LudoBites: Best of Foie Gras
Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 4/18/12
If there are two ingredients with which I’ve had the most fond LudoBites memories, it might be foie gras and chicken. I’m not counting on a “Best of Chicken” night anytime soon (but I’d love to see one!), however I’m not surprised to see a night dedicated to the controversial and soon-to-be-banned ingredient. In fact, Ludo’s already done a foie gras dinner at Animal and has been very outspoken about his view on the matter.
For this dinner, Ludo teamed up with the usual suspect – Gram & Papa’s in downtown. It’s still probably my favorite venue despite the quiet neighborhood, due to its proximity to me and the open kitchen where much of the action can be seen.
In the coming months, I’m expecting to see more dinners like this (Melisse has one). Why not celebrate (binge) on it while you still can? This two-night dinner menu was 5 courses of foie gras (6 if you include the amuse) for $105, lower than what I would’ve expected. A quick glance showed a few familiar plates (albeit with a few changes) and some that I found completely new to me – an intriguing balance.
Foie Gras Cromesqui “MM”
We were first served this amuse bouche, a spherical croquette filled with a liquid foie gras sauce. The shell was delicate with a nice crunch, and the warm foie flavor really set the tone for the meal.
Foie Gras Dynamite tuna, lychee
This dish was very similar to one at LudoBites 5.0, a seemingly odd combination of raw tuna, seared foie gras, and a spicy ‘dynamite’ sauce. I feared that the richer dynamite sauce would overshadow the tuna and foie gras, but I found this to be pretty nicely balanced. I liked the contrast between the rich, fatty foie gras and leaner tuna, and the sauce had a subtle spiciness that brought it all together. A lychee sauce provided sweetness, while salmon roe added some pop to each bite.
Foie Gras Miso Soup radish, turnips
Seeing this dish on the menu, I was instantly reminded of what was maybe my favorite dish of LudoBites 8.0. A miso soup (prepared with duck stock!) was pretty well done itself – adding in gently poached, perfectly-cooked chunks of foie gras will elevate just about any soup. No exception here – the liver was completely melt-in-mouth, while crisp slivers of turnips and radish provided some fresh bite. Bravo!
Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur grapes
This dish is probably one of the most notable in LudoBites history – I first had it during the 4.0 run. A squid ink-dyed bread was toasted and served with serrano ham and an oozing foie gras terrine and cheese mixture. Grade A food porn, and it tasted as good as it looked. The foie and ham flavors both stood out and mixed so well in each bite, especially with a little bit of the accompanying sweet grape sauce. I loved the crispy texture of the toasted bread too – ooey gooey greasy deliciousness.
Foie Gras “Crepinette” morels, pears, green asparagus
Our last savory course was an original, as far as I know. It was a play on a crepinette, a type of sausage wrapped in caul fat, a thin membrane that surrounds the internal organs of the stomach. It wasn’t nearly as weird as it sounded, being very similar to a typical sausage casing. Of course, foie gras was packed inside and accompanied by a potato puree, diced pears and morel mushrooms. I thought the flavors were balanced well, and the foie gras was able to stand out in the midst of everything. I thought a key ingredient was the pears, which added a welcome sweetness and subtle texture. Oh, and the grilled ramps were delicious!
Foie Gras Sundae brioche, black berries
Our meal came to a conclusion with this dessert, a foie gras ice cream topped with whipped cream, brioche (toasted in duck fat, of course), and berries. Another original, I think. I thought the ice cream was oddly rather grainy and fibrous, but the flavor was clear foie gras. I think the brioche was caramelized in something since it was addictingly sweet, while some berries adding a different kind of fresh sweetness. The flavors were nice, but I didn’t love the consistency of the ice cream.
This was a very good meal and one of the better complete meals I’ve had from Ludo in some time. True to his style, the plates were pretty creative and different with a good mix of familiar LudoBites and new stuff. The main highlights for me were the miso soup and croque-monsieur, but all of the dishes were pretty strong overall. I thought Ludo did a good job of showing varied applications of the ingredient; so well, in fact, that I’ll just miss it that much more come July 1. I’m curious if we’ll see Ludo do something similar once more before that date arrives…