May 10, 2010

Eat and Drink: LudoBites 4.0

Ludo Lefebvre was featured this week by Time Magazine as their third "Chef of the Future." He is the chef making food on his own terms, without boundaries and without walls at least in terms of the physical location kind.

My LudoBites 4.0 meal was undoubtedly one of my top 5 culinary highlights to date but getting in required some advanced planning and waiting. I was more than slightly disappointed when I tried to make a reservation for LudoBites at Royal/T Cafe and failed! It would not happen again. I signed up for the LudoBites email list, happened to check my phone right when the email blast for LudoBites 4.0 went out and made a reservation for 7:30 pm on a Saturday no less!

Upon arrival at Gram and Papa's, which is a sandwich/salad shop during the day, we were promptly seated by Krissy Lefebvre, Ludo's lovely wife. The walls were decorated with Ludo's rooster logo, which he told us he had tattooed on his arm two days prior, but they didn't hide the fact that this isn't their restaurant. The sandwich menu hung prominently on the wall.

LudoBites is usually BYOB, so I brought a bottle of Samantha Starr 2006 pinot noir for us to have with our meal. This also significantly cuts down on the cost of a nice dinner. After reviewing the menu, we decided to go heavy on the appetizers and share one entree.

After placing our order, we had a few minutes to look around. The kitchen is completely open and the chef was working furiously along with his small team to prepare our meals. First up was the white asparagus veloute. This was my favorite item of the night. The combination of flavors was so delicious but fresh. The dish was balanced with so many different flavors and textures. Creamy, salty, and crisp.

White asparagus veloute, mozzarella mouse, fennel, candied olive, salmon roe

Next up were the scallops. I noted that the magic of Ludo's cooking is the absolute creativity. These are things that I have never thought of or seen on a menu, let alone tasted. The scallops were perfectly cooked, but the trick was getting all of the components in each bite. I found the pickled grapes too vinegar-y for my tastes, but I enjoyed the rest of the combination. 

Scallop, almond puree, pickled grapes, capers, curry oil and cauliflower ice cream

For me, this was the most disappointing dish, and I love escargots. The escargots did have an interesting texture though. It was slightly crunchy on the outside and the inside was the normal tender but slightly rubbery feel that you would imagine a snail to have. Where this dish failed for me was the saltiness.

Burgundy escargots, garlic flan, green jus, violet flowers

The foie gras was so inventive. The pina colada part was a rum gelee and pineapple ice cream and coconut foam. There was the rich, melt in your mouth foie, the shock of rum, while the tropical flavors even it all out.

Seared foie gras "pina colada"

I loved the lamb with goat cheese, but I didn't quite get the smoked eel. I found it to be a little odd, but again, these dishes were so well executed and so creative that I didn't really care too much.

Rack of lamb, fresh goat cheese, smoked eel, artichokes, mint

The entree included a side of potato mousseline, which I thought was to die for, but then two staff members called the dish "potato flavored butter" and that disturbed me a little. Of course, it didn't stop me from eating all of it.

Potato mousseline
Activity in the open kitchen

Chef at work

For dessert, I had (because Raisin Bread is allergic to chocolate) the world's largest dark chocolate souffle with a side of chocolate. As chocolate souffles usually are, it was fluffy, rich and decadent and I poured lots and lots of chocolate sauce on top and took bites with the vanilla ice cream for good measure. It was amazing. 

Dark chocolate souffle, vanilla-whisky ice cream, hot chocolate cream

Near the end of our meal, the restaurant was starting to fill up with people for the next seating, so Ludo made the rounds. I found him modest and friendly, not exactly how he was portrayed on Top Chef MastersAnne Hathaway happened to be there that night with a large group of Hollywood types.

Chef Ludo and me

For me, this was a great experience. It was fun, creative, a little exclusive, and something I wanted to do before I left LA for good.  

LudoBites at Gram and Papa's
Closes May 28th
Reservations are no longer available but you can check for cancellations

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