Thursday, July 22, 2010
Last night was the reprise of LudoBites 4.0 at Gram & Papa's in Downtown L.A. Chef Ludo Lefebvre has taken a short breather and come back in full force! His new menu takes us all on a journey across Asia with the vibrant flavors and new twists to old favorites. If you thought LudoBites 4.0 was hard to get a reservation for, then you have a few hurdles set out for you. Last time the reservations ran out within 9 hours, but for LudoBites 5.0 there were over 3,000 people simultaneously trying to score a reservation crashed the system within 15 mins! Be sure to brush up those video game controller skills on your mouse in an attempt to get a reservation. It might be an unachievable quest, but well worth the journey.
As tradition states, BYOB! This was a monumental first for me as I was the one who provided the bottle of wine. It's a new favorite of Holly and I, the Stella Rossa we sampled at the LA Wine Festival from the San Antonio Winery. So dangerously sweet and smooth that we could drink a few bottles without feeling anything. I need to stock up more for any future reservation opportunities or on a hot summer night!
A must have for the evening is the Steamed Duck beautifully topped with Lemon Verbena, Crispy Skin Purée, and Radish. Next to the duck was a succulent White Peach drizzled with a Balsamic reduction. Together they were the perfect combination of sweet/savory, juicy/crunchy, and fragrant flavor & texture explosion. Alone, the duck was cooked just right where the pieces would melt in your mouth added with a tasty crunch from the bits of skin. The radish on top enhanced the sweetness of the duck and the crisp bite was refreshing. What could further add to this dish? The white peach and balsamic reduction brought the dish to a whole other level. First slice a nice thick piece of the duck topped with lemon verbena, crispy skin, and radish then finished off with a luscious slice of white peach drenched with the balsamic reduction... Mmmm... as the loaded fork breaches the entrance of my mouth a Pavlovian response is triggered... my molars sink down and the ambrosian juices of the peach trickle down. Everything just melds into a party in my mouth.
The Santa Barbara Prawns with Poached Eggs and Potato Mousseline topped off with a Chorizo Purée was to die for. Hidden inside were priceless gems. The prawns were raw and delectably sweet. In my opinion the best way for consumption! As I stuck my spoon breaking the barrier and causing the yolk to ooze out like an explosive lava, I delve deep in search of the buried treasure. I really love Chef Ludo's potato mousseline. It's full of cream, butter, and potato that's so smooth and savory. The natural sweetness of the prawns complimented the savory flavors flawlessly.
Even the pouring of the Goat Cheese Soup was a work of art. The perfect sweet shot was obtained as the soup slowly drizzled across the plate. Inside was pieces of Bacon, Tofu, Green Apple, and a Frisée Salad finished off with Lardo. The subtle flavors of the goat cheese ruminated through each spoonful. I am sure I just inhaled a few thousand calories, but well worth every last drop. The soup is delightfully refreshing and light in taste. Each spoonful I was trying to find more bacon or lardo that just made me smile silently.
I decided that today was a special day and I should reward myself. After all, I passed my exam with flying colors. A well deserved Cheese Cupcake topped with Chicken Liver & Ham Mousse and Cornichons. Below was a smooth Kumquat purée to compliment the savory dish atop. With the ever persisting trend of cupcakes, Chef Ludo has reinvented a classic in his own image. The mousse was mind numbingly scrumptious. I was tempted to pick up the plate and lick it clean when nobody was looking.
In fact, I started to dip the Vadouvan Naan Bread accompanied with Salted Coconut Butter on the leftover mousse. Couldn't let any of that go to waste! =D Although to do the naan justice, you definitely have to layer the salted coconut butter on top. The savory flavors of the naan actually brought out the slight sweetness of the coconut. I thought the butter was whipped to perfection. It glides on smoothly and melts in your mouth.
