Trés – Lunch Fantastique

Restaurant: Trés [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: October 31, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Spanish

Rating: Fantastique

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My brother and I were in midtown and decided to check out Trésfor lunch. I’d already hit it for weekend brunch a couple months ago, and figuring as I’ve recently hit everything else Jose Andres (é by José Andrés and Jaleo in Vegas and a recent Saam meal), stopped in.


The room was dead at 11:45am, but the food wasn’t.


The lunch menu.


“Octopus tacos. Hydroponic bib lettuce, maggie’s farm baby greens, smoked heirloom cherry tomatoes.” Very nice octopus treatment. Succulent grilled meat and a zesty limey vinaigrette on the whole thing.


“Hawaiian bigeye tuna ceviche. Coconut ginger soy, plantain chips.” Not your typical cerviche as the lime flavors weren’t that blast you Peruvian type. But that meant you could taste the fish, and it was good. The plantain chips were tasty too.


I’m nuts over Jose’s Gazpacho. I’ve even made it from his recipe a number of times at home.


And with the soup itself. Yum yum!


“Herb roasted ham and cheese. Tomme de savoie cheese, carmelized onions, herbs.” This was like a Spanish Croque Monsieur. I love this kind of grilled ham and cheese.


Some good fries too with a spicy ketchup.


“The SLS Burger. House made brioche bun, lettuce, tomatoes, onions with cheddar.”


“Lemon tart. Raspberry sorbet.” Not your typical version, but really good. Bright bright flavors and some pate de fruits thrown in there too.


“Hazelnut pear clafoutis. Coffee ice cream.” Like a bread pudding. The ice cream was really good too.

And this crazy zesty lemonade, which served nicely as an aperitif.

Overall, this was a very tasty lunch. It was a little expensive — as you’d expect from a hotel restaurant – but it was very good, which I’ve come to expect from the SLS offerings.

A review of Trés for brunch can be found here.

Click here to see more LA dining, or reviews of The Bazaar and Saam (also at the SLS).

New Year’s Feast

Since 2005 we’ve been hosting the family feast for Rosh Hashanah. And what is a traditional holiday dinner without an excuse to do some cooking.


Rosh Hashanah occurs in September or October and so it’s traditional to include fall produce, particularly fruits which symbolize the hoped for sweetness of the new year. To this effect we made a huge run on the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and picked up nearly all of the fruits and vegetables for the meal, including this apples.


When you have to slice two dozen of them, the slicer helps. These are served with honey (also from the market).


A traditional first course is the chicken McNugget of the fish world, Gefilte Fish. We made ours from scratch using this recipe.


As we have a beet dish, we used the beet greens as garnish.


You can see some of the appetizer plates prepped and ready to go.


And the fish plated with the greens and horseradish sauce (using Atomic Horseradish naturally).


Second course was a dish we’ve been working on this fall. Jose AndresGazpacho (recipe here). This is the garnish of homemade croutons and various vegetables from the farmer’s market.


And with the soup added, dressed with a bit of olive oil and toasted pinenuts. You can see the chef’s own version at my recent é outing.


Then the main course is served buffet style. Here is the finished spread.


It includes farmer’s market mixed potatoes in olive oil, salt, and garlic.


Roasted.


And in their final form.


This beet salad (recipe here). We adapted it for buffet style serving (chopped everything finer).


Here with dressing.


My brother’s homemade couscous with various farmer’s market vegetables, mint, etc.


Brisket is one of the traditional meats for the dinner. This is one of two giant slabs of beef we cook up.


We used this recipe (more or less). Which involves slow cooking (for a long time) with carrots and various fruits.


And here is the finished and dressed version. At some point in the middle the brisket is pulled out, sliced, and put back into the stew.


A more conventional “autumn salad.”


The bottom of “Wendy’s Kugel.”


And extracted. I’m not generally a big kugel fan, but this one tastes like a cinnamon, so I’m very partial to it.


And my gluttonous plate.


Then the dessert spread.


My mom generally makes a fruit crumble out of whatever is in season. This year we picked up at the farmer’s market these lovely nectarines.


And added some fresh blackberries.


Here dabbed in flour to prevent them getting too damp.


The crumble itself is a mixture of crisco, nuts, flour, cinnamon, and sugar.


You just sprinkle it on top of the fruit.


And bake.

We also made a traditional seven layer cake. You bake seven very thin cakes.


Make butter-creme icing.


And then layer them up one by one.


And add some finishing touches!

There were snacks and a lot of wine too, but I’m too full to get into it.

