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.

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

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

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

Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Lemon, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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The last entree, of which we ordered three, was the chicken.

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

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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

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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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Black Sea Bass, Fresh Sansho Pepper, Fresh Peas, Lettuce, Spring Onions, Yuzu
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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.

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

Dark Chocolate Souffle, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream

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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.