Le Grand Fooding (Los Angeles, CA)

Le Grand Fooding Crush Paris – Los Angeles
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 N Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 4/26/13 and 4/27/13

le grand fooding venue

This past weekend, Le Grand Fooding made its first foray into Los Angeles. The traveling event, hosted in San Francisco and New York in past instances, seeks to promote chefs of both nations cooking a sort of bistronomics concept – fine dining concept in a more affordable atmosphere. The event was a two-day affair at downtown’s Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (in addition to an exclusive pre-event dinner cooked by Craig Thornton (Wolvesmouth) and Miles Thompson (Allumette) – full pictures here).

The chef lineup was pretty impressive, with 11 big-name chefs from both LA and Paris. Some of the chefs cooked on only one day and a handful cooked on both days. General admission tickets were $50 and included one dish from each chef and a glass of champagne. Ticket prices went up in three tiers, all the way up to a $125 VIP ticket that included early entrance, a secluded dining area, and an extra dish from a VIP-only chef. Tickets sold out in a hurry, but I managed to purchase a base level ticket for each day.

tickets and guide

For the two evenings, MOCA’s outdoor venue was set up with a DJ tower, multiple chef booths and an impressive Veuve Clicquot tower.

le grand fooding venue

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LudoBites 10 @ Gram & Papa’s (Los Angeles, CA)

LudoBites 10
Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 12/10/12

menu

Last week LudoBites returned in its 10th incarnation, dubbed a sort of “Best Of” celebration bringing back many dishes from previous iterations of the pop-up. Adding to the hype, it was also announced that this would be the last LudoBites pop-up given that Ludo will be opening a permanent restaurant (with the Animal guys) in the new year. Not surprisingly, reservations were again scarce for the 3-week run, with reservation requests taken through an UrbanSpoon lottery. I’ve heard that approximately 5% of reservation requests were granted, a rate similar to LudoBites 8.0 (the last LA version).

exterior

Downtown’s Gram & Papa’s is a usual suspect in terms of LudoBites locations, and I was happy to see it used again for this one (it’s by far the most convenient for me!). The ever-changing menu on this night had a mix of classic dishes from the past and some new ones. As much as I love trying Ludo’s new creations, I was probably more excited to try some old favorites again. I could seriously think up a dream team of past dishes to craft up the perfect meal.

As with all LudoBites, Ludo can be found in the kitchen every single night. In my experience, there really hasn’t been as much chaos and yelling as their Sundance Channel show would suggest…

ludo

Hamachi, Vietnamese Salad

Hamachi, Vietnamese Salad

We started down memory lane with this dish from 6.0, a cool hamachi fish complemented by refreshing and crispy slivers of green papaya and fried lotus root. Definitely a hit.

Prawns, Avocado, Pineapple, Shrimp Oil

Prawns, Avocado, Pineapple, Shrimp Oil

The seafood continued with these prawns, served with an added sweetness of pineapple and an interesting shrimp oil, providing some additional depth of flavor.

Oysters, Gray Shallots, Blanco Grapefruit, Kombu

Oysters, Gray Shallots, Blanco Grapefruit, Kombu

I found the oysters to be good, but the bite was overpowered by a strong bitterness from, presumably, the grapefruit.

Celery Root Risotto, Creamy Mustard Emulsion, Red Walnuts

Celery Root Risotto, Creamy Mustard Emulsion, Red Walnuts

This was something new; small diced celery root was smothered in a mustard emulsion sauce. This one didn’t work for me (and perhaps the rest of the table as we didn’t finish either of the two orders), with the creamy sauce being overly rich and sort of monotone in flavor.

Ham Soup, Radish, Pickles

Ham Soup, Radish, Pickles

We rebounded with this nice bowl of ham (and, I think, cheese) soup, with a warm comforting porky flavor. Slivers of radish and pickles provided a slight crunch and acidity to cut trough the rich soup. Add a warm baguette and this would be a great meal.

Tandoori Octopus, Beets, Pink Onions, Yogurt, Fennel

Tandoori Octopus, Beets, Pink Onions, Yogurt, Fennel

Tender braised octopus was paired with crisp beets and a tart yogurt, in one of the seemingly simpler dishes of the evening.

Squid Pad Thai Butter, Grapes, Tofu, Lime Oil, Chili Oil

Squid Pad Thai Butter, Grapes, Tofu, Lime Oil, Chili Oil

I enjoyed this 6.0 throwback, a “squid pad Thai” with squid, crispy bean sprouts, and well-balanced lime and chili oils. Thin slices of sweet grape really made a difference too.

