227 E 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
During LudoBites 8.0, Ludovic Lefebvre swore up and down that he was done with pop-ups and if the rumors are to be believed the pop-up king is finally settling down an opening a permanent restaurant with the Two Dudes (Animal/Son of a Gun). It wouldn't be Ludo to fade away quietly which brings us to LudoBites 10.0, a sort of best of retrospective and a last chance for his supporters to relive their favorites from the previous iterations.
Prawns - Avocado, Pineapple, Shrimp Oil
The thoroughly cooked prawns had a tenderness to them, but personally I would have preferred a bit more snap like the original iteration of the dish had. The silky avocado pureé and tropical pineapple contrast beautifully, a fresh bracing yet sweet cover for the spot prawns.
Hamachi - Vietnamese Salad
Leave it to Ludo to pair something as intense as nuoc cham (fish sauce) with a fish as delicate as Hamachi. The umami-laced sauce is tempered with aromatic asian herbs and plenty of tart citrus while the salad itself provided a crisp counterpoint to the supple yellowtail.
"Sea Creature" - Crispy Broccoli, Gray Shallots, Dashi
The sea creature was one of the few new courses of the night, a gestalt of Shinga and Pacific oysters, PEI mussels and razor clams. As much as I love fresh shellfish I found the flavor of the "Sea Creature" a bit jarring when coupled coupled with the intensely bitter broccoli.
Ham Soup - Radish, Pickles
Ludo is something of a genius when it comes to soups and his ham soup is a brilliant reinterpretation of a simple gruyere and ham sandwich with cornichons. The thick potage has a grittiness reminiscent of a rough bread or dry cheese while the pickles and radish provide relief from the soup's heft.
Tandoori Octopus - Beets, Pink Onions, Yogurt, Fennel
The octopus was just as delicious as I remembered, meaty and supple with a resounding salinity the cephalopod that was strong enough to stand on its own. The pickled onions and beets provided a bright tangy levity complimented by the lactic tang of the yogurt.
Squid - Peanut Butter, Grapes, Tofu, Lime Oil, Chili Oil
As impressive as the octopus was, it was completely eclipsed by the squid. Cooked to an immensely tender degree the squid "noodles" are topped with an enigmatic mix of sweet peanut butter and crisp astringent sprouts. The lime and chili provide a light sour-spicy relish that somehow works with the weight of the peanut butter.
Poached Egg - Potato Mousseline, Chorizo
Eggs, potato, and sausage have the makings of a hearty yeoman breakfast but in Ludo's skilled hands it becomes something exquisite. The potato is mixed with liberal amounts of butter and given a porcine sapor from the chorizo oil as well as a runny slickness once the egg is mixed in.
Escargot - Fine Brick Tart, Garlic Mousse, Spinach, Parsley, Curry
Ludo has made his share of unconventional escargot preparations but this might be the best one yet. The smoky smack of the snails is augmented by the astringency of the spinach while the mousse provides a concession to classic flavors all wrapped in the creamy embrace of a curry sauce. Though completely unnecessary, I absolutely adored the brick tart its sugary crunch and ice-cream cone like sweetness contrasted beautifully with the richness of the rest of the dish.
Veal - Carrots, Udon, Caramelized Onions, White Miso
Discounting the drastically overcooked veal, this dish was a thing of beauty. The noodles have a fatty supple texture that just begs to be slurped while the accompanying broth is a harmonious fusion of sweet onion with a meaty umami twang from the veal.
Flat Iron Steak - Treviso, Smoked Anchovy Cream, Pepper Oil
This relatively new cut of beef known for its tender texture and mild flavor has been gaining favor of late. The steak came out with a vivid red color that foreshadowed the meat's achingly tender texture with loads of bite from the pepper oil. As much as I enjoy bitterness, the radicchio was jarring in its intensity. For me, the steak was best enjoyed on its own.
Chicken - Mushrooms, Walnut Condiment, Parmesan Fondue, Brioche
I thought chicken would be a bit too mundane for Ludo, but this was one of the strongest dishes of the night. This was some of the moistest most flavorful chicken particularly with the concentrated savory verve of the cheese. The coating of brioche bread crumbs gives the bird a buttery heft while the mushrooms add an earthy depth.
Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta - Caramel, Caviar
Though this course actually predates LudoBites, it is arguably one of the most iconic of the entire dinner series. The creamy custard is layered with an unabashed sweetness from the caramel while the addition of caviar gives the dish a grown up savor.
Lemon Meringue Tart
Ludo's lemon tart has all the classical elements, bright lively lemon, buttery crust, and a sugary cream topping but the slap-dash appearance gives the dish deconstructed vibe.
Our final dessert was a classic souffle. Though it didn't quite rise perfectly, the cake still had the correct fluffy texture and a bold chocloate flavor that is at odds with the airy feel of the cake.
Whether you love him or hate him its hard to deny Chef Ludovic Lefebvre's impact on the LA culinary scene and the whole concept of the pop-up restaurant. Though I am sad to see LudoBites end I have faith that the mercurial chef wouldn't be moving on if he didn't have something better in the works. Along with fellow Bastide alum, Walter Manzke, Ludo's new restaurant will undoubtedly be among the most exciting new restaurants in 2013.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
227 E 9th Street