Ltauha is a casually upscale restaurant that’s somewhat of a sleeper hit on the Brooklyn-Queens border. After being open for four years, you’d think a place as good as this would have lines and reservations. Thankfully, the market for downplayed-upscale restos isn’t quite saturated yet — in Ridgewood, at least.
Deeply stained wood, candles, and mellow ’80s hits (Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”) invite guests to drop the bustling pace of Myrtle-Wyckoff, just a few blocks away, slide into conversation, and relax. An eight-seat bar with high chairs leads into a dining room with thoughtfully arranged seating at long banquet-style tables, booths, or chairs. The restaurant’s modest size is buffered by a mirrored wall.
Ltauha’s unpresuming menu, eight entrees long, is a bit American, a bit old world. Pan-seared duck breast and a burger are prefaced by hors d’oeuvre of mussels in a sambal white wine sauce or “spicy party chicken wings” for less complicated revellers. Beet salad, mac and cheese, fried calamari, and pan seared chicken with gnocchi, mushrooms and spring onions are other examples of the simple yet refined fare.
“I decided to do something simple that everybody’s going to like, very in between fancy and not,” Ltauha’s chef, Jose, told me. “All my life I worked in the city, in Manhattan, but then I wanted to do something for myself.”
There’s a reason why it’s hard to spell and pronounce Ltauha: “It’s the owner’s mom’s last name spelled backwards,” Jose said. (It’s pronounced L-tau-ra).
I’m ashamed to admit that before this visit, I’d only ordered the House Burger, which is a buttery goodie bag of meat and sparkling toppings. It’s the kind of meal you think about long after it’s over. Pickles and fries, tossed in snippets of parsley, are made in house. Thirteen bucks, with bacon added, buys the whole thing.
This time, I started with an appetizer of duck confit with grilled pineapple and other veggies in a vinaigrette dressing. The sumptuous duck was served atop glistening produce, the texture of which blended into the bird and clung to the bone for dear life. To me, the duck proved that chef Jose and other staff could move seamlessly between diner and bistro cuisine.
A guava margarita with lemon juice and jalapeno brought a welcome transition. Again, a subtle balance of flavors, this time spicy and sweet, showed more of an attention to detail than some of the area’s bars can boast.
The silky Scott Salmon that followed was an absolute smash, served with grilled asparagus, sauteed spinach, and grape tomatoes in a lemon butter sauce. The acidity of preserved lemons laid on top enticed me towards the milder, savory sauce, while the sweeter tomatoes gave way to appropriately bitter greens.
By leaps and bounds this beat the grilled salmon of my youth. Even 10 minutes later, the lemon’s playful brightness tinged an otherwise smooth aftertaste. I was reminded of what my mother used to tell me about how my taste for salmon came from her time in Alaska while pregnant with me. Had I returned, in some Ridgewood way, to those prenatal predilections?
Chocolate souffle with pistachio ice cream was yet another sensory experience. A molten-core chocolate cake stood in elegant contrast to the green scoop. It was a welcomed end to the meal.
As for service, the staff, in my many experiences, has always been exceedingly accommodating and eager to make me feel comfortable. They’re always refilling water in an attentive way. Were it located in Williamsburg, this place would be swarming; but surely a place as unassuming as Ltauha would not be found there. This is a restaurant that looks out onto Texas Fried Chicken and two adjacent, Chinese-run tex mex places that are locked in heated competition (according to them). Inside, however, there is a Manhattanite gem.
Whether you’re just looking for the best burger for your buck in the area or you’d like something a bit nicer than what you’ve come to expect in Ridgewood, Ltauha pulls off both with humbleness to spare.