LUCE

Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Address: 635 Corydon Ave
Phone: 204-452-3037‎‎
Entrees: $14-$29

It’s been five years since Morgan Carnegie left his comfortable office job to open his own restaurant. In this time, the chef/owner at Luce has kept a steady pace, wisely focusing on consistency and execution. The buttercup yellow and eggplant interior is more rustic with age, and the menu has been slightly tweaked, but still illustrates Chef Morgan’s deftness with classic Italian dishes, alongside contemporary and fusion versions. The original rule of navigating the menu still applies: diners seeking the familiar stick to the left column, while intrepid foodies follow the right-hand side.

The evening starts with an amuse bouche, which Chef Morgan uses to show off his affinity for cooking with exotic Asian produce. On both nights the canapés are simple towers of stacked vegetables—for example, a Japanese root vegetable with mushroom and avocado. While the course add a touch of elegance to the experience, it doesn’t particularly tickle the tastebuds. What works more to spark the palate is the fresh bread with garlic and onion-spiked dipping sauce.

At this creative kitchen, diners can be as modest or daring as they want, depending on their mood. On a relaxing evening, start with the escargot chablis. Snails are poached in a sweet garlic broth and nestled beside texturally sync crimini mushrooms. Sprinkled chevre mellows the sharp sauce and adds a creamy mouthfeel. The savoury panna cotta is an adventurous starter, with salty flecks of smoked salmon and capers flavouring the creamed cheese dome. The paté is served with large slices of garlic crostini that radiate heat with every bite.

Even diners with classic palates can enjoy the fusion soup option, peanut butter and banana squash. The two flavours are faintly distinguishable in the smooth stock, with a garnish of hemp seeds adding a nutty undertone.

Chef Morgan differentiates himself from other Italian restaurants in the neighbourhood with his colourful collection of fusion pastas. With these dishes, striking flavours are a priority, particularly in the sauces. There’s no doubt the chef had fun inventing the playful gamberi nouva luce, corkscrew serpentini pasta topped with jumbo prawns and a fan of juicy mango slices. The creamy green cilantro sauce starts with delicate notes of fresh ginger, then explodes with lingering heat.

Yellow curry is the ‘wow’ ingredient in spaghetti seville, fusing Asian spices with the classic noodle. With fragrant notes of lemongrass, the sweet curry sauce simultaneously warms and refreshes. The pasta is given even more dimension with a kick from house-made Italian sausage.

The most memorable item is the chicken chèvre. This contemporary dish is not as bold as the fusion plates: herbed chicken, sautéed cranberries and roasted hazelnuts tossed with fettuccine in a decadent chèvre cream sauce. It’s comfort food dressed up. Despite their small size, the cranberries pack a punch with a distinctive candy quality, which is balanced with the rustic flavours of the nuts.

The entrée section of the menu no longer follows the column distinctions of the pasta and appetizers. Here, Chef Morgan sets aside his dabbling tendencies and allows expert preparation and fine ingredients to speak for themselves. The classic pork wellington has extra character with spicy Italian sausage added to the tenderloin mixture. A slice of tart green apple on the side helps to balance the richness of the buttery puff pastry pouch.

Even the dessert course stays true to Chef Morgan’s stylistic preparations. Tiramisu is the classic mainstay, while one night’s contemporary lava cake is fun way to get a chocolate fix. His strength in fusion cuisine shines with a herbaceous basil crème brûlée.
Luce is open Wed-Mon at 5 pm. Reservations required.