227 E 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
The last night at LudoBites is something of a bittersweet affair. On the one hand who knows where and when Ludo will choose to resurface. On the bright side, the menu for the final typically features a selection of Ludo's most popular courses including favorites from previous incarnations of his restaurant. Reservations for the final night are hard to come by and loyal regulars are definitely given priority for the coveted seats. This time reservations for the final night were made available to the public which meant that many of Ludo's most die hard fans would not be coming. I was lucky enough to secure a table for 6 but to my surprise had some difficulty filling the seats. In the end, I was joined by joined by three other bloggers: Christina of Food Je T'aime, Cynthia of Cookie Chomper, Carina of Uncouth Gourmands, and Kevin of KevinEats.
2008 The White Knight, Viognier, Clarksburg, CA
We were a bit more prepared with the wines this time with two whites and two reds. The first wine was a bit off at first, perhaps a touch too cloying but that cleared up with time revealing honeyed melon, spice, and stone fruit.
Tartine Plate "Warm Baguette" Honey-Lavender Butter & Smoked Lard
Lard has become something of a watchword for all that is wrong with fat so I was pleasantly surprised to fined the smoked lard wasn't utterly overbearing. Yes the texture was noticeably heavier than that of the honey lavender butter but the penetrating flavor of the smoke drew my attention away from the texture.
Brie Chantilly, Honey Comb, Balsamic
This proved to be an excellent start to the meal; relatively light in body yet laden with the characteristic sapor of the cheese.
Dorade Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Spring Onions, Lemon Honey Paste
Last time the ceviche was absolutely stellar, seamlessly balancing the contrasting flavors, this was a more jarring preparation which has a lot to do with the fish choice. The Dorade had substantially stronger flavor than the Snapper and when combined with the acidic marinade made for a very harsh astringent flavor. The sweet lemon honey paste was absolutely critical, bringing a cool wave of soothing relief and excising that tannic mouthfeel.
Santa Barbara Prawn, Avocado, Passion Fruit, Cocktail Sauce
The prawns had an interesting duality of texture, with a dense meaty exterior hiding a snappy rare core. I've come to appreciate Santa Barbara Spot Prawns for their distinct flavor profile, a combination of their unique brininess coupled with a light sweetness. The delicate flavor of the passion fruit avocado paired nicely as did the zesty undertone of the sauce.
Marinated King Salmon, Red Wine Vinaigrete, Crème Fraiche
Still not really a fan of this which is shocking considering how much I love raw salmon. This time around the herbaceousness of the carrots and onions helped temper the astringency of the vinaigrette though it was still difficult to make the transition once the creme fraiche came into play.
Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce
The veal tartare was one of my favorites from LudoBites 2.0. This was almost identical, featuring lush chunks of raw veal in a fishy Tonnato sauce. I thought the flavor of the veal was less apparent this time around, perhaps the addition of seaweed tipped the balance in favor of the oysters and tonnato.
Crispy Soft Shell Crab Cone, Spicy Mayo, Mango, Corona Granite
This course is actually a limited edition, though I don't know how many were ultimately made, I do know we had the 327th one. Visually this reminded me of a scaled up version of Wolfgang Puck's signature Spicy Tuna Cone. Unfortunately the sweet sauce and spicy mayo masked the natural flavor of the crab giving me the impression of an Americanized sushi roll. Even though the Corona Granite was overwhelmed by the sweetness of the crab, I found its presence quite fitting.
Foie Gras, Green Cabbage, Kimchi Consomme, Pickled Turnips, Sesame Oil
I never thought it would happen, getting a table of foodies to all agree on a favorite but the cabbage wrapped foie gras was the unanimous table favorite. According to Ludo the stuffing cabbage with foie gras is a very old French technique. The cabbage tempers the in-your-face unctuousness of the foie, drawing out the natural bitterness that it is often lost against the richness of the liver. The broth added a pleasing umami sapor with subtle nuances Kim Chi giving the dish a distinct Asian tone.
