IT’S 7 O’CLOCK on a Monday night on the South Waterfront, in June. Lucier has been open for only a few weeks. Yet the dining room is full, mostly with groups of men and women in business suits sipping champagne and feasting on structurally arranged food; trios of wine geeks with their noses stuck deep in their glasses; and a smattering of couples devouring $30 course after $30 course like it’s the last meal of their lives.
But it’s not just the modern European cuisine—prepared by chef Pascal Chureau, who also heads up the kitchen at Fenouil—and the lengthy wine list that guests are paying high prices for. It’s the superb quality of ambience and service, both of which make Lucier something of an anomaly in Portland, where white butcher-paper tablecloths, rough-hewn communal tables, and hipster ’tude are considered de rigueur.
At Lucier, owned by Tyanne and Chris Dussin, founders of the less-than-opulent Old Spaghetti Factory chain, everything from the silverware to the toilet-paper holders has been meticulously curated by Alvarez-Brock Design, the New York firm responsible for Le Cirque 2000 and Thomas Keller’s Per Se. A miniature river runs around the perimeter of the dining room, and glass bridges lead guests to tables draped in fine white linen. From the ceiling, copper tubes curve downward in raindrop-shaped spirals.
And weaving through this orchestrated scene is a choreographed army of suited servers carrying plates of striped bass carpaccio topped with shavings of foie gras, and tiny roasted squabs set atop celeriac and a cassis reduction.
Undeniably, the waiters and waitresses are here to make you feel as though you’re the only person in the world. The question is, in a casual town like Portland, are there enough diners in search of such pampering to sustain Lucier’s equation? For our sake, and for Lucier’s, I secretly hope there are.