Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LudoBites - 04/24/2010

227 E 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 624-7272

As always I greet the opening of a new Ludobites with great anticipation so it was with great sadness that I missed out on the opening night; in fact I didn't make it to the restaurant until two weeks in. LudoBites 4.0 has taken up residence in Gram and Papas, a Downtown sandwich shop. The restaurant has an urban chic feel which clashes with the cool stainless steel and glass kitchen.

NV Duval-Leroy Champagne
We forgot that with the exception of the iteration at Royal/T, LudoBites has been strictly BYOB. I expect we weren't the only ones to forget as the staff was well versed at directing guests to the nearby Jason's Wine & Spirits two blocks away. The bottle of Duval-Leroy Design Paris champagne caught my eye with flashy gold imagery. The wine itself proved to be a decent choice, the wine proved to be a softer champagne, with lots of apple and white flower on the nose and more fresh fruit and citrus on the palate.

White Asparagus Velouté, Mozzarella Mousse, Fennel, Candied Olive, Salmon Roe
What struck me initially was the sweetness of this dish the candied olive reminding me of dried strawberries. After the sweetness dissipates, the vegetal tang of the asparagus becomes more apparent though still less than I expected. The combination of the thick creamy velouté and the crisp shaved fennel stood out in my mind as one of the most interesting pairings I've had in a while.

Burgundy Escargots, Garlic Flan, Green Jus, Violet Flowers
My complaint with escargot is the overwhelming intensity of the garlic and butter. Here the flavors are more balanced making it easier to appreciate the natural salinity of the escargots. The snails came with a green jus and flowers that added a subtle herbaceousness, another welcome change from the traditional escargots de Bourgogne.

Marinated King Salmon, German ButterBall Potato, Red Wine Vinaigrette, Crème Fraiche
With such a thick cut of salmon the fish can become somewhat overwhelming, the weight of the potato was indispensable in providing contrast and foundation. The fish itself had a palpable tang from the vinaigrette, a welcome foil to the crème fraiche.

Scallop, Almond Puree, Pickled Grapes, Capers, Curry Oil & Cauliflower Ice Cream
The scallops themselves were plump and succulent with a mild savoriness. However, the accompaniments were particularly discordant especially the vinegary grapes and bitter caper paste; an intense display of acerbic, bitter, and verdant flavors. With Ludo's brash and adventurous style there are bound to be courses that don't agree with everyone and for me this was one of those courses. I appreciated the risk and inventiveness of the pairings but just couldn't enjoy the resultant flavor profile.

Squid "Carbonara", Pancetta, Poached Egg (63 degrees), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers
The dish had all the elements of a traditional Carbonara: eggs, some sort of cured fatty pork (Pancetta), and either Parmesan or pecorino cheese resulting in a savory decadent flavor. It was the inclusion of squid "pasta" and the resultant textural interplay between the squid and the dense viscous egg yolk that made this dish truly exceptional.

Snapper Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Jalapenos, Red Onions, Meyer Lemon Paste, Olive Oil
Another particularly strong course, the mild fish lent itself well to the bright acidity and essence of fresh fruit and vegetables. The crispness of the onion and jalepenos stood in stark relief to the lush tomatoes and firm fleshy fish

Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guiness
I was immediately intrigued when I heard about the ham soup. The elements are consistent with a classic sandwich but liquefied. The texture was thick and creamy with a noticeable fibrousness to it. The soup had a pronounced meatiness to it smoky, savory, and hammy with a dry cheesy note from the Swiss. The addition of radish and cornichon helped balance the weightiness of the soup with a piquant counterpoint.

Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Smoked Eel, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint
One of the more conservative dishes. The lamb itself is fairly typical of a well cooked chop, succulent and tender, absolutely superb tinged with fresh mint. The eel amplified the depth of the lamb's smoky sapor and the subtle game of the goat cheese was the natural companion to the lamb's natural gaminess.

Steak "Au Poivre", Shallots, Polenta Bone Marrow, Roasted Eggplant Puree
Ludo's steak dishes have been a fixture at all his restaurants and typically one of the stronger courses. This was no different the succulent, tender beef exudes waves of smoke and pepper. The polenta bone marrow possesses an intriguing meaty sapor but is mild enough to still serve as a moderating accompaniment to the beef.

Macarons, Organic Strawberry & Chantilly
I couldn't have asked for more from this dessert, the strawberries were perfectly ripe and bursting with sweet fruit. I loved the slight gummy chew of the macarons and the simple thickness of the chantilly. The resulting combination was reminiscent of a fresh strawberry pie.

Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla - Whiskey Ice Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream
A simple chocolate soufflé would be too boring for Ludo so the shot of whiskey ice cream was just what the doctor ordered, adding a distinct woody character and peppery bite. I have really been loving the alcohol based ice creams, the subtle burn stands out exceedingly well against the typical sweetness of the dessert.

Sampling Ludo's new creations is always a joy. Never content to rest on his laurels, Ludo is always creating devising new dishes to tantalize and challenge the palate. During the course of dinner the question came up which version of LudoBites was the best? There were a good number of votes for 2.0 though the majority argued in favor of the latest version. For my part, I thought the food at 3.0 was the best though after thinking through the dishes of 4.0 I've had a change of heart. The food at LudoBites has always been intriguing but I thought this was noticeably more cerebral particularly with regards to the textural combinations.


Jai Kohli said...

2nd best steak I've had in the past 12 months (2nd to the A5 @ Prov)

Epicuryan said...

Makes me wonder if he'll change it for the final night. Can't wait to see what he's got in store.

Cookie Chomper said...

awww..you guys had the burgundy escargot! i was hoping they'd have it this time around