Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ludobites - 09/03/2010

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

Seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the opening of the newest and greatest Ludobites to date and here we are bidding the restaurant a fond farewell. And what a sendoff it was, the crowd was even livelier than usual thanks to the presence of Ludo's fried chicken truck.

The truck didn't open until 8:00 but the first people arrived at 6:30 and by the time we arrived the line went around the corner. Naturally Ludo came by and was his usual charming self entertaining the crowd. We have him posing here with the first customers of the night for his LFC truck. The truck was ironically probably a bigger draw than the restaurant itself; even Jesus himself came by to get some chicken and give Ludo his blessing, probably a lost cause there though.

Thanks to KevinEats for the reservation, with us were his classmate James and one of his readers Steph. Our reservation was for 8:15 but we didn't get seated until 8:45. While we were waiting Ludo dropped by to keep us company. Here he is giving his customary greeting to Steph though not without a first casting a cautious glance and mumbling "don't tell my wife."

Warm Baguette - Seaweed Buckwheat Butter
Ludo has been getting more creative with his butters of late. Though not up to the level of his glorious Honey-Lavender, the seaweed imparted a nice umami-tinged salinity to the butter.

Hot Miso Soup - Cherry Tomato, Uni Black Panini
Next up was our favorite course of the night. On its own the Uni Panini tastes a lot like Ludo's famous Foie Gras Black Croque Monseiur, not surprising considering uni is the foie gras of the sea. Of course the proper way to eat this is to dip the sandwich in the soup and eat it with the cooked tomatoes. Taken all together the course is kind of like a oceany French Dip courtesy of the sapid miso. The tomatoes add a bright acidity that stands in stark contrast to the caramelized sweetness of the panini. Absolutely superb!

King Salmon "a Ihuile" - Juniper Berries, Rainbow Carrot, Orange Ice, Pistachio
The salmon course at LudoBites has consistently been one of the weaker dishes for me but I quite enjoyed this preparation. Initially I thought the carrots might be too sweet but they were nicely tempered playing more of a textural role than anything else. Overall the flavor profile was more balanced with fresh citrus from the orange ice harmonizing well with the lightly herbaceous juniper berries, both apparent enough to compliment the oiliness of the salmon without overwhelming it.

Confit Pork Belly - Raw Choucroute Thai Style, Mustard Ice Cream
The pork belly was taken off the menu for the last night but Ludo sent us a serving as a gift. Like before, the choucroute adds a fresh tang that neatly masks the unctuousness of the pork belly. Though I normally love the heavenly richness of the fat I didn't miss it here because the texture was still wonderfully oleaginous; a beautiful contrast to the the crispness of the vegetables. The mustard ice cream punctuated the dish with a short-lived but bold sweetness.

Heirloom Tomato Salad - Mozzarella Ice Cream, Basil Crumble
Reimagined Capresé salads have been all the rage lately, keeping the classic flavors but adding a twist to highlight the chef's creativity and style. Ludo really worked wonders with the basil first the immensely fragrant pesto and then in a beautiful crumble reminded me of pie crust, albeit tinged with herbaceousness.

Raw Waygu Beef - Dried Miso, Somen Noodle, Peanut Vinaigrette, Candied Watermelon, Mint
It is highly unusual for a course to be featured over the course of an entire LudoBites run but if there was any course that should be it was this. The beef has a wonderfully meaty and slick feel to it but doesn't overpower the rest of the dish. The overall combination is surprisingly light and cool and I likened it to Chinese Liang Mian while the two Koreans in our group said it reminded them of a similar dish.

Poached Egg - Potato Mousseline, Chorizo Condiment
I was a bit dubious about this course. We had a variation on it when 5.0 started that featured spot prawns and I wondered how this dish would fare with a key element removed. Turns out I needn't have worried, along with nixing the prawns, Ludo kicked up the intensity of the Chorizo, adding a pronounced smoky spice and richness that was lacking before. I shouldn't have been surprised as these are the same core ingredients in a breakfast burrito.

Grilled Octopus - Oregano, Burnt Red Pepper Polenta, Pineapple Aioli, Piment D'Espellete Gelée
Next up was a grilled octopus, having had two preparations (Voltaggio and Fraser) on opposite ends of the spectrum, I wondered where this one would fall. Turns out Ludo took a page from each, the octopus was incredibly tender a la Voltaggio, but the flavor was pure Fraser all gloriously bitter char.

Honey Garlic Glazed Chicken Wings
At this point we noticed the line had died down so I was sent to go rustle up some wings and balls for the table. I ended up ordering both but apparently there was an accident with the balls so we were left with just the wings. The wings came with four sauces, but with the crisp skin and thick glaze, the wings were easily good enough on their own.

