A Global Guide to the World's Culinary Capitals: It's Luna Red!

luna red


I recently read a fascinating article about food; specifically, where the best of it was to be found around the World. Not focusing on restaurants, but rather regions and cities, I was enthralled by the various "hot spots" and how each reflected it's unique culture and heritage underscored by the use of fresh, locally available product. Before I knew it, my dreaded "wanderlust" had re-appeared and I was busily searching the Internet for flights to far away destinations.

The cities on my list included Istanbul, Bangkok, Paris, Buenos Aires, Bombay, New Orleans, Oaxaca and Marrakech - quite an itinerary. I was entranced as visions of exotic, and yet to be experienced cuisine, danced in my head.

Unfortunately, as they say "reality bites" (no pun intended), which means there was no way I had the resources to strike out on this World Wide Food Venture. Resourceful woman that I am, I talked to my foodie friends and heard LUNA RED was the encapsulation of all I yearned for, right here in San Luis Obispo! Hmmm....

I made my reservation for an early evening dinner at Luna Red located at 1009 Monterey Street in the city of San Luis Obispo. It's "Restaurant Month" so I planned to dine on their Prix Fixe menu (3 courses for $30).

WOW! Yep, that's a "WOW" from my mouth: the restaurant is absolutely mesmerizing in its dramatic use of space and striking red tones. Listen up: you will rarely enter a restaurant with such powerful use of space. Luna Red engages and envelopes you from the moment you enter. We're not talking charm or grace, but pure energy that syncs you with a vibe resonating way beyond this hemisphere. Truly, I felt transported to my wayward dreams.

The evening we dined our choices were plenty!

luna red

1st course
Soup: Seafood Minestra
Farm Greens: Market vegetables, citrus-herb vinaigrette
Spice Roasted Beets: Onion, fennel and grilled ricotta salata

2nd course
Arancini Balls: Goat cheese, butternut chutney
Spiced Lamb Kofta: Honey-mint yogurt,, onion salad, flatbread
Stuffed Piquillo Peppers: Goat cheese, basil oil, red wine reduction

3rd course
Crab Lasagna: spinach, basil, ricotta cheese, herbed tomato sauce, mascrapone
Grilled Skirt Steak: crispy fingerling potatoes, caramelized bok choy, oyster mushroom marmalade
Market Vegetable Korma: Indian style yellow curry, jasmine rice, naan

Still a bit cynical (after all, I yearned for my World-Wide Food Venture), I perused the menu. Where to start? Feeling a bit at a loss, I decided a cocktail was in order. The bar menu is a nothing short of a mixology masterpiece; a towering list of one creation more exotic and unusual than the next. These creatively named cocktails put me in just the right frame of mind. I felt relaxed, a little adventurous and perhaps a bit...bold (who - me?) I ordered a "Velvet Crowbar". LOVE the name! Wouldn't you love to be a "Velvet Crowbar"? Maybe I'm giving myself away, but the name enticed me to order this concoction of organic gin, Charbay ruby red vodka, strawberry juice and Hibiscus flower with an orange twist - served straight up (as I like it). The cocktail arrived beautifully presented with dried hibiscus petals seductively skimming the top.

I ordered the Seafood Minestra Soup as my first course. We're talking prawns, white wine, tomato broth with wild fish and bruschetta. I cocked my head as I tasted this delicious soup: where was I? This seemed a find from my global haunt of San Sebastian. Not normally a soup-lover, I found myself entranced by the light base of the soup that packed a back-palate punch with its understated spiciness. This soup is not about spicy, but rather about flavor. Think wine and tomato broth with chunks of fish and tomato. I loved the complexity of the tastes as they unfolded on my palate. You've got me - Luna Red.

Next course was the Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. Here we go: small red peppers stuffed with Happy Acres Goat Cheese, traced with basil oil and graced with a red wine reduction. The piquillo peppers were right on: I loved the lush sweet flesh of the peppers with their bright, flavorful essence. Add to this the goat cheese and you've got a perfect contrast of flavors and textures that makes this a most engaging lovely. My note: the wine reduction sauce was the perfect ‘foil' to rocket the taste of this dish to the stratosphere.

Carnivore that I am I ordered the Grilled Skirt Steak. My plate arrived with steak, crispy fingerling potatoes, caramelized bok choy, and oyster mushroom marmalade. Yum... the steak looked absolutely delicious. Earlier, I mentioned I brought my husband along as my dining partner. Well, my partner viewed this plate and decided it was for him, despite the fact it had been my order! We graciously foiled each other's forks and knives and consumed the totality of the steak. Whew! I'm not sure where the steak was from, where the seasonings originated ... other than that I know I'm here at LUNA RED. And, I'm HAPPY.

Yes, I might not be able to travail the world to satisfy my food yearnings, but I've found a most special locale, right here in San Luis Obispo that brings the best of the world's tastes to ME - it's Luna Red.

Luna Red is open for lunch Monday - Friday from 11:30 am - 2:30 pm. Dinner starts at 5 pm. I strongly recommend reservations (805) 540-5243. I also understand they have live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.

There's just too much to discover at Luna Red in one visit; I didn't even get to taste their artisanal salami made on the premises. In fact, this restaurant will take several visits to thoroughly explore their menu, bar and wine offerings... but hey, at least I won't have to travel halfway around the world to experience the foods and flavors of distant and remote places...Luna Red serves it up in style, right here in SLO.

Laura Gurreau
Central Coast Food Tours