Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 8/3/11
With a new show on the Sundance Channel, LudoBites continues to get more and more popular (along with its share of haters too, it seems). This is the seventh LudoBites (not including the one-night Ludo Bites America dinner), and a return to Gram & Papas, where I had some of my favorite meals of 2010 (home of LudoBites 4.0 and 5.0). Because of the continual buzz surrounding LudoBites and the limited nature of a pop-up, expectations run sky high and reservations tend to be scarce. As in, reservation-system-always-crashes type of scarce.
OpenTable promised a smooth reservation process this time around, though I’m not sure how many people believed it. While I can’t say it went without a hitch (pages still took minutes to load/did not load), the system worked much better than expected and reservations were all filled within a minute. One minute to fully book 16 tables a night for 22 nights. Crazy.
With a little bit of luck (maybe because it was my birthday), I was able to secure a reservation.
Love the open kitchen at Gram & Papa’s.
Onion Tart, Bottarga
This was a pretty large portion to start the meal with. It was a crispy tart, covered with sweet onions and an interesting salinity from the bottarga.
Dorade Ceviche, Cucumber Water, Cornichons, Borrage Flower
I thought the acidity was slightly overpowering here as the fish flavor was pretty mild. I liked the crunch of the cornichons though, as well as the mild complementary heat of the jalapeno.
Salt Cod Panna Cotta, Whipped Fingerling Potato, Smoked Tapioca, Black Olive Bread
I really enjoyed this dish. There was a mild fish flavor in the smooth panna cotta and potato, and I loved the chewy texture of the tapioca. Loved. An overarching smoky flavor really complemented each bite as well. I thought this was a great example of some unusual, complex flavors mixed really well here.
Pig’s Head Compressed with Cheddar, Barbeque Gelée
Mmm pig’s head. This really looked like a s’more coming out, with the meat and cheddar teaming up to look like melted chocolate and marshmallow. I thought the meat was tender and tasty, while a little bit of crunchy texture came from the cracker. The barbecue gelee (inspired by recent travels to Raleigh?) really kicked it up a notch, adding some extra depth of flavor, as well as some heat.
Egg, Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc, Bagel Chips
The slow-cooked egg was really delicious here, heightened by some caviar. Those were the main flavors I got, as I felt the sea urchin was somewhat overshadowed here. Still, combining perfectly cooked egg with caviar made a combination sure to please.
Tomato Soup, Carrots, Squid
I liked the richness and body of this soup, though somehow its flavor reminded everyone of Chef Boyardee (i.e. flavors of childhood?). I wouldn’t necessarily say this was a bad thing, but it was pretty interesting nonetheless. I enjoyed the tender squid and crisp carrots as well.
Plancha Tandoori Octopus, Yogurt, Cauliflower, Grapefruit
Excellent dish. I’ve had some excellent octopus preparations at LudoBites in the past, and this was no exception. Tender and really smoky, I found the tart acidity of the yogurt and grapefruit to work really well with it.
Foie Gras Ravioli, Crispy Kimchi, Sake-Black Truffle Cream
Ah, a foie gras dish – possibly the most anticipated ingredient in Ludo’s repertoire. I really liked the melt-in-mouth texture of the tasty foie gras, though found the pasta to be just a touch mealy. However, all of the flavors were spot on, especially with the earthiness of the cream sauce and crispy kimchi.
Duck, Cherry, Spicy Saucisse, Beets, Radish
I thought the duck was cooked well and was nicely complemented by a slightly tart and acidic cherry sauce. Fresh, crispy beets and radish added some texture as well.
Roasted Beef, Horseradish Cream, Green Beans, Dried Mole
The beef was cooked perfectly here, leaving it really tender and juicy. A classic condiment, horseradish, was present in a creamy form – loved the flavor combination. The flavors of a typical roast beef dinner were definitely present, though a little bit more refined here.
Epoisse Cheese Risotto, Hazelnut, Egg Yolk, Herb Salad
Wow. Excellent. The risotto was a nice al dente, while the cheese and egg yolk aided in putting together a really rich creaminess. I thought the depth of flavor was exceptional too (with a hint of hazelnut coming through) – delicious.
Peach Melba Vacherin, Lavender
Our first dessert course featured this sweet piece of peach. It had a fresh vibrant flavor, accompanied by a sort of light whipped cream. I thought the lavender essence really elevated the dish as well – loved that part!
Crustless Lemon Tart
This dessert was just as advertised…it had the flavors of a lemon tart, without any crust at all. I thought there was a good lemon flavor here and I really liked the herbal flavor of the thyme with it. I preferred a little more texture, though (I was craving the crust, or some sort of crumble).
I found LudoBites 007 to be a success. In fact, I liked it quite a bit better than 6.0. As LudoBites gets more and more popular (i.e. reservations get harder and harder to get), I tend to wonder if increasing expectations will be met (especially by first-time diners). I think they will. Ludo’s creativity is always present in his dishes, and I thought the flavor combinations really worked well for the most part. It will only get better as Ludo refines his dishes from opening night. Instantly, I can think of a number of “slam dunk” dishes I’m sure to remember months (if not years) from now, including the risotto, octopus, and panna cotta.