Joe’s Restaurant – California Classic

Restaurant: Joe’s Restaurant

Location: 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

Date: September 16, 2011

Cuisine: California Farmer’s Market

Rating: Consistently good

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I’ve been coming to Joe’s since 1995 or 1996 and they are approaching their 20th anniversary any day now. In a major metropolitan restaurant scene, that’s an eternity. Chef Joe Miller was an early proponent of the ingredient driven “farmer’s market style” of California cooking that is very popular right now. And despite the restaurant’s venerable age, the menu is continually rotating and the dishes remain fresh and relevant.


The Abbot Kinney frontage.


Quaint bar. Further inside is a little maze of little rooms and a lovely patio that is perfect for brunch.


The daily tasting menu, which is a pretty awesome value.


And the regular menu.

I brought this 2006 Brunello from my cellar. It’s not rated, but it is good, being from a tiny producer who makes only 3,000 bottles a year.


The back for the vintage.


Joe’s has good bread. Particularly the butter toasty thing.


Olive tappanade and butter.


“Heirloom tomato salad, smoked garlic tomato vinaigrette, young greens, seared bread.”


“Bocconcini di bufala mozzarella, smoked o’henry peaches, plums, sweet pea, purslane, almonds, olive oil.” This was a really yummy combo. The fruit was perfectly ripe, the mozzarella fantastic, and all in combination, particularly with the nuts and the purslane pesto-like stuff, it was really yummy.


“Hiramasa Crudo. Pickled plum, shishito, flowering coriander, pickled garlic vinaigrette.” Also wonderful. Hiramasa is just yellowtail, but this was some very good fish, and the vinaigrette had a powerful tang that contrasted nicely with the sweet and sour plums.


“New zealand red snapper filet with potato scales and wild rice. Salsify, red wine sauce.”


“Sonoma lamb sirloin, figs, chantarelle mushroms, wild rice soubise, english peas, huckleberry jus.” Also a wonderful dish. Like rack of lamb, but without the bone. Slow cooked in the sous-vide. The rich jus and vegetables complemented nicely.


The dessert menu.


“Vanilla buttermilk custard. Market berries, bittersweet chocolate, pistachios.” I light fun dessert, with a berries and cream vibe.

It’s been a little while since I was at Joe’s and I somehow expected it to be more staid. The food is just as contemporary and relevant as any other ingredient driven Califonian. It’s not fat focused like the Gastropubs, or avant garde, but it is really good. And setting it far above many wanna-be followers of this tradition, each dish expresses a really balanced interplay of elements.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Capo Hits a Triple

Restaurant: Capo [12, 3]

Location: 1810 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, Ca. 310-394-5550

Date: September 14, 2011

Cuisine: Italian with Cal influences

Rating: The food here is really very very good.

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Capo is an occasional favorite of mine and I’ve reviewed it before HERE and HERE. They have a particular high end (but not formal) blend of California style (Farmer’s Market ingredients) and Italian tradition. But it’s not a strictly traditional Italian, more interpreted through a vaguely Tuscan / California vibe.


The intimate dining room.

They have very good bread at Capo, particularly the crispy things.


Capo always puts out this little humus-like spread. I suspect it’s fava beans. It’s addictive though.

We settle down to examine the MENU, which is big, and always a difficult decision because there is so much great stuff on it. They have an odd menu format, in which each item is identified by only it’s principle ingredient, forcing you to guess or ask how it’s actually prepared. Plus they have “fill in the blanks” on the menu which are filled in by a separate sheet of daily specials. No big deal, but it’s kind of bizare. Doesn’t matter though, as the food is great.


I got this 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva at the vineyard in Tuscany. It was just released as it’s aged for 5-6 years in old oak. “From vines in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, is gorgeous, layered and elegant in its violets, tar, licorice and cherries. The finish is long and impeccable, but this is a somewhat ethereal style, with aromas and flavors that are already a touch forward relative to most 2004 Riservas. Ideally the wine is best enjoyed within the next decade. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.”

It’s worth noting that Capo has a peculiar corkage policy (I rant on it here). In short, you can bring one and no more than one bottle, and that it must not be on their list.


The amuse, a cone of tomatoes. Essentially like a tomato bruschetta — in a crispy cone.


“Heirloom tomato vegetable salad.” Very fresh Farmer’s Market vegetables.


The same salad, but with Burrata. Which, like bacon, makes everything better.


“Burrata black truffle bruschetta.” Besides the shaved vegetables and the bread underneath this is a big blob of burrata, fresh truffles, and a whole poached egg! It was pretty good, but decidedly rich. In some ways similar to my special eggs, in some ways like the famous Melisse truffle egg.


“Steak tartar.” The fries and aioli are obvious. The meat was delicious! There was a lot of pepper in there, and olive oil. But mostly it just tasted of wonderful raw beef. One of the better tartars I’ve had. Maybe a little shaved parmesan would make it even better!


