Whether it’s the Eggs Benedict, the locally renowned Coconut Cake or Patrick’s friendly banter behind the bar, it seems like everyone has a Luna favorite. So when the restaurant changed ownership for the first time in two decades, a wave of panic spread across the fine dining lovers of Spokane. Would the service be the same? Would the menu change? Would they (heaven forbid) stop serving fresh baked Bouzies bread?
William and Marcia Bond opened Luna in 1992, providing the (then) unique combination of fine dining in a neighborhood setting. Over the next 22 years, the Bonds established the restaurant as a South Hill landmark through nostalgic décor, exceptional staff, an impressive wine list and a menu with something for everyone. When they decided to sell and enjoy retirement, the list of potential buyers spanned from California to New York. The Bonds decided to stay local. Aaron DeLis, his wife Hannah Heber, and parents Frank and Julie DeLis are experienced Spokane restaurateurs whose credits include current ownership of the Rusty Moose and former ownership of Taste Café.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this passing of the torch. Luna is walking distance from our house and a favorite meeting spot for most of our friends – what if the new owners didn’t measure up? After a recent dining experience however, I’m happy to say that my mind has been put at ease.
Walking through the doors to meet some girlfriends for dinner, I felt instantly welcome. The staff and French-inspired atmosphere at Luna just have a way of making you feel at home. Our server, Ashley, was over in minutes to recommend her favorites from the wine list. With a comprehensive but carefully selected assortment, Luna has been recognized by Wine Spectator as having one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world ($7 – $13 by the glass). If you’re craving something a little more unique, the Herbin’ Martini is a must try and just one of Luna’s Signature Cocktail options ($10).
With Small Plates including everything from Crispy Polenta Balls ($7) to Scallops featuring a parsnip puree and chocolate dust ($20), we wanted to order one of everything. At Ashley’s recommendation, we started with a new addition to the menu – the Quinoa ($12). Presented on a sleek rectangular plate, pesto infused quinoa was topped with grilled broccolini and toasted slivered almonds. A red pepper sauce drizzled over the top provided a kick of spice that was unexpected but not overwhelming. Light and hearty at the same time (as well as gluten and dairy free), this is sure to be a welcome addition to the menu.
Of course we also had to sample Luna’s signature Ahi Tuna Tartare ($15). A longtime menu favorite, the Tartare comes out as a colorful drum of ahi tuna layered on avocado, red onion and tomato. We requested the wasabi vinaigrette on the side to accommodate a dairy allergy. The modification allowed us to ration the dressing with each mouthful and enhanced the dish since the wasabi can be overpowering. The tuna tartare flavors might be better suited for a hot summer day, but the presentation is unique and it was enjoyable nonetheless.
The Lacinato Kale Salad ($12) and the Beet Salad ($8) were the standouts from the salad section. The Kale Salad has been on the menu for as long as I can remember, and for good reason. The contrast of creamy vinaigrette and crunchy pistachios topped with fresh parmesan will inspire you to recreate this at home (or at least try!) and has remained a foolproof ordering option through the ownership change.
The beet salad seems to fall more in line with fine dining trends of small portion size and unique presentation. Mixed greens, roasted beets, pistachios and julienned radishes were peppered across an elegant rectangular plate and finished off with a creamy dill vinaigrette. About a third the size of the kale, this starter salad is light but intensely flavorful.
Large Plates featured a short but diverse list of distinctive entrées including chicken, duck, beef, fish, pasta and vegetarian dishes. We were reminded of Luna’s exceptional service after asking about a scallop dish that had been on the menu a few months prior. The current version features coco and vanilla flavors, but we were in the mood for something more savory. Ashley knew exactly the dish we were thinking of, and brought out three scallops sautéed in a chili lime beurre blanc served over a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and grilled broccolini.
The Sea Bass, featuring squash, zucchini ribbons and Parmesan broth ($30) was enjoyable, but fell short of expectations. A small and delicately presented portion, this dish was fitting for a fall entrée but lacked flavor and substance.
For those in search of a heartier meal, the Spaghetti and Meatballs ($20) and Luna Burger ($16) have weathered the ownership change and remain customer favorites. These are good comfort food options highlighted by tender, high quality meats and polished off with a little Luna flare. The menu also features an assortment of Wood Oven Pizzas ($15-$18) crisped to perfection in the restaurant’s Italian-imported pizza oven.
The final highlight of the evening was dessert. Once again, Ashley recognized our struggle to choose just one and suggested a half order of Pumpkin Beignets ($8) and the Apple Crisp ($7). The beignets rival Green Bluff’s pumpkin doughnuts and were served in a quaint mini French oven accompanied by a trio of dipping sauces. The Apple Crisp featured a poached and pan seared apple, collapsed onto a plate of drizzled caramel. Surrounded by cinnamon whip cream and melt-in-your-mouth apple butter, this dish was light and distinctly flavorful, and was a great compliment to the heavier beignets. These fall-inspired treats were the perfect way to end the meal.
In short, everything that made Luna “Luna” is still there. The staff is knowledgeable as ever and, aside from a few subtleties (and the stunning birdcage chandelier in the bar!), everything looks the same. I’ve heard talk of the food not being quite the same quality and (truthfully) had some off-experiences right after the ownership change, but these issues seem to have disappeared as the DeLis-Heber group has found their footing. A slight shift in the menu also seems to be surfacing, although I would imagine careful thought has been put into not changing too much too quickly. You’ll still find your favorites in generous portions (think: Roasted Chicken and Coconut Cake), but dishes like the Beet Salad and Apple Crumble suggest we might be seeing smaller portions with bigger flavor in the future.
Luna is located at 5620 South Perry Street, in Spokane, and is open Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to close; Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to close, (509) 448-2383, www.lunaspokane.com