LudoBites Truck – 8/14/10

LudoBites Truck aka LudoTruck
Locations around the city

truck and view 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I don’t typically review the food trucks I visit, but the LudoBites truck is a little different from the typical food truck. Based on the now-famous fried chicken served at previous LudoBites engagements, the truck serves a few varieties of fried chicken, as well as a number of sides that compliment the chicken. Not yet ready for regular day-to-day service, it “pops-up” at various locations and events around the city with relatively minimal advertising – a way to limit the masses from overwhelming the truck (see: first LA Street Food Fest). Given the buzz currently surrounding everything LudoBites-related, it’s understandable that they are easing its way into normal service.

I was taking a gardening class at Cube LA’s downtown offshoot (Yes – I do have a small home garden), knowing that the truck would be paying a visit at noon – coincidentally, the class’ end time. I’ve had the chicken twice before, at the aforementioned LA Street Food Fest, as well as at LudoBites 4.0, and I was eagerly anticipating a third taste. Given that I was already on the scene as the truck arrived, our party was first in line to order!

truck arrival 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

The truck’s menu features chicken prepared three ways, with a number of sauces, sides and desserts.

menu1 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

menu2 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

Provencal Pepite “Chicken Ball” with Herbs de Provence, Crunch Buttermilk Strips, Honey-Garlic Glazed Wings and Coleslaw

chicken assortment 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

The chicken strip and wing are relatively new, with the ‘chicken ball’ being the staple. These were all quite good – the chicken strip was moist and tender, though the breading was a little thick. The wing was also moist with just the right sweetness, and the ‘chicken ball’ was as tasty as ever, though smaller than in previous incarnations. Served piping hot, the juices literally run all over once you bite into it.

Of the four sauces, I was able to try the honey whole grain mustard, piquillo, and Ludo’s hickory smoked BBQ (from left to right).

sauces1 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I’m familiar with the piquillo sauce from prior visits; while good, my favorite was probably the hickory smoked BBQ sauce. Smoky, tangy and sweet – it really complemented the chicken, especially the fried variations.

“Perfect” Three-Day Fries

fries 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I’m not sure why these are three-day fries, but they were relatively simple for Ludo’s standards. And that’s definitely not a bad thing; the fries exhibited a very nice crispiness while keeping a fluffy and moist interior…and hey, who doesn’t love fries with their fried chicken?

Honey Lavender Biscuit

biscuit 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

Ludo’s honey lavender butter served at LudoBites 4.0 was one of the best butters I’ve ever had. Using this butter to create a moist, yet flaky biscuit – voila! A really great biscuit, and it was great to see Ludo’s take on this southern classic.

To wash this all down, the truck offers soda, water and two agua frescas. Pictured below is the strawberry-watermelon.

aqua fresca 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I really liked this. More watermelon than strawberry, it provided a very refreshing cleanser on this summer day.

The only other truck present was the Coolhaus truck, which offers some really good (and unique) ice cream sandwiches.

coolhaus 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I really enjoy their ice cream sandwiches, and is there a better way to cap off a meal on a warm summer day in LA? Well, yes. I opted for another helping of the “chicken balls.” I couldn’t help it.

fried chicken 500x335 LudoBites Truck   8/14/10

I was really happy to be able to enjoy this chicken once again; in fact, I had been looking forward to it for most of the week. It did not disappoint one bit, and I can’t wait for the LudoTruck to begin regular service!

LudoBites – 7/21/10

LudoBites 5.0 at Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

exterior3 LudoBites   7/21/10

I was lucky enough to score a reservation to the opening night of this fifth incarnation of LudoBites. The husband-and-wife team of Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre continues to dramatically grow in popularity, clearly indicated by the reservation system crashing once reservations were available this time around. 3000 people tried to log on to the reservation system when it opened up at 5pm on July 7, more than it could handle.

Ludo is one of the most unique chefs around, with his pop-up restaurants giving the public just a brief taste of his ever-changing modern take on French cuisine – before it goes away again. The venue for this iteration is the same as LudoBites 4.0; perfect for me considering I live and work in downtown.

Given that this was LudoBites opening night, I expected to recognize some people, whether it be other chefs, celebrities or bloggers. My expectations were warranted, as Kevin of kevinEats and Ryan of Epicuryan sat down at a neighboring table, and Ludo superfan food writer Jonathan Gold was present as well.

menu 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

We tried most of the dishes offered, starting with the naan.

