Dan Moody @ Batch (Culver City, CA)

Dan Moody Pop-Up
Batch Restaurant & Bar
8631 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 3/1/12

batch exterior

Dan Moody is probably best known in the food world for being sous chef to Ludovic Lefebvre through LudoBites 6.0. Since then, he’s been doing his own thing, showing up here and there with his own iteration of a pop-up. I missed Moody’s Relate stints in San Diego and Arizona, but I did catch him at a dessert night at Scoops Westside last July. His latest venture was this pop-up at Batch in Culver City for just a 5-day period. I gathered up some of my coworkers and dropped in right in the middle of the run.

The menu was fairly concise and very well-priced; 13 dishes were available, all within $15. We ordered one of everything and doubled up on some of the ones that sounded most interesting.

Although Batch’s regular beer/wine/cocktail list was available, one of my coworkers brought in this bottle for us to enjoy. Thanks Yury!

wine

SWEETBREADS VOL AU VENT Blood Sausage, Creamy Veal Jus

sweetbreads

The light and flaky puff pastry was a highlight, as was the crispy, tender sweetbreads. Blood sausage and veal jus really added some heartier savory flavors as well. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

BEEF TARTARE WITH MUSTARD ICE CREAM NY Strip, Pickled Red Onion, Chopped Parsley, Mustard Ice Cream, Guinness Gastrique

steak tartare

This was one of the highlights of the meal. The beef was tender with just a slight chew, showing off good texture. The mustard ice cream made the dish, adding a cool heat to the plate that really rounded out each bite.

FOIE AND EGG, BREAKFAST STYLE 63C Egg, ‘Foiellandaise’, Sauteed Mushrooms, Foie Powdered Donut, Coffee, Mushroom Ash

foie beignet

Now this was pretty interesting. The perfectly cooked egg was rich and runny, while some chanterelles and a mushroom ash added an earthy depth of flavor. I do like the mushroom-egg combination; the foie hollandaise and coffee beignet brought some added complementary flavors. If only my breakfasts could be so decadent!

ROASTED BABY BEET SALAD Golden Beet Vinaigrette

beets

Cool, refreshing and ultimately a very simple salad featuring the root vegetable.

COLLARD GREEN VEGAN TACOS

vegan taco

This one didn’t work as well for me, though vegan tacos typically aren’t my thing.  Strong earthy flavors came through, but I was looking for something a bit more dynamic. 

CEVICHE AND A COLD BEER Spicy Ceviche, Cilantro, Jalapeno, Beer Carbonated Grapes, Citrus

ceviche

There was something spicy in here…almost too spicy for me. Luckily, it was tempered by some cool grapes, and I was able to hone in on the fish and citrus flavors in the dish. I’m not sure I got the beer part of the concept though.

SAUTEED LOCAL ROCK COD Vadouvan Beets, Coconut Curry Hollandaise, Fried Spinach Salad

rock cod

The rock cod was cooked well leaving a rather moist and flaky fish. A little bit of a curry in the sauce added some extra flavor, also accented by the vadouvan. Fried spinach was a nice touch.

SAUTEED CHICKEN WITH SPINACH GREMOLATA Sous Vide Pasteurized Chicken Breast, Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Spinach Gremolata, Caramelized Feta Cheese

chicken

Although the chicken was cooked sous vide, I found it a touch on the dry side. Spinach gremolata added much of the flavor and color, while quinoa added some extra earthy notes.

SEARED ALBACORE Sushi Rice Crème Anglaise, Nori & Shiso Leaf Pesto, Wasabi, Pickled Ginger

albacore seared

I enjoyed the nice pieces of albacore with the Japanese accents; sushi rice in a creme anglaise was a fun interpretation. Something had a very floral essence (I couldn’t pinpoint it) that was a bit odd to me.

MARKET VEGETABLES Created Daily

vegetables

This was a simple plate of roasted vegetables with a natural sweetness brought out by oven. I particularly liked the charred parts. Nothing special, but it wasn’t trying to be.

SLOW-ROASTED PORK Potato Gnocchi, Baby Carrots, Pork Jus

pork

The pork clearly displayed a welcome savory depth both from the meat and the jus. The couple of bites I had were sort of gristly and fatty, but I think that was more of a function of what the rest of my table left me (I had the last bites of this one). The potato gnocchi quite good.

