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Where East Meets West

It's a fog-free Friday night on Chestnut Street and by 7:30pm, Lx (pronounced Luke's, after the chef-owner of Isa fame, Luke Sung) starts to fill up fast. Clearly, the opening of Isa's sister restaurant in June 2004 was anxiously anticipated by many Marina locals and Isa fans alike. Only a few months old at the time of this review, it was already a scene.

Upon entering, you'll find an animated conglomeration of neighborhood pals gabbing, couples on first dates, and double-daters out for the night. Mirrors line the walls behind the bar and in the back to create the illusion that the space is bigger than it is, but the illusion is fleeting. As you squeeze into your table and unintentionally eavesdrop on neighboring conversations, you'll wish you had a bit more elbow room.

Chef-owner Luke Sung absolutely deserves the high praise he gets for his culinary expertise. He describes his approach at Lx as a "French chef making Asian food." Reading the menu descriptions, it is obvious that he isn't afraid to experiment. Seafood is prevalent, but beef, duck, and pork dishes are also sprinkled into the mix. The grass-fed steak tartare ($10) and the red snapper ceviche ($10) in a lemon-chili sauce with mango and wonton crisps both have a Vietnamese twist, and are two prime examples of his unique style. The yellow fin tuna ($13) was a relatively generous portion of three chunks of fish resting on a bed of edamame, the day boat scallops were seared and covered with greens ($13), and dill crme frache was drizzled over two green scallion pancakes filled with king salmon and zucchini ($10). We were skeptical when they suggested two to three plates per person; but we agreed that it was the perfect amount, as the plates are surprisingly filling.

There was a good balance of California, German, and French wines, but the wine list could use expansion, for both price and variety. The per-glass offering consisted of about five reds and five whites, all at $8 per glass; and many of the bottles were in the $30 range. Only one sake made the list as well as a mere three beers, all American -- maybe a nod to the East meets West theme.

The servers explain that each dish will come out one at a time; however our table averaged about two to three plates, and I noticed the girls next to us were so engrossed in their conversation that they couldn't eat fast enough to keep the plates of food from piling up on their table. We wondered whether the servers were trying to keep to a tight schedule of rapid turnover; but on the bright side, such speedy service guarantees that the food arrives quickly. So come hungry and eat fast.