LudoBites 6.0 at Max
13355 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
I don’t think Los Angeles’ dining scene has ever seen anything quite like this. Now in its sixth incarnation, LudoBites continues to grow in interest not just in LA, but nationwide. No restaurant in LA has garnered quite as much acclaim or hate in 2010. Acclaim – because LudoBites has consistently received rave reviews for its delicious, innovative, and constantly-changing cuisine. Hate – because the restaurant “pops-up” for a limited time, and demand far outstrips supply, leaving many frustrated without a chance to try it.
This was never more evident than when reservations opened up for this iteration, and OpenTable’s custom-made system (designed to handle the massive crowd) still crashed. Thousands of users, including myself, were faced with the words “restaurant currently unavailable” time after time after time. Somehow..I got lucky, and obtained a reservation after 40 minutes of constant clicking (thank goodness!). After days of anticipation, I found myself at opening night of LudoBites 6.0 at Max in Sherman Oaks.
Dining with me this night were friends Kristen and Heather, as well as Kevin of kevinEats. For the first time, LudoBites has an alcohol license, so a wine list (created by Domaine547) and a cocktail were featured. On this night, a Mexican Mojito was offered:
Ludo’s recommended cocktail: Mexican Mojito
This was a tequila-based cocktail, and it seemed to have a margarita-ish flavor to it. This mojito had the perfect amount of sugar; I find a lot of mojitos to be made too sweet.
Warm Baguette, Baratte Smoked Butter, Sardine-Laughing Cow Cheese
Ludo makes an excellent baguette, and it’s always served hot out of the oven. To compliment this, two spreads were served. One butter had a predominant smoky flavor, and one was fishy…I actually enjoyed combining these two as I found it to have a really delicious sort of smoked fish flavor.
Hamachi, Vietnamese Style
Next was one of the strongest dishes of the night. Beautifully plated, I loved the colors. Nice slivers of fish were complemented by textures of fried shallots and fried lotus root, with just a slight acidity to the dish. Wonderful.
Kumamoto Oysters, Kimchi Consomme Gelee, Camembert Mousse, Apple
This was a pretty interesting dish. The oysters were below the lettuce, in a gelee made of a kimchi consomee. Without being overpowering, this kimchi added a little bit of heat and acidity to the dish. I loved Ludo’s use of flowers in the presentation.
Marinated Mackerel, Leche Del Tiger, Baby Leeks, Verdolagas Leaves
This mackerel, marinated in ponzu, had a nice firm flesh and a crispy skin. Sugar was added to the skin and torched to get that nice crusty effect. The vegetables added the necessary balance to this meaty fish. Nice presentation too!
Black Trumpet Mushroom Cappuccino, Creamy Butternut Squash
This soup primarily had the sweet, rich flavors of the butternut squash, with a nice mushroom flavor on the back end. Warm and comforting.
Barely Cooked Squid Noodles, Pad Thai, Prawn, Tofu
This was another of the favorites dishes of the night. The squid was so tender, it was kind of incredible. The flavors of a pad thai were present as well, with a little heat and a bit of a coconut milk flavor. The bean sprouts were a great textural element as well to round out this excellent dish.
Mussels Veloute, Green Peppercorns, Pineapple, Fennel, Potato Paille
We were told that this was Ludo’s deconstructed version of moules frites. Interesting. The mussels were made into a rich and hearty soup with chunks of mussel meat and pineapple. I found the pineapple a bit odd if this was a moules frites inspiration; however I appreciated the sweetness it lended to the soup. The very thin shoestring fries were good with the soup (and for dipping!) and were extra crispy.
Poached Foie Gras, Green Lentils, Miso Broth, Turnips & Radish
Hmm…poached foie gras. Not something you see very often. Loved it! The smooth and creamy liver really stood out in this preparation, melting in your mouth. The turnips and radish were the primary textural elements, while the lentils added some nice body to the dish.
Scallop, Celery Root Remoulade, Red Port, Walnuts, Passion Fruit
Nicely seared, these scallops were cooked perfectly. The walnuts added some nice crispiness, though I was missing some of the passion fruit, which I think would’ve added some nice citrus to the dish.
John Dory, Potato, Herbs, Broccolini Flowers, Green Jalapenos Nage
Loved the colors here again. The fish was firm and, I thought, a bit overcooked. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was due to all of us taking pictures and letting the fish sit in the broth a while. The broth was delicious, with an herbaceous flavor and touch of heat from the jalapenos. The potato crisps were good as well.
Half Chicken, Chorizo, Poached Egg, Chanterelles, Saffron Onions Soubise
Ludo clearly knows his way around a chicken. His fried chicken is now served around the city in a truck, and here we have a “roasted” half chicken, which was actually prepared sous-vide. I imagined this was finished in the oven though, as it had a really crisp skin. The sous-vide preparation of the meat gave it a very moist, tender and succulent consistency. The flavor was spot on as well. I always love a poached egg, and the chanterelles were a nice accompaniment. Really, really good dish.
Nebraska Ribeye, Japanese Whiskey, Smoked Shisito Peppers, Amaranth
This was a pretty simple dish for Ludo’s standards…and it was excellent. The steak was of an American wagyu breed, probably my favorite breed if I’m eating a whole steak (pure Japanese wagyu is too fatty). The sear on the steak was perfect, and it was cooked to a tender and juicy medium rare. The shisito pepper (or my one bite of one) kicked my ass. Everyone else at the table seemed to have no problem with them though.
Next up were the two desserts on the menu this night.
Warm Carrot Cake, Coconut, Thai Curry, Mango Sorbet, Kaffir Lime Oil
The carrot cake was served hot out of the oven, with a very moist and soft interior. It had a nice carrot flavor to it, and when eaten with all of the components, really resembled a Thai curry dish. In a good, sweet dessert way.
Pear, Hot Chocolate, Matcha Green Tea Broth, Mint
This pear was poached until it had a fork-tender consistency. The “hot chocolate,” with a light mousse-like consistency, as well as the matcha green tea, made for a really interesting mix of flavors. I love green tea, and I thought the chocolate and the green tea melded well with the pear. This was a pretty light dessert, which my stomach appreciated after all of the previous courses.
This was another really good showing from Ludo and the team. As LudoBites receives more and more attention, dining expectations continue to rise. Ludo mentioned that he was conscious of this fact, and had to raise his own standards up. The food continues to be innovative and interesting; you’ll definitely come across ingredients and preparations you’ve never seen before. And, most importantly, it tastes good too. Cheers to another LudoBites!