“RED VELVET” Chocolate Cake, Beet Ice Cream, Cream Cheese Mousse

"red velvet"

I liked the presentation of this dessert with the layers of chocolate cake and sweet cream cheese mousse. Both of those layers were good on its own, but I thought the beet ice cream added some much-needed pizzazz to the dish, bringing both color and a strong beet flavor that went pretty well with the chocolate.

BANANA BREAD PUDDING A LA BOURBON PECAN PIE Caramelized Pecans, Bourbon Custard, Vanilla Cognac Crème Chantilly

banana bread pudding

I thought this was easily the best dish of the evening. The bread pudding was served warm (almost hot) with a balanced banana flavor, topped by a rich bourbon sauce and light Chantilly cream. I thought the flavors were spot on between the banana, bourbon and vanilla, while caramelized pecans added some texture and nuttiness. Not too sweet. So good.

I thought Moody’s food was pretty good.  The menu was approachable yet interesting, and execution was largely on point. Plus, the price was right; food was under $50pp. Highlights for me included the sweetbreads, beef tartare, rock cod and of course the bread pudding. I’ll be interested to see what Moody does next. I know I’m not the only one…one of my coworkers returned for both of the remaining nights after this meal.

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

Mario Batali @ Shutters on the Beach (Santa Monica, CA)

Mario Batali at the Beach
Coast Restaurant
Shutters on the Beach
1 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Dining date: 1/28/12

menu

Mario Batali needs no introduction. As one of the most famous chefs in the country, I’m sure he draws crowds whenever he’s doing a food event. When I heard he would be hosting a lunch in Coast Restaurant at Shutters on the Beach, my interest was piqued. When I heard it would be three courses (with wine pairing) for a seemingly-reasonable $65 per head, I jumped at the chance.

Batali was in town promoting his cookbook and this was one of his stops. The lunch was held at Coast Restaurant within Shutters on the Beach, a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica. It was a really nice day, and the window-covered restaurant maximized this to great effect. We dined on the sunlight patio, literally beach-side. Perfect!

shutters

Before the first plate was served, some appetizers made their rounds in the dining area. There were actually 5 different ones to choose from, but only 3 made it to our table (we didn’t get the white bean alla toscana or arancini with bolognese). Boo.

Fried squash blossoms with ricotta

squash blossoms

Prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks

prosciutto breadsticks

Roasted baby peppers stuffed with tuna

peppers with tuna

The fried squash blossoms were very familiar from trips to Pizzeria Mozza, and were just what I expected. Fried just right, they were light, crispy and creamy. The breadsticks were nice too, with the meaty proscuitto working in tandem with the crunchy breadstick. Finally, the pepper stuffed with tuna was perhaps the most interesting of all – the sweetness of the roasted pepper was a nice complement to the meaty tuna.

As the appetizers made their way around, so did the drinks. Prosecco and bellinis found their way onto our table time and time (and time and time) again.

Batali Bellini
Flor Prosecco NV

wine1

Patio seating on a nice day? Check. Nonstop sparkling wine? Check. We had the ingredients for quite an afternoon. After about half an hour of passed appetizers, we were served the first course.

Rabe, Potato and Ricotta Ravioli
Bastianich Friuliano “Adriatico” 2009

ravioli

wine2

Al dente pasta was filled with a creamy potato and ricotta filling, bathed in a sage butter sauce. I’m a sucker for fresh pasta, and these ravioli didn’t disappoint. The plating was surprisingly inconsistent though, with one person getting only two ravioli (while the others got three), as well as the sage garnish missing on one plate.

Next we were served the main course with a side dish, as well as a duo of wine pairings.

Braised Chicken with Sweet Onions and Parmigiano
Spaghetti Squash with Soft Herbs and Robiola

chicken

squash

La Mozza Perazzi 2009
Bastianich Vespa Bianco 2008

wine3

The chicken was braised then seared, giving the skin a bit of crispiness. I thought the thighs were perfectly cooked, tender and fairly juicy; however, the sauce of red onion and red wine didn’t have a lot of flavor. It was topped with fried diced pancetta (!) which added a slightly pork flavor with a delightful crunch. Some crusty bread was placed on the bottom to soak up any juices/sauce, but I didn’t think it was necessary. Finally, the squash side was a nice touch – it was sweet and sort of creamy, complemented by a creamy cheese.