We killed the first bottle (from my cellar) and bought this one off the list. It makes a horizontal of sorts, being another 2004 Brunello Riserva. It was good, but not quite as good as the Potozzine. “The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino comes across as lean and powerful in its expression of red cherries, tobacco, spices and earthiness. The aromas aren’t perfectly clean and the wine’s structural components seem to have the upper hand over the wine’s density and richness of fruit, suggesting the tannins will ultimately dominate the wine’s overall balance. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2018.”

“White corn ravioli.” You can’t beat fresh pasta in a butter sauce.

This is “buccatini with lamb ragu,” and it’s one of the best pastas I’ve ever had.  I’ve come back like three times for it. I love a good ragu, and the buccatini (spagetti with a tiny hole in the middle) is perfect. The dish is rich and meaty, divine. I always order it.


Capo has an impressive wood fire in the corner that they cook a lot of the entrees on. The prices are pretty punitive, but they’re good. Plus the fire lends a wonderful wintery smell to the whole dining room.


Bronzino, grilled, with vegetables.


Dover sole.


Veal chop, nice and rare.


This is the “chocolate soufflé,” an excellent implementation of the classic. You have to preorder it at the beginning of the meal.


And they add a big dollop of fresh whipped cream.


The “chocolate volcano cake,” also with whipped cream, also preordered.

And this. This was to die for. “Meyer lemon semifreddo,” with a blueberry or blackberry sauce. Everything about this was spectacular, one of my all time favorite deserts. The cold-soft texture, the bright lemon flavor, and the tart sweetness of the berries. OMFG!

A nice plate of little petit fours, not so usual at American Italians, more french. In Italy sometimes you’ll get treated to little almond cookies and shots of grappa or sambuca.

So to conclude, Capo is hands down delicious. The food is VERY VERY GOOD, and the service is top notch. The intimate little atmosphere is great also. It’s just very expensive – definitely not a good value — perfect if someone else is paying :-).

Two other Capo meals HERE and HERE.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Or for a legion of great eating in Italy itself, here.

The Hungry Cat chows Santa Monica

Restaurant: The Hungry Cat

Location: 100 w. channel road. santa monica, ca   90402. (310) 459-3337

Date: September 11 & 25, 2011

Cuisine: Seafood

Rating: Can never get enough seafood

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I’ve been trying for months to find a convenient time to go to the new opening in our neighborhood, the Westside branch of The Hungry Cat. This particular spot, on the corner of PCH and Channel Road is a bit cursed. Years ago it was the Beach House, which got destroyed in the middle of the night by a crazy driver (who literally crashed into the dining room). Then it was the Brass Cap, a lousy and ill-fated brasserie. After 3-4 years empty it’s now reopened as The Hungry Cat. This is a very raw bar and seafood oriented joint.


I started with a “Dark and Stormy,” the classic Bermuda cocktail. Excellent.


The interior doesn’t look too different than it did in it’s previous incarnations, but it was always a pretty looking place.


Oyster crackers substitute for bread. I’ve always had a weak spot for these puppies, shades of my Eastern Shore of Maryland upbringing. The menu can be found here.


The cat has one of those reasonable corkage policies where they waive the corkage for each bottle you buy off the list. This almost always makes me buy a bottle.


“hawaiian albacore / cherry tomato / cucumber / opal basil / tomato water.” Lots of bright vinegar/citrus flavor hear. Plenty tasty.


“marinated hamachi / stone fruit / shisho / togarashi / lime.” Another nice sashimi dish, although none-too-much fish.


A special. Raw scallop, uni (sea urchin), various salad bits. The combo is great. The scallops tasty. The sea urchin was a little “fishy.” Maybe it’s the Sunday factor, I don’t know. Overall I enjoyed it, but slightly better Uni would have sold it.


“heirloom tomato / watermelon / red onion / persian mint / french feta.”


“heirloom tomato / opal basil / red onion / arugula / burrata / red wine vinaigrette.”


This is the two tier “medium” seafood tower. It was certainly good, although not quite as tasty as the Mastro’s one, but more reasonable also.


On top are shrimp (two types), a bit of trout caviar, Alaskan crab legs, and a half lobster.


Beneath are oysters, muscles, and two types of clams (littleneck and cherrystone).


A nice assortment of sauces.


Off the kids menu. Basic pasta with parmesan.


Fish and chips, also from the kids menu.


A softshell crab in a sort of thai chilli sauce. According to its killer, delicious.

Another special, lobster roll with fries. This was SOLID. As good as a lobster roll gets — and I’ve had plenty. On par with this one I had back east last year.


The dessert menu. But we were too full.

We didn’t try too many things. And I seriously have to come back with some crustacean lovers and get a huge raw bar tower, but I enjoyed this little feline foray. So I’ll return soon enough.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Public Houses on the Rebound – Upper West

Restaurant: Upper West

Location: 3321 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, Ca. 310-586-1111.

