12200 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 1/18/12
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.