Bao Wow: Lucky Luna

06/04/2014 4:00 AM |

Lucky Luna
167 Nassau Avenue, Greenpoint

At this Taiwanese-Mexican joint, it’s all about the bao. Meltingly tender five-spiced duck is folded into soft white buns with gingery pickled cucumbers, hoisin mayo and chicharrònes, which impart a subtle Mexican accent onto the Taiwanese street snack. The pork belly bao—a daily special when we visited—also featured decadently juicy meat. The tiny sandwiches are $5.50 each or two for $10, and you’ll definitely want to order pairs. To get a little more bang for that ten bucks, opt for the two-taco plate. The beer-braised heritage pork tasted fresh and healthy, which may not be the biggest selling point for fans of fatty, crispy carnitas. Still, Lucky Luna scored points for using tasty corn tortillas from Tortillería Nixtamal in Corona, Queens, and pairing the dish with steamed rice and heirloom beans, which, though on the bland side, helped fill out a meal from a menu of shareable small—sometimes very small—plates.

The Lu Rou Fan, a little bowl of white rice with pickled mustard greens, bits of ground pork and a poached egg, could’ve also used a punch of flavor. And it was too tiny a portion for its $10 price tag. The $7 crunchy cucumber salad, spiked with garlic, ginger and a sweet sesame-soy vinaigrette, better accompanied both the Taiwanese- and Mexican-leaning dishes.

Despite a few half-hearted attempts to fuse the two cuisines together, they generally stand side-by-side on Lucky Luna’s menu: a teeny tangle of shredded Thai basil atop the mango panna cotta doesn’t exert much of an Asian influence on the tropical dessert, but it’s so light, creamy and citrusy that no heavy-handed fusion is necessary. The quasi-Latin-American Florecita, a cherry-red mocktail of hibiscus, lime and ginger with a super-spicy combo of sugar and chili circling its rim perked up our whole meal, even though its whisper of ginger didn’t really scream, “Taiwan!” The springy, boozy Peony cocktail combined gin, Cocchi Americano, lemon and absinthe; the addition of a lychee placed it on the vaguely Asian end of the menu.

Lucky Luna’s greatest asset is its waitstaff, whose chattiness and excitement about the menu made us feel like we were dining at a friend’s house. The space itself feels a bit like a postcollege starter apartment: a red accent wall here, a turquoise shelving unit there, some fringy Mexican textiles hanging around, lighting that could be a bit softer, and a bowl of free feminine hygiene products discreetly placed in the bathroom. If you’ve ever dreamed of hosting a Mexican and/or Taiwanese dinner party without having to clean up, this is your place.