Escargot, Fine Brick Tart, Garlic Mousse, Spinach, Parsley, Curry

Escargot, Fine Brick Tart, Garlic Mousse, Spinach, Parsley, Curry

The escargot was tender and chewy, and I enjoyed the textural contrast with the ‘brick tart.’ A warm garlicky curry sauce brought everything together.

Poached Egg, Potato Mousseline, Chorizo

Poached Egg, Potato Mousseline, Chorizo

This 5.0 dish is one of my favorites in LudoBites history so I was very excited to have this again. It really seems so simple – a velvety smooth mashed potato with a perfectly poached egg and just a little bit of chorizo makes a fantastic combination.

Chicken, Mushrooms, Parmesan, Pears, Brioche

Chicken, Mushrooms, Parmesan, Pears, Brioche

Ludo always seems to cook chicken well and this was no exception. The chicken was moist, and I really liked the texture that the brioche breadcrumbs provided. Great bites, particularly with the crisp, fresh slices of pear to offset the richness.

Veal, Carrots, Udon, Caramelized Onions, White Miso

Veal, Carrots, Udon, Caramelized Onions, White Miso

I found the chunks of veal to be a bit chewy and kind of flavorless. The udon and comforting miso were both good, but couldn’t make up for the disappointing crux of the dish.

Flat Iron Steak, Treviso, Smoked Anchovy Cream, Pepper Oil

Flat Iron Steak, Treviso, Smoked Anchovy Cream, Pepper Oil

These were yummy chunks of medium-rare steak; the pepper oil and smoked anchovy cream were difference-makers, adding a lot of flavor and depth to the meat.

Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta, Caramel, Caviar

Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta, Caramel, Caviar

This was another favorite of mine; I first had it at 6.0 (though it made its first appearance at 2.0). Salty caviar and sweet caramel came together with a great panna cotta at the center. The separate flavors really came together so well to make some delicious bites.

Lemon Meringue Tart

Lemon Meringue Tart

Dollops of tart lemon curd, sweet whipped cream and crumbled “pie crust” made up this deconstructed lemon meringue tart. Similar to when I had it at 8.0, I liked the ability to make each bite different, experimenting with more cream or more curd to find the right balance.

Chocolate Fondant, Mint Pesto, Habanero Gelee

Chocolate Fondant, Mint Pesto, Habanero Gelee

A little bit of heat and a little bit of fresh herb flavor complemented this rich chocolate cake. Simple and executed well.

helmet

I have no explanation.

Guests who paid with a MasterCard were treated to a signed cookbook – a cool promotion! While I do have some bias, I’ve found this cookbook to be one of the best reads, chronicling the story of the whole LudoBites pop-up concept. I have yet to experiment with any of the recipes, but that’s only a matter of time…

cookbooks

Having been to LudoBites 1.0 I was happy to be able to come full-circle at this last one. Food-wise, I thought there were some highs and lows, but it was some of the more interesting things I’ve eaten in LA recently. The ‘highs’ were quite high though; I will always remember the poached egg/potato mousseline and the panna cotta with caramel and caviar. Who knows, maybe some of these favorites (or a variation) can find a recurring role at the permanent restaurant.

Previous LudoBites posts:
LudoBites 4.0 (2) | LudoBites 5.0 (2) | LudoBites 6.0 (2) (3) | LudoBites 7.0 (2) | LudoBites 8.0 (2)LudoBites America | LudoBites Best of Foie Gras

5×5 Chefs Collaborative @ Melisse (Santa Monica, CA)

5×5 Chefs Collaborative Dinner Series
Melisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 4/29/12

melisse exterior

The 5×5 dinner series has been around a number of years now, but this is the first (certainly not the last) one that I’ve been to. I don’t know why it took so long. The concept is thus: 5 chefs create a 5-course meal (one dish for each chef), rotating to each of their 5 restaurants (for 5 dinners in all). As if I needed more convincing, there’s been a sixth guest chef at each dinner, and this year’s no exception (making for 6 courses). The guest chef has often been an out-of-towner, providing unique flair to an otherwise already-all-star cast. The dinners cost $150 with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Southern California Special Olympics. A pretty cool concept!

menu

This was the first dinner of the 2012 series, held at Melisse in Santa Monica. The complete lineup: Josiah Citrin of Melisse, Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria, Michael Voltaggio of ink., Rory Herrmann of Bouchon, and guest chef Ludovic Lefebvre of LudoBites. Ken Takayama (Melisse Chef de Cuisine) handled dessert duties for this dinner.

