227 E 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
The final night of LudoBites always feels just a little more special, a chance to see how the menu has evolved and if my favorites have made it through unscathed.
Choucroute Tart Flambe
Choucroute is a Alsacian take on Sauerkraut and in fact the name is the francophonic form of the word. Typically Choucroute is paired with potato and sausage and those accompaniments make an appearance on the tart. The result is a wonderful melange of smoke and piquancy layered on top of a base of cheese and crisp yeasty tart.
Masala Fried Chicken - Chicken Fat Vinaigrette
Ludo's fried chicken was a common sight throughout 3.0 and 4.0, eventually spawning a food truck dedicated to those succulent balls of fried goodness. Since then the chicken has been curiously absent, so it was a real pleasure to see this on the menu. Instead of the classic Provencal style nuggets, this was a plate of wings bereft of batter; more like a roasted chicken with the moist dark meat wrapped in a lightly crisp skin. The wings are simple, pure, and delicious; classic bar food writ large.
Prawn & Scallop Ceviche - Aji Amarillo, Red Berries
Ludo's ceviches tend to be on the acidic side, but this was a nice departure from the norm. While the Aji Amarillo delivered some acidic heat, I didn't get the same mouth puckering sensation. The smashed berries were a nice touch, the resonant sweetness coming through clearly on the finish.
Salt Cod Panna Cotta - Whipped Fingerling Potato, Smoked Tapioca
Only Ludo would be so brazen to turn fish into a panna cotta. After trying this opening night, I felt it needed some fine-tuning and it looks like in the interim Ludo has just done that. The salt cod remains fairly subdued, but the dish has a new sense of clarity in the form of a smoky savory weight.
Pigs Head Compressed - Mimolette, Barbeque Gelée, Pickled Melons
I think this dish best sums up the magic of Ludo's cooking. Pig's head sounds downright intimidating but Ludo manages to do the ingredient justice yet readily approachable. The sandwich is stuffed with a melange of bits from the pigs head and a creamy spread of cheese, a veritable symphony of porcine sapor and offal-y goodness. The barbeque sauce is as astringent as ever while the pickled melon provided a milder tang and much needed succulence.
Braised Oxtail Beef - Rainbow Carrots, Shallots, Amaranth
I envisioned something like a Chinese red braised beef or some form of stew. Though the dish had some textural similarities and the typical dark savoriness of a braised beef, the inclusion of orange wedges gives the dish an unexpected juicy sweet levity.
Foie Gras Crudo - Mushrooms, Grapes, Hazelnut Oil
The finely shaved foie slices reminded me of the foie gras "log" served at Atelier Crenn. The liver dissolves on the tongue leaving behind a sensation of butteriness and subtle offal twang. Though the accompaniments seem haphazard, they result in a nuanced cerebral dish that left the entire table craving more.
Egg - Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Monté
It's no surprise this dish was still on the menu; the pairing of egg and caviar is a timeless classic. The lusty weight of the egg matches up well with the forceful salinity of the caviar while the uni gives the dish a distinctive brine on the finish.
Plancha Tandoori Octopus - Yogurt, Cauliflower, Grapefruit
Ludo's tandoori octopus was brilliant the first time around and it has only gotten better since with the octopus having a deeper more concentrated flavor and the grapefruit was a more effective foil for the octopus this time around.
Squid - Black Ash, Baby Leeks, Spring Onion, Chorizo
This was the most beautifully plated course of the night. On its own the squid takes on an overwhelming char of the black ash, but the dish was absolutely delicious once the oily smoky essence of the chorizo came into play.
Lamb cooked in fat "Moroccan Style" - Artichoke, Mint
This was a wonderful lamb dish, the meat is beautifully tender with the fat possessing a wonderfully rustic weight. The mint was absolutely critical to this course, its herbaceousness attenuating the gaminess of the lamb fat.
Duck - Cherry, Spicy Saucisse, Beets, Radish
I'm glad to see this dish made it through the from beginning to end pretty much unscathed. The breast remains immensely savory and beautifully dense, while the sausage amps up the flavor markedly. The beets are fairly subdued, but the radish adds a fat-cleansing astringency.
Foie Gras - Corn, Coconuts
I was a bit wary ending the meal with a dish of seared foie, thinking that the weight might be off-putting. Instead the spicy sweet corn soup meshes seamlessly with the liver making for a beautifully cohesive dish. This is how to do a seared foie right!
Pick-Up Stick Cantal Cheese - Curry White Chocolate
The cheese itself takes a back seat to the interplay between the curry, white chocolate, and apple which result in a flavor similar to a savory caramel apple, the perfect interlude before dessert.
Chocolate Cake - Chipotle, Orange
The chocolate cake with olive oil brought back memories of the savory cake Ludo served at 4.0 but happily this was a much more evolved and refined version. The cake itself is decadently fudgy and infused with a smoky spice from the chipotle then tinged with floral aromas and delicate citrus oil.
Lavender Tropezinne Tart - Aloe Vera, Peach
A traditional "Tarte Tropézienne" isn't actually a tart, but rather brioche that is sliced and filled with cream. The light fluffy bread imbued with the soothing floral essence of lavender supplied a revitalizing lift to end meal.
Though I enjoyed my opening night experience at 7.0, the dishes definitely felt more polished and refined this time around. At the end of the night Ludo shared some of his upcoming plans and as always I will be impatiently awaiting his next culinary adventure.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
227 E 9th Street