Vadouvan Naan Bread, Salted Coconut Butter

naan 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

The bread was a bit on the salty side, but a decent rendition of naan. The salted coconut had a good coconut flavor; but overall, this ‘bread course’ didn’t stand up to the baguette with honey lavender butter of LudoBites 4.0 – which I really enjoyed.

Grilled Squid, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Black Rice, Yuzu Red Onions, Umami Broth & Seaweed Tartar

squid 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

I really liked this dish. It screamed “summer” with its fresh, perfectly cooked seafood, and light vibrant flavors primarily from the tomatoes and yuzu red onions.

Raw Wagyu Beef, Dried Miso, Somen Noodle, Peanut Vinaigrette, Candied Watermelon, Mint

beef noodles 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10


Our server, as well as Krissy Lefebvre herself, raved about this dish…and it did not disappoint. Raw slices of wagyu beef topped cold somen noodles. I love beef with noodles, so this was right down my alley. The beef was not too chewy, and provided some great flavor, complemented by some mint and watermelon. The peanut vinaigrette provided just the right amount of acidity to cut through the rich meat. However, I’m not sure I could tell that this was wagyu beef if someone hadn’t told me.

Poached Egg, Potato Mousseline, Santa Barbara Spot Prawn, Chorizo Condiment

poached egg 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

This was probably my favorite dish of the night. A silky smooth potato mousseline sat atop a nicely poached egg, on top of some chopped pieces of spot prawn. Great combination here. The potato flavor was subtle, but the combination of the richness of the egg and the sweetness of the prawns was just perfect.

Grilled Octopus, Oregano, Grilled Hazelnut Polenta, Pineapple Aioli, Piment D’Espelette Gelee

octopus 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

I don’t think I’ve ever had octopus in this sort of presentation, with a large grilled tentacle on the plate. The octopus was cooked very well – moist and tender with a great, charred grill flavor. The gelee, a combination of a number of spices, was strong and really brought out some of the flavors of the octopus.

Next on to the entrees – four were offered on this night.

Hot Foie Gras, Chinese Barbecue Sauce, Miso Eggplant Terrine

foie gras 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

A very generous chunk of foie gras was presented, perfectly seared. Chinese hoisin sauce was a prominent flavor – I never imagined foie gras with hoisin sauce – but I thought these flavors went well together. In addition, it came with an eggplant terrine, a really unique preparation. Often when I have eggplant, it’s fairly mushy, but that was not the case here – it was more of an al dente texture.

Day Boat Cod, Torched Uni, Ratatouille, Red Bell Pepper Pickles, Black Curry

cod 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

I enjoyed this dish. The cod was cooked well and was really moist. The ratatouille was fantastic as well. I didn’t think the uni was really necessary though – tasty, but not adding much extra to the dish. I found the black curry to be very overpowering in this dish though, and stayed away from it.

Confit Pork Belly, Raw Choucroute Thai Style, Guiness, Emulsion

pork belly1 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

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What restaurant doesn’t offer pork belly nowadays? This was an excellent rendition, with moist, succulent pieces of pork. The choucroute’s acidity provided a nice balance to the fattiness of the pork.

Steamed Duck, Lemon Verbena, Crispy Skin Puree, White Peach, Radish, Balsamic

duck 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

This dish was a little underwhelming for me. The duck, while cooked well, was steamed, and I was missing some of the complex, deep flavors that come with searing the meat. The crispy skin provided some nice textural crunch, but it wasn’t quite enough for me.

Next we were on to the desserts.

Campfire Smoked S’mores, Guacamole Sorbet

smore 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

The smore was a nice treat, and beautifully presented. However the guacamole (primarily just avocado) sorbet combination just didn’t work for any of us at the table.

Caramel Souffle, Blanco Grapefruit, Fleur De Sel Ice Cream

souffle 500x335 LudoBites   7/21/10

The last iteration of LudoBites featured a very popular dark chocolate souffle. This time around it was caramel – and I think it’s even better. The amount of caramel flavor was just right, and I really enjoyed the Fleur De Sel ice cream, effectively making this a ‘salted caramel’ souffle. Yum.

In all, we were all very satisfied with the meal. It was very solid from start to finish. Do I think it was better than LudoBites 4.0? Hard for me to say; they were both very, very good. I’ll probably have to make a return trip soon in order to make a judgment like that. Service was pretty good this time around..and as usual, Krissy and Ludo are very gracious hosts.

