If you want to see just what passion, creativity, and culinary skill can create during Des Moines’ Restaurant Week, then go to Luna Bistro + Catering before the week is over. I can’t say enough good things about the meal we just enjoyed at Luna.
First, while some restaurants skimp on extras during Restaurant Week, at Luna you get ciabatta bread from La Mie Bakery before your meal. The water is (as is common with Luna) infused with strawberries and basil. As a bonus to the Restaurant Week three course prix fixe, Luna provided two Chicken Roulades stuffed with homemade chicken sausage wrapped in chicken breast. We were off to a great start even before diving into the prix fixe dishes.
For starters, we chose the Le Petit Dejèuner, a quails egg in a basket (essentially an egg cooked inside the slice of toast) with house-made Andouille sausage, fried potato with chèvre and mustard fondue. The fondue was mild and creamy, a perfect complement to the dish. This was an amazingly successful choice. Who else would have the genius to add a small French breakfast dish to the prix fixe as a starter?
I tried the Carpaccio, which is made of thinly sliced beef tenderloin with capers, onions, oil and mustard. The tenderloin was intentionally served raw (I was warned) and was indeed tender and flavorful. Cooking would have destroyed the tenderloin — good choice. The mustard was a nice complement to the beef and bread.
For my entree, I ordered the Duck Meatballs. These tasty meatballs were served in a blue ramekin along with oyster mushrooms and shallots, sheet pasta and a broth. The in-house ground duck meat was bursting with flavor. The soup spoon came in handy because I wanted none of that broth to go to waste.
I also stole a small bite of the Artichoke Ricotta Croquette, the other entree we ordered. The Croquette, which is potato ricotta and artichoke formed into a patty and deep fried, was crispy on the outside and had a meaty texture on the inside. The Croquette was served on a bed of tender and chewy (in a good way) spaetzle (not enough restaurants make good spaetzle!) The ensemble was topped with a marinated artichoke.
For dessert, I ordered the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Molten Lava Cake. I honestly thought I’d died and gone to heaven but then I like most things chocolate. It was really good. I can’t tell you how the Banana Pot du Creme was since I won’t go near bananas, but I’m told that this creme brule was only mildly banana flavored and was creamy and delicious. It was served with caramelized bananas on top.
We also struck home runs with the wine list. The wine list is small and inexpensive. We found two really nice wines, a red and a white, that neither of us had tried before but which complemented the meal very well.
The white Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône was fairly light but had good body. It was not too sweet or overly tart. I tried the 2010 Bouchard Aine and Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir. It is always risky ordering an unknown (to me) French wine because you just never know for certain what you might end up with. But this Pinot Noir from Burgundy was really delightful. What it lacked in aroma it made up for with lots of fruit, no oak, and a consistent taste. This is a solid choice if you like Pinot Noir and if you want to try a French version. I am going to try to figure out how to get more of this wine.
I should add that Chef Kris Van Tuyl took obvious and personal pride with his culinary creations, bringing each dish out personally and answering any questions. He also mentioned that he was having too much fun with his new KitchenAid meat grinder. I think we will see more sausage from Chef Van Tuyl. There is nothing wrong with that.
Restaurant Week can be a challenge for some restaurants. It is my opinion that some chefs, owners or managers seem to worry about not maximizing profit during the week, figuring that the low $25 prix fixe entree price will bring in people who won’t be back. They either play games with the pricing or dull down the menu choices The result is that those who are on the lower end of the demographic end up not being impressed enough to want to come back and spend a bit more and those at the top end of the demographic wonder why they bothered. Kris Van Tuyl at Luna Bistro is not playing that game. In my opinion this meal was a tour de force, the likes of which I’ve only seen at Cafe di Scala and Lucca. Don’t miss this opportunity to get what may be your best meal ever at this price. If you do miss Luna during Restaurant Week, don’t despair, the quality will likely be well worth it once the week is over.
As one of the younger chefs on the block, Luna’s Van Tuyl wants everyone to see just what he can do now that Luna has expanded its operations from lunch to include dinners on Wednesday through Saturday. He exceeded my wildest hopes and this is the first time that I felt a desire to come back after the dinner rush was over just to eat whatever was left.
RESTAURANT WEEK 2012
Lunch: 2 for $25 (1 entree + 1 side or dessert)
Dinner: $25 3-course Prix Fixe
Hours of Operation:
Lunch: 11-3 M-f + 11-2 Sat.
Dinner: 5:30-Close W-Sat.