Santa Barbara Prawn - Beignet, Cinnamon Beurre Blanc, Shrimp Powder Sugar
Last time Ludo made Beignets they were stuffed with foie and tasted magical. I was hoping for something equally wondrous this time around, but it was not to be. The prawn itself was delicious but the cinnamon beurre blanc was disconcerting to say the least. The beignet was tasty, with the cinnamon sugar combo but it was too dense, I think a filling of some sort or a more airy texture would have been better when paired with something as light as a shrimp.

Hot Foie Gras - Dynamite, Raw Tuna, Lychee, Crackers
Hot foie gras and spicy tuna does not sound like a match made in heaven, in fact it sounds down right frightening. Despite my reservations, the duo worked quite well, the dynamite sauce countered the stronger liver tones of the foie while the chunks of raw tuna and lychee countered the heft of the foie and mayo. Even the tobiko played a crucial role imparting an overarching light fishiness.

John Dory - Saffron Risotto, Chanterelles Mousse Emulsion
The cooked fish was a simple John Dory, firm and flaky with a neutral flavor that really absorbed the rich essence of saffron. I found the risotto overly sweet and wished the earthy punch of the chanterelles was more apparent to provide an offsetting weight.

Roasted Sonoma Lamb Saddle - Goat Cheese, Candied Black Olive, Artichoke Salad, Mint Pesto
Ludo pulled out all the stops with the lamb saddle, grilling it rare in a layer of its own fat. The meat was delicious on its own, richer than your typical lamb though remarkably clean given the high fat content. I only used the accouterments sparingly as the artichoke salad was too astringent especially when coupled with the goat cheese and

Marinated Steak - Pickled Vegetables, Grilled Baby Corn, Crispy Bacon
Ludo's steak is always a marvel to behold and this was no different. Even though I was quite full by this point I couldn't help but marvel at how the lightly pickled vegetables and crisp baby corn provided a light flavor profile that countered the brash beefy goodness of the steak.

Cheese Plate
Saint-Nectaire(cow) with Pear Kimchi Chutney: A soft cheese that was mild on its own but picked up a more pronounced funk when paired with the chutney
Epoisse(cow) with Whole Grain Mustard & Honey: Easily my favorite of the three, Epoisse is fast becoming one of my favorite cheeses with is brazen saltiness and decadently gooey texture.
Roncal(sheep) with Apricots-Lavender Jam: The Roncal was the safest of the three cheeses, firmer than the other two the cheese possessed a light dryness and clean flavor.

"Sundae" Pistachio Ice Cream - Bing Cherries, Hot Chocolate Sauce, Salted Pistachio
Probably my favorite of the three desserts, the characteristic flavor of pistachios is evident on the attack that transitions into the classic combination of chocolate and cherry.

Chocolate Cake - Spicy Olive Oil
Not sure what to think about this dessert. The cake itself is moderately fudgy and enjoyable on its own, but the spicy olive oil tasted of jalepenos and just didn't work for me.

Caramel Souffle - Grapefruit Gelee, Fleur De Sel Ice Cream
The final dessert of the night was an airy caramel souffle. The cake itself had a delightful burnt sugar texture and flavor and was a natural pair to the fleur de sel. This dessert is one of those times that less is more. The grapefruit added a grating astringency that was out of place among the sweeter elements.

As service wound down Ludo thanked his staff and his fans for making LudoBites the huge success that it is. From a core of die-hard fans the restaurant has exploded in popularity with reservations filling up within hours of becoming available. Fittingly, he looked most in his element smiling demonically and spraying the crowd with a bottle of sparkling wine. Ludo also had a special housewarming present for Kevin, a cutting board that I wager will get zero use unless Ludo actually comes over and cooks for him.

Naturally we had to take a shot with Ludo before we could call it a night.

This was easily the most raucous and exciting LudoBites meal ever, a fitting capstone for what proved to be the strongest version yet. We never did get the foie with Chinese BBQ sauce we were promised; maybe he'll bring it back for us next time. It is a forgone conclusion there will be a 6.0. Currently it is expected to start sometime in late October and you can bet I'll be there the first night come hell or high water.


James said...

Nice pictures man! I can't believe you got that much light from them since my iphone was worthless without a light.

Good times and hopefully I'll see you at 6.0


Stephanie said...

Agree with James. Great pictures! And great write-up. That was a really fun dinner.

Epicuryan said...

James & Steph,

It was a lot of fun dining with you both we should definitely look for an encore at the opening of 6.0

I'm glad you liked the photos even though they didn't turn out as well as I would have liked.

Dee said...

Hi, I got introduced to your blog by my sister--I am drooling! I just found out about Ludo 6.0 and can't wait!

Epicuryan said...

Hey Dee,

Glad you liked the post. Ludo has been getting better and better. Be ready to call at 5:00PM on Oct 12 and good luck. Hope to hear what you think of 6.0.