A special cocktail menu was prepared for this evening; we sampled a few (descriptions from left to right).

Renovateur Cadavre “corpse reviver” oxley gin, lillet blanc, cointreau and lemon
Citrine el tesoro plata, aperol, grapefruit and lime juice
Les Restes deaths door vodka, crushed grapes, lychee shaken with egg whites
Surfeur appleton rum, pineapple, ginger syrup, lime and soda

cocktails

Sampling all four, I thought this was a pretty strong lineup. My drink was the Surfeur, a refreshing and balanced cocktail with a little bit of sweet fruit, citrus and something I’ve really been enjoying in cocktails – ginger syrup.

The first thing to come out of the kitchen was this amuse bouche.

foie gras and rhubarb with dehydrated whey and citrus

foie gras and rhubarb with dehydrated whey and citrus

Basically a small ball full of foie flavor, it had a soft, almost jelly-like texture with a crispy coating. The main flavor profile was that of the foie gras – I could see this being a fitting start to Melisse’s Foie for All dinner as well.

Citrin: crisp chicken skin, raw milk curd, aged and fermented beets, shaved macadamia & chilled pea, yogurt sphere, meyer lemon air

crisp chicken skin, raw milk curd, aged and fermented beets, shaved macadamia

Host chef Josiah Citrin’s dish was this duo. The chilled pea consomee was light and refreshing, with a little bit of the citrus of the meyer lemon coming through. The textural component came in the form of crispy chicken skin, complemented by creamy milk curd and beets (which I think added the tartness I tasted).

Cimarusti: fluke sashimi, fluke fin, geoduck clam creme fraiche, yuzu kosho, crispy puffed rice

fluke sashimi, fluke fin, geoduck clam

Cimarusti has some beautiful plating skills and it was on clear display here. Fluke and geoduck sashimi were the proteins; the fluke was tender while the geoduck had just a little bit of chew. Yuzu kosho provided subtle heat, creme fraiche provided tartness, and puffed rice added a little crunch. This dish showed a lot of restraint and was very well-balanced. Quite good.

Lefebvre: Eastern Squid ink, ash and baby french leeks

Eastern Squid ink, ash and baby french leeks

Next up was Ludo’s dish. Tender pieces of squid were accompanied by a squid ink sauce, an ash crumble and a sweeter yellow sauce I can’t recall. I thought this was a strong dish, with the squid going very well with the sauce and delicate crumble. The glazed leeks were tasty too.

Angelini: homemade spaghetti chitarra alla norcina sausage, spring truffles, parmigiano-reggiano

homemade spaghetti chitarra alla norcina

Angelini’s dish was seemingly one of the simpler dishes of the evening but my favorite. I really like fresh pasta and found it to be done perfectly here. The spaghetti was thicker than what I normally see, almost resembling Japanese udon in shape. As a result, it provided a really nice chew to go along with the sausage-based sauce and earthy truffles. Goodness. I wanted a whole big bowl of this. One of the best things I’ve eaten this year.

Voltaggio: wild black bass egg yolk dumplings, porcini dashi

wild black bass

Next up was Voltaggio’s dish, a piece of sea bass topped with egg yolk dumplings (!) and a porcini dashi. The fish was cooked well, having a moist flavorful flesh though I would’ve preferred a crispy skin. Egg yolk dumplings were a fun addition, yielding a runny interior not unlike an actual yolk. Very interesting. It added a richness to the dish, while the dashi provided that extra depth of flavor.

Herrmann: degustation de lapin devil’s gulch rabbit, sweet carrots, fava beans, young onions, rosemary scented rabbit jus

degustation de lapin

Hermann’s dish was this trio of rabbit preparations – loin, rack and a cooked terrine. In many ways, this reminded me of The French Laundry but it lacked some of the pizzazz that I found in other courses. The tenderloin seemed a bit on the dry side, but the rack was a highlight with its juicy and tender meat. Carrots, beans and onions rounded out the dish, as well as a herb-scented jus that brought everything together.

Takayama: chocolate, caramel, strawberry, wild fennel

chocolate, caramel, strawberry, wild fennel

chocolate, caramel, strawberry, wild fennel

Loved the presentation of this dessert! Takayama’s creation of cake, fresh strawberries, and liquid nitrogen caramel ‘dippin dots’ were served in a chocolate bowl. The liquid nitrogen created the smoky effect, while the flavors were that of a chocolate and strawberry cake.

