LudoBites 5.0 at Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
This would be my final visit to LudoBites 5.0, on its second-to-last night. Ludo likes to keep the menu constantly changing, so the menu has changed fairly significantly since my first visit on opening night. However, a lot of our favorites were still on the menu (including the wagyu beef over somen noodles and the potato mousseline). As a result, this would end up being my best LudoBites experience. Given the constant buzz and the fact that I’ve been here four times since May, I’m even surprised that I keep enjoying it more and more.
Similar to opening night, super-food writer Jonathan Gold was present – and was one of the last tables to leave. Ex-NFL star Warren Sapp dined as well; seemingly random, but I know that he is friends with the Lefebvres.
Warm Baguette, Seaweed Buckwheat Butter
The naan served earlier in 5.0 had gotten semi-mixed reviews, and here Ludo decided to bring back the baguette. It’s a really good baguette, served warm and salted, complemented by a nice seaweed buckwheat butter.
Hot Miso Soup, Cherry Tomato, Uni Black Panini
This soup-and-sandwich pairing reminded me of a recent Hatchi meal with a “burger” and miso soup. The panini is a metamorphosis of the foie gras croque monsier – the uni is much more subtle, though I could still pick out the briny flavor in each bite. The miso soup was a strong variation; the tomatoes weren’t even necessary to make this soup good, but provided a really vibrant flavor.
King Salmon “a l’huile” Juniper Berries, Rainbow Carrot, Orange Ice, Pistachio
This was a totally new dish, and it was excellent. Slices of raw salmon were complemented well by acidity and coolness of the orange ice, and the pistachio and crunchy carrots provided some great texture.
Heirloom Tomato Salad, Mozzarella Ice Cream, Basil Crumble
Some really sweet and ripe tomatoes were presented here in an interesting version of a caprese salad. The mozzarella was in the form of an ice cream, and the basil in a crunchy crumble. I loved how Ludo brought these three ingredients together in different textural elements. All of the flavors were distinctive and excellent on their own, though the tomatoes were the star for me.
Raw Wagyu Beef, Somen Noodle, Peanut Vinaigrette, Watermelon
This was one of my favorites from opening night – our table ended up ordering four orders of this. The beef is tender and flavorful, and the watermelon adds some brightness to this dish. The peanuts added a nice crunch to the dish as well – stir this all up and you have a fantastic bite.
Poached Egg, Potato Mousseline, Chorizo Condiment
This was another favorite from last trip…and another that we ordered four dishes of. The mousseline was so smooth and went really well with the rich, runny egg yolk. The flowers here added some flavor as well, giving this dish a floral essence.
Sauteed Chanterelles, Peach, Black Garlic, Breadcrumbes & Parsley
This was another new dish for us. The chanterelles were quite tender, and the peaches added a nice sweetness and brightness to the dish.
Grilled Octopus, Oregano, Burnt Red Bell Pepper Polenta, Pineapple Aioli, Piment D’Espellette Gelee
The octopus was perfectly cooked, yielding very tender tentacles. The pineapple aioli added just the right amount of sweetness and acid, while the chili gelee added just a touch of heat.
Santa Barbara Prawn, Cinnamon Beurre Blanc, Beignet, Shrimp Powdered Sugar
The shrimp were nicely cooked and the cinnamon beurre blanc – sounds kind of weird, I know – does really work. The beignet, however, wasn’t as light as others I’ve had, and didn’t add too much to the dish.
Hot Foie Gras Dynamite, Raw Tuna, Lychee, Crackers
Love the colors on this dish. The foie gras was covered with Ludo’s “Dynamite” sauce. The heat was tempered by the lychee, as well as the cool tuna. I could’ve used a bigger piece of the foie gras though, as it didn’t stand out as much amongst the other ingredients.
John Dory, Saffron Risotto, Chanterelles Mousse Emulsion
John Dory is a firmer white fish, and here it was cooked perfectly. The saffron risotto was excellent as well, providing a sort of “seafood risotto.” The chanterelle foam adds a nice flavor to this as well. I loved this dish.
Confit Pork Belly, Raw Choucroute Thai Style, Mustard Ice Cream
This dish was similar to one we had on opening night. The pork belly was very tender and flavorful, and the Thai coleslaw added a refreshing contrast to the richness of the pork, with its slight acidity. The mustard ice cream added a little heat – not something I’d eat on a cone, but I thought it worked well in this application!
Roasted Sonoma Saddle of Lamb, Goat Cheese, Candied Black Olive, Artichoke Salad, Mint Pesto
The lamb was cooked well here, though it was a bit chewy – really not as tender as I expected. The goat cheese, with a marshmallow consistency, was not overwhelming but provided a good depth of flavor. I thought the artichoke salad was oversalted.
Marinated Steak (“Korean Style”), Pickled Vegetables, Grilled Baby Corn, Crispy Bacon
Cheese Plate Saint-Nectaire (Cow) with Pear Kimchi Chutney; Epoisse (Cow) with Whole Grain Mustard, Honeycomb; Roncal (Sheep) with Apricots-Lavender Jam
As an intermezzo, we had the cheese plate. I’m not a big cheese person, and was saving room for dessert, so I passed on this. The rest of our party seemed to enjoy it though.
Chocolate Cake, Spicy Olive Oil
Onto the dessert! This was a new dish for me. The chocolate cake was not entirely special, but the spicy olive oil here really kicked things up.
“Sundae” Pistachio Ice Cream, Bing Cherries, Hot Chocolate Sauce, Salted Pistachio
Layers of pistachio ice cream, hot chocolate sauce, and bing cherries topped with whipped cream – how can you go wrong? You can’t. This dish seemed relatively simple for Ludo’s standards, and was excellent. I’m not really sure what it was, but the flavors were incredible together, and the salted pistachio bits on top added a very nice crunch to each bite.
Caramel Souffle, Grapefruit Gelee, Fleur De Sel Ice Cream
We had been looking forward to this all night. Ludo makes a terrific souffle. It was so light and airy, with a good caramel flavor. It was served piping hot, and when combined with the cold, salty ice cream, became a really delicious combination.
Service was excellent, something that I don’t always see at “pop-up” restaurants. In all, this was probably my favorite LudoBites experience of all of the five times I’ve been able to experience it. Ludo is able to wield creative and interesting flavor combinations together that, most importantly, work. I’m a little sad to see LudoBites 5.0 come to an end, but I’m already looking forward to 6.0 later this year.