2007 Curran, Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, CA
Our second white was a Grenache Blanc, a light juicy wine exhibiting clean citrus and pear notes.
Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney
One of the stars from LudoBites 2.0 was the Squid Ink Croque-Monsieur stuffed with foie gras. After being absent from 3.0 the beloved sandwiches make their triumphant return. The combination of soft warm foie and sweet fruit chutney added an offaly-sweet counterpoint to the smoky heft of the croque; think livery PB&J meets a ham and cheese melt.
Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guiness
The ham soup has been one of the most talked about dishes throughout the course of LudoBites 4.0 and with good reason. The flavor isn't the most exotic but the integration of the disparate elements is so seamless it feels that sandwiches should always be served in liquid form.
Boudin Noir Terrine, Apple Puree, Wasabi
Blood Pudding or as Kevin calls it, "savory chocolate cake" is definitely an acquired taste that I have yet to develop. The flavor is a disconcerting blend of earthy sweetness and livery iron and the uniformly soft texture doesn't help matters any. I thought the wasabi was particularly effective at tempering the terrine's flavor, adding a pleasant horseradish bite.
Squid "Carbonara", Pancetta, Poched Egg (63°), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers
This was my favorite course the last time around and it remains excellent. The saltiness of the pancetta was especially evident this time around against the creamier elements of the squid and egg.
2008 Chateau d'Oupia "Les Heretiques" VdP de l’Herault
The wine was an old world style, the dark fruit was mixed with elements of tobacco, earth, and saddle.
Monkfish, Baby Carrots, Carrot-Orange Coulis, Exotic Spices
The combination of carrot and orange was abundantly clear in all its saccharine cloying glory. Monkfish is such a muscular and dense fish that I think a heavier savory pairing would have fit better.
Fried Chicken, Coconut Polenta, Grilled Baby Corn, Diablo Sauce
As always the chicken is one of the meal's highlights. The fried chicken wraps the tender succulent bird in a delightfully flavorful batter brightened by rosemary, and thyme. As always the chicken is delicious on its own though I thought the Diablo sauce added a welcome piquant heat, kind of like a smoky Tabasco. I can't wait to see what flavors Ludo offers in his upcoming truck.
Braised Beef Cheeks, Escargot Red Wine Butter, Leek Salad, Roasted Eggplant
In lieu of a steak course, Ludo was serving a variation of beef daube. The cheek is often the most delicate part of the cow and the slow braising just makes the texture insanely tender. Ludo's beef cheeks lacked the characteristic tang normally associated with daube, in its place was a delicious salinity courtesy of the escargot.
2005 Parson’s Flat, Shiraz/Cabernet, Australia
The last wine of the night was a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet and exhibited the best elements of both, with aromas of espresso, cedar and spice wrapped around ripe berry fruit.
Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Dried Bonito, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint
The lamb was so well marbled it looked more like a rib-eye steak. The characteristic game of the lamb was heightened by the tangy goat cheese while the dried bonito added accentuated the savoriness of the meat, coupled with the generous fat and herbaceous mint made for one of the most flavorful pieces of lamb I've ever tasted.
Organic Strawberry, Vanilla Whipped Cream & Lemon Verbena-Meringue
The desserts remained largely unchanged though there were a couple touches. The flavor of the strawberries was sharper and more focused and the addition of pop-rocks added a delightful crackling sensation. The initial surprise made for an especially fun dish.
Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream
The souffle was actually more conservative this time around. Gone was the whiskey ice cream, in its place were conventional chocolate & vanilla creams.
Ludo has become something of a culinary superstar, this last LudoBites was supposedly fully booked within hours of reservations becoming available. When looking for a restaurant I suspect a great many people are torn between going to an old favorite or trying something new. With his pop-up concept, Ludo has found a way to satisfy both needs and with each iteration the food continued to grow in complexity, becoming better than the last. And so it is that LudoBites 4.0 comes to a close. While Ludo's loyal fans eagerly await the July opening of LudoBites 5.0 we'll just have to content ourselves with the return of the LFC truck.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
227 E 9th Street