I liked that there was a duo of wines to pair, one red and one white; while very different, they both paired with the chicken pretty well. I enjoyed both but preferred the red.

Orange-Scented Cannoli
Flor Prosecco Rosé NV

cannoli

wine4

Lastly, we were served dessert. The cannoli came out about as expected, with its light, orange-accented cream and crispy shell. Simple and satisfying.

Batali was in the restaurant the whole time, spending most of it mingling with guests. He made it a point to visit each table for a brief chat, and stayed after the meal to sign anything and everything people brought.

batali4

batali3

The lunch exceeded expectations and was a lot of fun. The food was good and the alcohol plentiful, however the interaction with Batali is what made this meal memorable. It was a pretty unique experience, and I thought the $65 was very reasonable given everything we ate/drank (as well as the Batali factor). I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a winter day in SoCal.

beach2
beach1

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

Ludo’s Porchetta Dinner @ Gram & Papa’s (Los Angeles, CA)

Un Petit Porc
Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 12/19/11

signage

Ludo has been popping up here and there while finalizing details of his LudoBites 8.0 to come in January. Last week I found him cooking paella at DomaineLA; this week I found him making his way across Europe, preparing an Italian-inspired porchetta dinner. The dinner was a collaborative effort, with the recipes being Mike Ilic’s, owner of Gram & Papa’s. Ludo executed his menu.

Gram & Papa’s is probably best known for hosting LudoBites 4.0, 5.0 and 7.0, so I suppose it’s not at all a surprise to find Ludo popping up here. The $33 three-course dinner, centered around a porchetta sandwich, was titled Un Petit Porc. Apparently, this little piggy went to the oven.

As with anything Ludo touches nowadays, reservations were hard to come by. After about 41 minutes of calling repeatedly, Remil was able to snag a table and graciously invited me to join his party (joining Joanna of LA in Stilettos and my coworker Yury). Three times were available (6:30, 7:30, 8:30) and we got the first one. We were lucky to have that; later seatings were delayed a bit.

exterior line

Kind of a cute logo, though somewhat disturbing at the same time.

menu

Boston Lettuce Salad

salad1

salad2

Course one was a rather simple salad of lettuce, green onions and radishes. Clearly, Ludo kept it light in anticipation of the rich porchetta to come. Knowing him, I bet the holiday colors were no coincidence.

Whole porchetta roasts were periodically coming out of the rear kitchen, to be carved up in front. The smell was intoxicating!

porchetta3

Porchetta Sandwich

porchetta sandwich

porchetta2

dipping sauce

Ah, what we’d all been waiting for. I’m far from an expert on porchetta sandwiches, but I really enjoyed this one. Chunks of herb-scented (rosemary!) pork were sandwiched between toasted halves of bread. The bread is integral in a sandwich like this; I found this one to be soft and yielding, but also with some toasty texture. There was a nice balance of lean pork and flavorful fat, and the dipping sauce (some type of jus?) made a huge difference, softening the bread and adding some extra depth of flavor. Being a little nitpicky, the pork could’ve been a little more moist and I would’ve liked to have seen more of the crispy skin; regardless, this was one tasty sandwich. When Joanna was too full to finish half of hers, I took it and scarfed it down.

Four sides were available to accompany the sandwich.

Greens

greens

This was a plate of broccolini, well-seasoned with a nice crunchy texture. There was a subtle heat in here too. I was glad to get a little more greens in my diet to balance the meat and carbs.

White Beans

beans

The creamy beans were decent, sitting in a rich tomato-based sauce. Nothing particularly standout, but it was a good bean dish.

Cheesy Polenta

polenta

While the cheese and corn flavors were on point, I found the polenta to be overly thick with a glue-like consistency.

Burnt Potatoes

potatoes

The favorite for me were these potatoes. Really crispy, yet still fluffy on the inside, I couldn’t have asked for more. Well, except for more potatoes.

Roasted Apple and Vanilla Ice Cream

roasted apple

Dessert was this interesting dish of a roasted apple. The flesh was fairly soft throughout, sitting in a rich caramel sauce that filled the plate. A scoop of vanilla ice cream completed the dish. Familiar flavors, though I was looking for some texture.

