12200 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 2/15/12
My first trip to LudoBites 8.0 was a pretty good meal, and a very promising start to this iteration. While much attention has been spent on the reservation system and the scarcity of a seat, I didn’t think it was as hard as it initially seemed. Cancellations were plentiful and I would stumble upon reservations on Urbanspoon more days than not. The catch was that it was typically a same-day seat, but combined with the bar seating, I think most that really wanted a seat were able to find their way into one. I found my way onto someone else’s reservation towards the end of the current run, exactly a week before closing night.
It was an 8:30 reservation, just enough time to stop by local bar The Daily Pint. A good friend of mine was nice enough to give me a heads up on a particular beer they would be serving this evening and got me a ticket. How convenient!
Pliny the Younger. I had my first taste of the uber-hyped beer last year at Father’s Office and enjoyed it. Was it the best beer ever, worthy of lines over an hour long? Mmm not sure about that. Was it a very delicious beer? Yes, it was. This time there seemed to be a stronger alcohol flavor than I remembered, which isn’t to say it was unbalanced, it was just more pronounced. Floral notes and a strong bitter, hoppy (of course!) flavor made for a memorable beer similar to sibling Pliny the Elder.
These were some of the largest gougeres I’ve ever seen, yet still very light and airy with a nice cheesy interior. Reminded me a little bit of BLT Steak’s popover. A nice starter.
Chicken Tandoori Crackling
The flavor of the liver was definitely strong and upfront, rich and creamy. The chicken skin provided the crispy texture and extra chicken flavor. This was pretty much the same as the first time I had it, and I enjoyed it equally as much this time around.
Sweet Shrimp, Miso Cream, Beans, Smoked Salmon
The sweet shrimp were complemented by a strong smoky pancetta flavor and an interesting miso cream. An odd mix of flavors, but I enjoyed them.
Lobster Salad, Yuzu, Honey
The lobster was tasty with a bright, fresh burst of sweet flavor. A little bit of the citrus from the yuzu came through, though I don’t think I needed the extra sweetness of the honey. A little bit of fresh herbs on top helped to build additional flavor.
Uni Creme Brulee, Coffee
I enjoyed this better this time; it seemed to have a creamier, smoother texture. The addition of some coffee tones was also a nice touch, particularly with the salty eggs. Interestingly, the price of this dish rose from $18 to $24 between my visits, and then rose to $34 a week later during the final week (primarily due to a change in uni supplier).
Black Truffle (French) Scrambled Eggs
We had high hopes for this one but it almost unanimously fell short of expectations. The diced onions had a raw, undercooked flavor that overpowered any truffle or egg flavor. Definitely disappointing at $35 a bowl.
Celery Root Soup, Foie Gras, Mushrooms, Ash
We rebounded with what may have been the best dish of the night. The celery root soup was pretty tasty on its own, lightly creamy, but the foie were perfectly cooked chunks of creamy liver. Really good, not unlike the poached foie gras during visit one. Some mushrooms and an interesting, crumbly ash rounded out the dish.
Big Eye Tuna, Tahitian Vanilla, Somen, 7 Flavor Vinaigrette
This was a refreshing dish showcasing some clean flavors. The seared tuna was good, accented by a little bit of heat and some acid in the vinaigrette. I liked the addition of the noodles, though some of them stuck together while cooking leaving some mushy, doughy chunks.
Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds
Similar to the first visit, this monkfish was perfectly cooked leaving a melt-in-mouth texture. Quite good. The mustard seed added a little bit of heat, while the cornichons and cucumber added some fresh crunch.
Steamed Foie Gras in Apple Cider, Apple Tapioca, Buckwheat
The steamed foie gras was quite nice, though I preferred the one in the celery root soup. The apple tapioca was a fun touch, with its chewy texture and a very subtle apple flavor. In tandem with the cider in the broth, it was an interesting re-engineering of classic fruit-foie complementary flavors.
Squid Ink Rice Pudding, Lardo, Pickled Kumquats
Thin strips of chewy squid and lardo rested atop this squid ink rice pudding. Interesting. Similar to a squid ink risotto, the al dente texture of the rice came through, as well as the unmistakable flavor of the squid ink. Some pickled kumquats completed the dish, adding acidity and sweetness.
Thai Snapper, Eucalyptus Oil, Potato, Leeks, Manzanilla
The fish was cooked just right with a moist flesh and crispy skin. Thin, crispy pieces of potato were a nice touch too as were the charred leeks, adding a subtle smokiness.
“Newport Pride Natural” Hanger Steak, Red Beets, Shallots, Goat Cheese
The steak was pretty tender and quite delicious, very well done. The fresh, crispy beets and slight funk of the goat cheese were a welcome pairing to the meaty steak.
Creamy Saint-Nectaire, Salted Praline Butter
Thin crispy baguette pieces sandwiched an oozing cow’s milk Saint-Nectaire cheese. Not too sharp, and I liked the play on textures. I thought it was a fun presentation too.
Brown Butter Almond Cake, Apples, Salted Caramel, Orange Creamsickle
I thought the almond flavor was pretty subtle in a somewhat dry cake. It looked fairly plain and tasted as such. I did like the complementary flavors of the salted caramel and orange creamsickle ice cream, though they may not have worked together as well as I had hoped.
Lemon Meringue, Poppy Seed Crumble, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Just as good as my last visit, the flavors were bright and well balanced between sweet and tart. The poppy seed crumble was instrumented in adding some extra texture and body to the dish. Very well done.
Compared to my first visit, I didn’t think the dishes were particularly more refined nor better executed. Still, it was cooking at a fairly high level. The kitchen pacing seemed off, with a couple dishes coming out at a time and long lulls in between. I think it caused us to miss out on the veal dish, which ran out about an hour after we ordered it.
While overall it missed expectations (which were higher given a very positive experience the first time), it was a fun dinner with some highs. Ludo’s creativity always keeps things interesting, working with some pretty unique flavor profiles and combinations. If Ludo played it safe I think it’d be a wonderful meal, but it wouldn’t be LudoBites.
The last part of this meal can be found here, at 800 Degrees Pizzeria.
Previous LudoBites posts:
LudoBites 4.0 (2) | LudoBites 5.0 (2) | LudoBites 6.0 (2) (3) | LudoBites 7.0 (2) | LudoBites 8.0 | LudoBites America