LudoBites – 5/26/10

LudoBites 4.0 at Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

I was lucky enough to be able to make a return visit to this incarnation of LudoBites - Ludo had changed up the menu a bit since then, so there were a good number of new dishes to try. Of course, there were some “old favorites” I wanted to re-visit as well.

menu3 224x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

Once again, we started the meal off with the Tartine Plate.

Tartine Plate “Warm Baguette” Honey-Lavender Butter & Smoked Lard

tartine 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

Delicious again, I really couldn’t get enough of the honey lavender butter – superb!

Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Lemon, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce
veal tartare 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

This was the first of the ‘new’ dishes this go-around – I enjoyed this dish, but I didn’t love it. The tartare resembled a ceviche, interestingly, with the veal marinating in the lemon juice. I thought the veal’s texture was a little chewy, but the flavors were good.

Black Foie Gras Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney
croque monsieur1 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

Nom nom nom. I love this dish – complex yet simple at the same time. It’s basically just a croque monsieur, but with foie gras. Oh and the bread is dipped in squid ink. It’s a really nice chunk of duck liver in the sandwich, which creates a melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Crispy Soft Shell Crab Cone, Mango, Red Spicy Mayo, Corona Granite
soft shell crab 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

This was another dish new to me, and had a fun presentation. Without looking closely, it kind of resembles a few scoops of coffee ice cream in a waffle cone, drizzled with fudge. In actuality, this was soft shell crab fried tempura-style. mixed with spicy mayo. and put into a sesame waffle cone. Served with a Corona granite – haha fun! I found the crab to be a little chewy here, though.

For the entrees, we shared (at least) one of each.

Squid “Carbonara,” Pancetta, Poached Egg (63 degrees), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers
squid carbonara 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

Calamari rings were the “pasta” in this Carbonara, and were cooked perfectly. That was integral to the dish, as all-too-often the squid is chewy. Essentially, squid must be cooked very quickly or very long in order for it to be tender. In this case, it was cooked quickly and tossed in a Carbonara. The sauce was rich, yet not overpowering to the subtle squid. The egg added a nice richness, and the pork belly lended a nice salty flavor.

Monkfish, Baby Carrots, Orange-Carrot Cake Coulis, Exotic Spices
monkfish 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

The monkfish was cooked well, but is a really dense fish. It may be  due to personal preference, but none of our party really liked the fish here – the black sea bass used in the last visit was definitely preferable.

Braised Beef Cheeks, Escargots, Red Wine Butter, Leek Salad, Roasted Eggplant
beef cheeks 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

Admittedly, the picture doesn’t look too appetizing. The cheeks were braised well, however, with a rich and deep flavor. Very tender, as well.

Rack of Lamb, Goat Cheese, Artichoke, Potato Mousseline, Mint
lamb3 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10
A holdover from our previous visit, and I was glad to see it. The lamb here, again, was very tender and flavorful. A little gamey in a nice way. I’d eat a whole rack of this.

The potato mousseline that came with it was delicious.
potatoes3 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

The last entree, of which we ordered three, was the chicken.

“Pepittes” of Fried Chicken, Coconut Polenta, Grilled Baby Corn, Bok Choy, Diablo Sauce

chicken 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

I first tried LudoBites’s fried chicken at the LA Street Food Fest in February, when I waited three hours. I tend to regard this as one of the best “bites” in LA, so I was glad to see it on the menu here. It did not disappoint. Crispy on the outside, and very moist and tender on the inside. The seasoning with herbs is very evident, both inside the chicken and outside within the batter. Simply delicious.

For dessert were the two usual suspects:

Dark Chocolate Souffle, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream

souffle1 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

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I love this souffle. The dark chocolate adds some nice depth, and a little bitterness, which goes really well with the whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

Strawberry, Macaron, Lemon-Verbena Meringue
strawberry1 500x335 LudoBites   5/26/10

I think this dish is slightly overshadowed by the souffle because, well…everyone loves chocolate. This dish is more original, more creative. Sweet strawberries and macarons are topped with a meringue. Light and sweet, I really enjoyed this dish.

Another visit to LudoBites, and another really satisfying meal. I’m really glad he put the fried chicken on the menu, as I just love that stuff. Ludo continues to create some great dishes, and I’m already curious as to where and when his next LudoBites will pop up.