Lastly, we had some extra sweets to finish off the meal.

mignardises macarons, berries with yogurt and brown sugar

macarons

fruit

I found this meal to be very good – probably the best meal I’ve had so far this year. The food lived up to the big names and the progression of courses fit well, something that’s not always easy with these types of dinners. My favorite dish was Angelini’s pasta for sure, but other highlights included Cimarusti’s sashimi, Ludo’s squid and Takayama’s dessert. Even my least favorite plate was still a relatively strong effort. Especially with this level of cooking, I’m already looking forward to the rest of the series.

group shot

Sunday, April 29, 2012: MELISSE, with Guest Chef Ludo Lefebvre
Monday, May 21, 2012: PROVIDENCE, with Guest Chef Jeremy Fox
Monday, July 16, 2012: ANGELENI OSTERIA, with Guest Chef Michael Tusk
Monday, August 20, 2012: BOUCHON, with Guest Chef to be announced
Sunday, September 16, 2012: ink., with Guest Chef Chris Cosentino

LudoBites Best of Foie Gras @ Gram & Papa’s (Los Angeles, CA)

LudoBites: Best of Foie Gras
Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 4/18/12

ludobites menu

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.

kitchen interior

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”

Foie Gras Cromesqui

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

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

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

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

Foie Gras "Crepinette" morels, pears, green asparagus

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

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…

ludo in the kitchen

Previous LudoBites posts:
LudoBites 4.0 (2) | LudoBites 5.0 (2) | LudoBites 6.0 (2) (3) | LudoBites 7.0 (2) | LudoBites 8.0 (2)LudoBites America

LudoBites 8.0 @ Lemon Moon (Los Angeles, CA) (2)

LudoBites 8.0
Lemon Moon
12200 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 2/15/12

lemon moon

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

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.

Burgundy Gougeres

Burgundy Gougeres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds2

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

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

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

Thai Snapper, Eucalyptus Oil, Potato, Leefs, 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

"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

Creamy Saint-Nectaire, Salted Praline Butter 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

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

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 8.0LudoBites America

LudoBites 8.0 @ Lemon Moon (Los Angeles, CA)

LudoBites 8.0
Lemon Moon
12200 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 1/18/12

DSC_0281

With every successive LudoBites, it seems to get more popular. The story is very familiar now: chef with fine dining background starts casual pop-up restaurant; pop-up becomes incredibly successful, garnering critical acclaim nationwide and spawning TV show; demand for reservations is so extreme that reservation servers crash. The latter part is one of the big changes in 8.0, the switch from the mad dash online reservation system to a lottery system. Reservations were still hard to come by, and I heard that approximately 5% of reservation requests were granted. Goodness. Ludo is a rock star.

I didn’t get a reservation, but there’s a six seat bar that’s filled on a first-come, first-served basis. This was my route in, and I found it to be fairly easy. My coworker and I made elaborate plans to leave work early to get out to Lemon Moon as soon as possible. We arrived shortly after 5, and were the only ones outside until about 5:40. So much for all of the preparation. The bar did fill up shortly after 6pm though, but there were openings throughout the night, both at the bar and tables due to cancelled reservations.

menu

As with other LudoBites, the menu is a la carte and meant for sharing. Alcohol is available at this iteration, with a pretty robust selection of wines (procured by DomaineLA).  A hard cider and even a few craft brews round out the list. My coworker was kind enough to bring a bottle of wine to share.

DSC_0385

Brioche with Truffle Butter

Brioche with Truffle Butter

We started with this freshly baked piece of bread. Hard to go wrong with fresh bread – add some truffle butter and you’ve got a clear hit. Warm, flaky and buttery, the earthy truffle essence really came through making for some delicious bites.

Chicken Tandoori Crackling

Chicken Tandoori Crackling

A creamy quenelle of chicken liver topped a piece of really crispy chicken skin. Loved the textures and the double-hit of chicken flavor was excellent. The sea salt topping was integral too, really bringing out the flavor.

Crab Meat, Shrimp, Avocado Guacamole, Pomelos

Crab Meat, Shrimp, Avocado Guacamole, Pomelos

Crab Meat, Shrimp, Avocado Guacamole, Pomelos2

Japanese hairy crab was used in this dish, the cherished breed of crab that Ludo said cost $40 per pound. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had it, but I’ve been planning to go to Urasawa at some point in the winter season to get some. I was super excited for this dish; I found the crab itself to be good (except for the crab shell in it), but I didn’t think the accompanying broth had a lot of flavor. Individually, I liked the spread of avocado and pomelo, but I’m not sure I understood the mixture of all of the ingredients.

