photo credit: Justin Chung
Are you someone who shops at Williams-Sonoma and adores farm-to-table cooking? Do you own a copy of the Chez Panisse cookbook? Did you just spend the last four hours enriching your beautiful little mind with beautiful little images at The Hammer museum, and are in need of a snack? Or, are you currently a student or faculty member at The University of California, Los Angeles?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you will love Lulu—it was made for you. For those who said no, there’s no need to rush over.
Lulu is everything you could want in a museum restaurant. Most of the dining room is set outside, in a breezy, romantic courtyard space attached to The Hammer that looks like it was produced when an architectural design firm and a farm fell in love. There’s a long, wooden table out front lined with ceramic bowls of seasonal produce. Benches are lined with olive-green cushions and warmly lit pendant lamps hang from trees. There will be women wearing shawls and reading glasses attached to a string of beads. Expect to see museumgoers looking for a place to rest and UCLA students with their parents.
The menu is designed, in part, by the legendary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley (although the kitchen is led by Bay Area cookbook author David Tanis). Which explains the seasonally rotating menu, words like “regenerative food sourcing” and “organic agriculture” that pop up on their website, and the overall focus on California cuisine. Although there are prix-fixe menus at both lunch and dinner, we prefer to use Lulu as a snack break, a nice place to eat Weiser Farm melons draped in prosciutto, handfuls of toasted almonds, or a big ol’ hunk of parmesan cheese. Because while larger dishes, like rigatoni and squash blossoms or a steak brushed with tomato-y Romesco sauce, aren’t bad, they can be a bit snoozy.
Which is fine, particularly if you're dropping by for a light, low-stakes lunch in Westwood. We like Lulu for what it is: a wonderful museum restaurant, and then some. Eating a salumi plate while a warm breeze billows across your face can make you feel like the best version of yourself.
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Dates, Almonds, and Parmesan
This restaurant has a knack for turning unadorned, high-quality ingredients into something glamorous. Example A: Rich and juicy dates, lightly glazed almonds that are satisfying to crunch on, and parmesan split right off the block.
Baked Goat Cheese
In the pantheon of Nice Things To Eat on a Pleasant Day, warmed goat cheese with a side of salad and table bread—an Alice Waters signature—is definitely up there. The round pat of soft cheese tastes mild, earthy, and buttery, and comes encrusted in finely crushed herbs and spices.
Although pretty to look at, the dish’s squash blossom, ricotta, and zucchini pasta blur together in a way that tastes slightly bland. The shaved parmesan on top melts and acts as a stretchy adhesive to glue the dish together, but there’s still no strong flavor. Overall, this pasta is pretty forgettable.
Stemple Creek Ranch Steak
This is a very nice steak and if you request it cooked medium-rare, it’ll actually come out that way. If anyone at the table needs to eat meat as entree, go ahead, but other than that, we can’t say it's a must-have. There are only a few slices and it's usually the most expensive thing on the menu ($40).
Lovely, lovely desserts at Lulu. Especially this pound cake: a sweet triangle made with polenta-almond flour, paired with sliced ripe strawberries and whipped cream. We love it. We wish everything in life could be so simple and straightforward.