I came for a porchetta sandwich and Ludo delivered, preparing what I thought was a delicious and pretty well-executed version. I don’t think the other courses/sides quite lived up to the highs of the sandwich, but the flavors did fit in and helped complement the sandwich. As much as I enjoy some of Ludo’s unique creations, lately I’ve found just as much satisfaction in comfort foods that are slightly elevated with Ludo’s touch. I’m thinking of the fried chickens and souffles, as well as the paella and porchetta as of late. One wonders, if he does open up a permanent restaurant someday, if he will consider a more comfortable, homey concept as well.

interior

Ludo’s Paella @ Domaine LA (Los Angeles, CA)

Paella by Ludovic Lefebvre
Domaine LA
6801 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 12/11/11

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I’ve been to DomaineLA a few times, a wine shop located in Mid-City/Hollywood. It’s a smallish shop but there’s enough variety to indecisively look at bottles for hours. I’ve found the wines to be both interesting and rather reasonably priced.  Ask for help; Jill can always point you in the right direction.

The wine store often offers tastings and pairings with select foods (oysters is a recurring one) and food trucks. I’ve been to one long ago, when the LudoTruck’s fried chicken was paired with a variety of sparkling wines. I’m not sure why it took me so long to return to one of the tastings, but interestingly it was again for Ludo’s food. This time, it was for something rather unexpected: Spanish paella. I love paella. For me, there’s just something about dishes where the rice cooks with the meat, sopping up all the good flavors. Arroz con pollo, jambalaya, biryani, paella. All favorites.

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At $40 a ticket, the setup was thus: 5 Spanish wines were available for tasting while Ludo cooked up paella on the spot all evening (two varieties: a saffron-based Valencian paella as well as a squid ink paella negra). He brought with him a couple paella pans, a heat source, a bunch of seafood and meats (mussels, clams, shrimp, squid, dark meat chicken, chorizo) and a box of spices. Peering into the box, I noticed a little bit of his French influence: piment d’Espelette.

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While Ludo was cooking, we tasted a couple of wines.

2010 Urki Txakolina

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2007 Pecina Blanco

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I particularly enjoyed the Urki Txakolina. Dry and crisp with some citrus notes, this definitely whet the appetite.

The event gave an up-close and personal view of the cooking. Ludo started by browning the meats and adding the seafood.

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Then added the rice.

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Then clam juice and chicken stock.

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Lastly, saffron gave it the characteristic vibrant yellow color.

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Once the broth was absorbed, the rice was left to crisp up a bit on the bottom. Voila! It was ready to serve.

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I thought this was a very good paella. Slightly on the oily side (though I’m sure that gave it a lot of flavor), the rice was al dente with a little bit of a textural crust where it was in contact with the pan. Both the meats and seafood were cooked quite well, something that I know is hard to do consistently.

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On his second pan, Ludo made another variation including chicken and shrimp. I was perplexed how the seafood was perfectly cooked even though he added it before the rice and broth. I guess that’s why he’s a chef and I’m not.

NV Mendall Poc a Poc

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2010 Tajinaste Traditional

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2009 Clos de Noi Samso

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We tasted the rest of the wines. My favorite of these was probably the last one, with its rather bold, fruity flavors coming through. It paired especially well with the chicken thighs in the paella.

Ludo alternated the saffron-based paella with this squid ink one featuring calamari and a lemon zest.

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Just like the first paella, I thought it was executed quite well. The squid ink was clearly the dominating flavor, while a last-minute touch of lemon zest really brightened everything up. Again, he was able to achieve a little bit of a crust on the rice.

While the butterscotch budino down the block at Mozza would’ve been a delicious end to the meal, there was another alternative available right inside the wine shop.

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Carmela’s salted caramel ice cream! Seriously, almost as exciting as the paella itself. Almost. DomaineLA carries a selection of the Pasadena ice creamery’s flavors.

I thought this was a very cool event. It was my first opportunity to actually watch Ludo cook and prepare something from start to finish (there was no yelling/expressing himself to be heard all evening). As much as I enjoyed eating the food, I was equally enthralled by the preparation of it.

During the LudoBites popups, Ludo is often trying to create unique flavor combinations, offering something diners have never tasted before. However, it was nice to see him preparing some homey, comfortable food here with this Spanish classic. I really like paella and his version definitely met my expectations, especially considering it was a temporary setup. I feel like there aren’t really many restaurants in LA that do a good paella so this was a treat. Oh, and I got to taste some great wines to boot.

Like all good chefs, Ludo tastes his cooking throughout the process. I can prove it.

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