One of Holly's favorite of the night was the Confit Pork Belly, Raw Choucroute Thai Style, Guiness, and Emulsion. There were two generous pieces of pork belly under the pile of wonderfully sliced and pickled vegetables. To my surprise I loved the tangy flavors of the vegetables on top mixed with the savory pieces of pork belly. They really lightened the heaviness of pork belly and gave each bite a delectable crunch.
The Grilled Squid on top an Heirloom Tomato Salad, Black Rice, and Yuzu Red Onions complimented with the Unami Broth and Seaweed Tartar. I loved the oceanic flavors. The squid was nicely grilled and smooth. It might have been the broth or the seaweed that gave the dish that wonderful salty sea taste. From the first bite, I felt like I was in some nice beach enjoying the wonders of the sea. All the complex flavors came together in a simply memorable flavor.
What really caught my eye was the Raw Wagyu Beef with Dried Miso, Somen Noodle, Candied Watermelon, and Mint topped off with a Peanut Vinaigrette. If my eyes were closed, I'd swear that I was in a Vietnamese restaurant. Chef Ludo captured the true essence and taste of Vietnamese cuisine, but with his own twist. I've always loved the refreshing combination of watermelon and mint. The sweetness of the watermelon only added to the Wagyu.
The Grilled Octopus, Oregano, Grilled Hazelnut Polenta, Pineapple Aioli, and Piment D'Espelette Gelée came highly recommended. Alone, the octopus was nicely charred, smoky, and full of flavor. I tried all the components separately and they were very interesting, but they work splendidly together.
When we arrived I took note of the Day Boat Cod with Torched Uni on top paired with Red Bell Pepper Pickles, Ratatouille, and Black Curry. In Ms. Lin's absence, I had to consume the uni in her place! The cod was very light by itself but when paired with the uni and black curry the flavor changes drastically. All the components on the plate were meant to enhance the cod.
By this time we were pretty stuffed and satisfied, but our quest to eat the menu kept us going. After all, there is always room for dessert! I always say there is a second stomach saved just for that reason. LudoBites 4.0 had a great chocolate soufflé so how could they top that? Well for 5.0 they have created a Caramel Soufflé paired with Fleur De Sel Ice Cream and Blanco Grapefruit. It's my own salted caramel paradise! The fleur de sel ice cream toned down the sweetness of the caramel. Maybe I have been studying too much physics lately, but it is like two "in-phase" waves that come together to create constructive interference. The end result is a greater wave. That's how I feel about this dessert. =D
I have to admit that I actually had my doubts about the Campfire Smoked S'mores with Guacamole Sorbet. In my opinion, s'more tend to be overly sweet and overpowering. Not in this case! Instead of the typical Hershey bar, they used a Chipotle Orange Ganache that had the perfect combination of spicy and sweet. The "graham" cracker they made was delicious. I tried the guacamole sorbet by itself and tastes just as it sounds. The smooth buttery flavor of avocado added to the s'mores cut down the sweetness even more and brought out all the subtle flavors. Not only was it delectable, it was fun to play with. Breaking off the cracker and slowly putting all the components on top made me feel like I was at a bonfire with friends, very nostalgic.
We were pacing ourselves throughout the whole meal. The table was only meant for two people and not for two hungry, ravenous really, women. Holly and I are already strategizing for the next trip if we can get a reservation and how to get a bigger table! We thought about caving in a few times as we tastefully devoured the night away and filling our stomachs to the brim. Luckily our gluttony and desire for more of Chef Ludo's fabulous creations kept us going. Towards the end of the meal I was summoning the last of my will power to continue. I kept chanting, "Must eat! Yummy food can never be wasted!" It was a wonderful evening of food and fun. Holly and I really complimented each other well! Thanks for the invite! I came opening night for LudoBites 4.0 last time and now for 5.0, I must say that even though 4.0 was great but for 5.0 Chef Ludo has outdone himself. A definite must!
LudoBites @ Gram & Papa's
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015