the spring is located. The village is a tourist trap, really, but I love it anyway! The largest town and administrative centre is Avignon, which obviously is also an attraction. Being a cyclist, I am drawn to the other end of the department where sits the might Mont Ventoux. But don’t worry, you can drive up it, and it’s worth the view. While you’re at it, check out Les Gorges de la Nesque, which is spectacular.

  17. I am envious. Again. I feel like I could just live off your doggie bags. Are those always called “to-go containers” now, or are both terms in use?

  18. “Are you ever concerned about getting pulled over on the way home?”

    “Food looks lovely, but three drinks?”

    “IAW TheMadLibrarian above that three drinks with dinner might be a bit much”

    Now that we’ve passed the centennial of the Prohibition, unsolicited and unwanted advice against drinking alcohol seems to be all the rage again.

    What do you propose we call it – Puritansplaining?

    “There’s a French/Vietnamese bistro here in Reston that has gazpacho in the warm weather months.”

    Assuming you mean the one at Lake Anne, would you recommend the food? I’ve been meaning to try it out since I moved here.