Uni Creme Brulee

Uni Creme Brulee

This was another very intriguing item on the menu, and it was a good one. The custard definitely had the uni flavor coming through, and I thought the bruleed sugar added a nice sweetness that complemented the custard well, particularly with the salty bursts of flavor from the salmon eggs.

Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffle

Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffle

Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffle2

I thought this was another hit. Raw scallops were accompanied by a potato and leek puree, and what our server said was hay. Interesting. I thought the flavors were spot on and I really liked the slivers of black truffle with it. A lot of earthy flavors with the fresh sea scallops.

Raw Beef, Radish, Beets, Eel

Raw Beef, Radish, Beets, Eel

American wagyu was diced up with radishes, a radish snow and mayo (wasabi?). Pieces of eel were scattered throughout the beef; I thought this was a nice touch, and the radish and spicy mayo both worked well too. Buttered and toasted pieces of bread came with it.

Foie Gras, Tamarind, Turnips, Daikon

Foie Gras, Tamarind, Turnips, Daikon

We were told to let the foie gras sit in the broth for a few minutes to finish cooking, and I’m glad we did. Perfectly cooked foie gras. Goodness. So good. It was swimming in a very aromatic broth, which also had a floral dimension to it.

Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds

Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds

Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds2

Perhaps one of the best dishes of the night, the liver (the third liver dish of the night) was excellent; it was rich, flavorful and melt-in-mouth texturally. Cucumber added a balancing vegetable flavor, while the cornichons added texture and acidity. Quite nice.

Steamed Black Seabass, Fennel, Lettuce, Bernaise Vinaigrette

Steamed Black Seabass, Fennel, Lettuce, Bernaise Vinaigrette

Steamed Black Seabass, Fennel, Lettuce, Bernaise Vinaigrette2

I thought the seabass was undercooked for my liking, and I also ran into some scales and a bone. Outside of that, I did like this dish – I’m a sucker for seabass and I thought the fennel provided a nice subtle licorice accent. A lemon sauce was a good pairing too.

Jidori Chicken, Parmesan Soubise, Broccoli, Walnuts, Eggs

Jidori Chicken, Parmesan Soubise, Broccoli, Walnuts, Eggs

I believe these chickens were roasted on a rotisserie. I thought the dark meat was moist and flavorful, but found the breast to be disappointingly dry. Subtle parmesan flavors were a welcome accompaniment, as were the broccoli and what I think were creamy scrambled eggs.

Duck, Orange, Olives, Carrots

Duck, Orange, Olives, Carrots

This was a very nice piece of duck, perfectly cooked with a moist flesh and crisp skin. Fresh citrus in the form of orange and mandarin orange helped to brighten the dish and add a lighter kick to each bite. A modern take on the classic duck l’orange I suppose.

Chocolate Napoleon, Orange Creamsickle

Chocolate Napoleon, Orange Creamsickle

I liked the idea of this version of a classic Napoleon. Where I expected this to be very rich and fudgy, it was actually a lighter, smooth chocolate with layers of thin, flaky chocolate pastry in between. Pretty well-executed and wonderful texturally. The orange creamsickle ice cream was a fun touch and gave the dish another dimension.

Lemon Meringue Tart

Lemon Meringue Tart2

Lemon Meringue Tart

Lastly, we had a sort of deconstructed lemon meringue tart. Dollops of a sweet lemon curd were interspersed with a whipped meringue, with bits of crumble on the bottom. Simple and pretty delicious, and I appreciated a light, sweet end to the meal.

Best LudoBites ever? Hm. Personally, I’m partial to LudoBites 4.0 and 5.0. I did like this meal better than 6.0 and 7.0 though. Conceptually I found the menu to be very exciting, but a few flaws in execution held this meal back a bit. It was only day two, so I’m sure it will be ironed out in short time. I look forward to seeing how the menu evolves throughout this 8.0 run.

This was probably the most expensive LudoBites I’ve been to, but I think that’s largely reflective of a lot of the higher-end ingredients (Japanese hairy crab, monkfish liver, truffles, American wagyu, sea urchin, foie gras), more than what I remember at previous LudoBites. Plus, I’m sure any economist would say the price of a meal here is far below equilibrium. I think it’s worth it.

Previous LudoBites posts:
LudoBites 4.0 (2) | LudoBites 5.0 (2) | LudoBites 6.0 (2) (3) | LudoBites 7.0 (2)LudoBites America