LudoBites – 5/11/10

LudoBites 4.0 at Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

What’s the most sought-after reservation in Los Angeles right now? It’s likely a table at LudoBites, Ludovic Lefebvre’s pop-up restaurant now happening in downtown LA. The buzz around Ludo is immense, from his most recent feature in Time Magazine (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1986775,00.html), to his recent appearance on Top Chef Masters, to his continued popularity with Jonathan Gold (who was a fellow diner on this night), and to his extreme devotion among food bloggers. Reservations to his 1.5 month stint at Gram and Papa’s were fully booked on the day of the announcement. Luckily, I was able to get two of them. The first, begins below.

exterior 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

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Menu is shown below. Click for larger version.

menu1 224x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

We decided to sample a number of dishes from the menu, in order to try as much as possible.

Tartine Plate “Warm Baguette” Honey-Lavender Butter & Smoked Lard

baguette 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

The baguette was freshly baked and still hot. It had a generous sprinkling of sea salt, which I really liked. The smoked lard was good stuff – like extra-strong bacon fat. But even better was the honey-lavender butter – exceptional. Reminiscent of Bi-Rite Creamery’s Honey-Lavender ice cream, it had a great flavor that really went well with the bread, especially with the sea salt.

Brie Chantilly, Honey Comb, Frisee Salad, Balsamicbrie chantilly 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

This dish was quite good as well, with a very rich and creamy brie cream. The balsamic and honey comb were excellent accoutrements, balancing well with the cheesy cream.

Seabream Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Jalapenos, Meyer Lemon Paste, Cilantro Flower
ceviche 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

This was a good ceviche, with the jalapeno and cilantro adding a lot of flavor. The presentation was beautiful as well. Not exceptional or wildly original, but a very solid ceviche.

Black Foie Gras Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney
croque monsieur 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

Very interesting dish. The bread is dipped in squid ink and toasted. A generous portion of foie gras and some pancetta (I think? some kind of ham) is mixed in between. The richness of the liver is cut by the sweetness of the chutney. Brilliant. A really exceptional dish.

Boudin Noir Mousse, Apple, Wasabi
boudin noir 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

This was an interesting dish. The texture was one very much of liver, with a grainy element to it. I thought the apple and wasabi worked well with the mousse, but by personal preference, this was not my favorite dish.

Throughout the appetizers, we had been sipping on a Spanish Gordello, of which I forgot to take a picture of. As an intermezzo, we had an Alesmith X, which had a nice fruity taste, cleansing the palate nicely.beer 224x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

And with that, we were on to the entrees, paired with a merlot.

wine 224x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

Black Sea Bass, Fresh Sansho Pepper, Fresh Peas, Lettuce, Spring Onions, Yuzu
sea bass 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

The bass here was cooked very well. Nicely flaky and moist.  Another really nicely presented plate with the colors and the flower.

Bavette, Escargots Red Butter, Shallots Jam, Roasted Eggplant, Carrot Slaw
bavette 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

This dish was probably the most disappointing of the night – largely because the beef was tough. Like..surprisingly chewy and tough. Otherwise, I had no complaints, but that pretty much ruined the dish.

Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Dried Bonito, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint
lamb1 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

Mmm the lamb was really juicy and tender. There aren’t that many things better than a juicy piece of tender lamb flesh. The lamb was a little gamey, which I enjoyed. I just wish there were a couple more pieces. The potatoes were delicious.

Next were the desserts, of which there were two options – chocolate or strawberry. To pair with dessert, we had Allagash Oddysey.

beer2 224x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

This strong dark ale was really nice with the desserts, especially the chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Souffle, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream

souffle 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

souffle side 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

Hot damn! This was a fantastic chocolate souffle. Better than Bottega Louie’s. There I said it. The best I’ve had in LA.  Very warm and fresh with a nice chocolate flavor, the chocolate cream only added depth of chocolate flavor. The whipped cream, very light and mildly sweet, went well.

Strawberry, Macaron, Lemon-Verbena Meringue
strawberry 500x335 LudoBites   5/11/10

This dessert was much lighter than the chocolate, and topped with the same whipped cream that I enjoyed. The strawberries were nice and sweet, and the macarons provided a chewy texture. I think pop rocks were added on top of the dish, adding an unexpected dimension to the dish! Interestingly, it was my second dessert with pop rocks in the past couple weeks, starting with the Dining Room at the Langham.

We were all very pleased with our meal, even considering we were coming in with high expectations. There were a number of highlights, including the baguette with honey-lavender butter, the foie gras croque-monsieur, sea bass and souffle. The only dish that really was a disappointment was the beef. Ludo even made his rounds, greeting the tables, and we were able to chat with him for a moment. In all, it was a satisfying meal and I look forward to coming back.