227 E 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Trying to get reservations at Ludobites is often an exercise in frustration. Though the process was much smoother this time around, the reservations sold out in one minute and I was unable to secure a spot for opening night. Out of sheer desperation I actually went to the restaurant hoping to find a last minute cancellation. After a couple false starts we found a couple who had a pair of extra seats who graciously allowed us to join their party. To Aly and Ernesto: my deepest thanks for your generosity!
Onion Tart - Bottarga
First up was a satisfying onion tart. Soft and melty, the tart might have been a bit monolithic were it not for the bottarga. The roe's salty funk deftly undercut the sweetness of the caramelized onions with an undercurrent of salinity.
Tomato Soup - Carrots, Squid
Part of Ludo's mystique is his ability to pair seemingly random ingredients into a cohesive dish and that is exactly what he's done here. The soup is smooth and creamy with a slight tang. The carrots provide a sense of vegetal toothsomeness while the squid adds a delightfully slick tender texture to the mix.
Dorade Ceviche - Cucumber Water, Cornichons, Borrage Flower
This was a holdover from Ludobites America at Casa Pulido though I felt the flavors were a bit more refined this time. Again the fish plays a supporting role, adding substance to the ephemeral freshness of the cucumber water. The key improvement came from the flowers, which added a shiso-like zest to the ceviche.
Pig's Head Compressed and Cheddar - Barbeque Gelée
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The compressed head is a smorgasbord of gooey offaly bits that could easily stand on its own. I was a bit wary of the gelée, a sinus clearing mix of vinegar and spice, but found the tang helped to cut the weight of the head and cheese..
Egg - Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc
I envisioned something like Providence's egg and sea urchin dish but I should have known Ludo would forge his own path. The eggs were like a creamy scrambled egg with the sea urchin blended in seamlessly. The result was a weighty take on the classic pairing of egg and caviar with a subtle touch of smoke and brine.
Lavenger Ginger Lemonade
I think I've found my new summer drink. The lavender and ginger are understated to start, but kick in on the finish lending this drink a delightful spicy herbaceousness.
Salt Cod Panna Cotta - Whipped Fingerling Potato, Smoked Tapioca, Black Olive Bread
Salt cod is not known for its subtlety but it was surprisingly muted in this dish. Given my ambivalence toward the stuff, I was surprised to find myself craving more of its oily brine. Instead what I got from this dish was an intensely creamy off-putting buttery heft.
Plancha Tandoori Octopus - Yogurt, Cauliflower, Grapefruit
Ludo's octopus is always a thing of beauty and this was no different. The exterior bore a light caramelized crunch and heady char while the interior was immensely tender and flavorful; perfect with the tangy contrast of the yogurt.
Foie Gras Ravioli - Crispy Kimchi, Sake-Black Truffle Cream
Foie gras is such a versatile tool in Ludo's hands whether it is served in a sandwich or in a bowl of soup or even slathered with barbecue sauce. The ravioli was a nice touch, the fatty liver almost liquefies in the pouch, each bite explodes a mouth filling savoriness. The kimchi showed a remarkable restraint adding a pungency that hovers at the edge of the palate but nonetheless manages to cut the richness of the foie.
Duck - Cherry, Spice Saucisse, Beets, Radish
This might be the best duck I've ever had at LudoBites. The duck itself was rich and moist; needing no accompaniment in order to shine. Even more impressive, the dish was equally good as a whole, the beets and cherry adding a light ripeness that contrasted sharply with the forceful bitterness of the radish.
Èpoisse Cheese Risotto - Hazelnut, Egg Yolk, Herb Salad
This entire meal has been an exercise in restraint with many courses featuring aggressive ingredients that have been tempered to fit within the confies of the dish. Nowhere is this balance more evident than with the risotto. Èpoisses is one of my favorite cheeses, but its pungency certainly doesn't lend itself to playing well with others. Here the cheese has been harnessed to give the risotto a delightful richness and creamy body but one that still allows the toasty hazelnuts and aromatic herbs to shine.
Roasted Beef - Horseradish Cream, Green Beans, Dried Mullet
The final savory reminded me of a refined prime rib. The thinly sliced beef seemed to quiver on the plate and dissolve into a rich beefy vapor on the tongue.
Peach Melba Vacherin - Lavender
Another lovely summer course, the peach itself was an immaculately pure expression of the fruit, jammy and sweet that didn't feel overly saccharin thanks to the wonderful floral depth of the lavender.
Crustless Lemon Tart - Limoncello, Thyme
The second dessert was an almost savory lemon tart. The bracing tang of the citrus was present though secondary to the alcoholic burn of the limoncello and savory flavor of the thyme.
This was probably the smoothest opening night meal I've had at Ludo, with the food coming out promptly but not overly fast. This marks my eleventh visit to Ludobites yet I still find myself surprised and excited by the food. Ludo has managed to find that sweet spot between familiarity and creativity. Judging by the sheer demand for seats, I'm not alone in that opinion.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
227 E 9th Street