Date: September 10, 2011

Cuisine: Gastropub

Rating: Tasty

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More and more gastropubs seem to be opening up. For those of you unfamiliar this is bar/restaurant with an emphasis on food, specifically tasty “comfort” food emphasizing fattening (i.e. tasty) ingredients. I wrote up two reviews of slightly similar Waterloo and City recently. Tavern is also a similar type of restaurant.


The location is conveniently off the Centinella exit (just west) of the 10.


The pubby interior.

From my cellar. Parker gives this silky Rosso 90. “The 2009 Rosso di Montalcino is totally beautiful and elegant in its expressive bouquet, silky fruit and understated, harmonious personality. This is a wonderful, impeccable Rosso from Le Potazzine. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2017.” I’d rate it perhaps 91-92, with a little boost for understated style.


The menu.


BURRATA. greenapple-blackberry panzanella / baby heirloom tomato / chamomile salt / fresh basil / dill-mustard vinaigrette.” This was a big hit. It’s hard to go wrong with so much Burrata.


BRAISED LAMB CREPES. madras curry / wilted spinach / israeli feta / lavender demi.” Very meaty. Not light, but certainly tasty. The meat reduction sauce was great.


ROASTED VEGGIE BURGER. housemade veggie patty / grilled pineapple relish / avocado / piquillo pepper / tomato aioli / toasted brioche bun.”


“BACON WRAPPED BACON. prosciutto wrapped-braised pork belly / heirloom tomato / melon / tomato syrup / cilantro vinaigrette.” I couldn’t resist the name of the dish, but I overdid myself here. It tasted good, but…


The fat content of the port belly (this is just the fat I didn’t eat) was a bit much! Then again I asked for it.

This is actually the second time we’ve been to Upper West. Both times I was impressed. Not blown away or anything, but all the dishes were well done and full of flavor.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Yojie – Deep Boiled Noodles!

Restaurant: Yojie

Location: 501 W Olympic Blvd. Ste 102. Los Angeles, CA 90015. (213) 988-8808

Date: September 7, 2011

Cuisine: sukiyaki and shabu

Rating: Sleek and tasty

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I often go to Shabu Shabu (review of one of my favorites here), but it’s been a long time since I had Sukiyaki (it’s sweeter eggier cousin).

Yojie is smack int he middle of downtown and is one of those new slicker more modernized ethnic places. I.e. there is decor.

They offer both Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu, but I’ll concentrate on the former. Both are hotpot dishes, cooked table-side by the diners.

Here is the Sukiyaki page of the menu. It’s mostly about the beef. And mostly about the size. I went “sumo” — because I’m well a big eater (you never guessed!).

Here is the beef itself. A little thicker than Shabu Shabu. The rice and the all important raw egg.

And the veggie and noodle plate. Pretty similar to Shabu Shabu.

The difference here is that the “broth” is a sweet Teriyaki-like sauce. Things are cooked a bit more heavily. And then instead of the post cooking dipping sauces you put the hot items straight into the raw egg, which then very slightly cooks as it coats the meat — and certainly makes it richer.

The broth gets all hot and sticky like a yummy thick meaty sweet teriyaki soup.

If you cook a bunch of stuff on it and ladle onto the rice you can make your own Teriyaki bowl type thing. The waiter actually wasn’t paying much attention to our temperature control and let our pots get too hot (we filled the room with smoke).

But he made up for it by giving us free dessert. In this case milk chocolate fondue, which conveniently also uses the hotpot.

These various yummies are then dipped in the chocolate. Not too shabby.

Overall an enjoyable Japanese treat. At the perfectly right thick bubbly consistency (which is hard to maintain) the thick sauce is pretty spectacular with the beef noodle and egg combo.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

The Vengeful Polyglot prays to the hotpot gods.

Friday Night Heights – Shabbat Dinner

On Friday, September 2, we hosted a small Shabbat dinner party. This was a non-dairy (meat) kosher meal, which can be well done if you care (and most kosher restaurants don’t). As usual with our events everything was homemade. Almost all produce came from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.


For appetizers we served fruits and nuts. There was also some homemade humus and eggplant dip (that one of our guests generously brought), but I forgot to snap a photo.


Wine is one area where we go normal. Kosher wines are uniformly awful. Hideous. Wretched.

Parker gives this silky Rosso 90. “The 2009 Rosso di Montalcino is totally beautiful and elegant in its expressive bouquet, silky fruit and understated, harmonious personality. This is a wonderful, impeccable Rosso from Le Potazzine. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2017.” I’d rate it perhaps 91-92, with a little boost for understated style.


And the sweet option. Parker 91. “Donnhoff‘s 2009 Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett – ultra-delicate at only 9% alcohol and with considerably more overt sweetness than its Krotenpfuhl counterpart – is scented with buddleia, white peach, toasted almond, and a fusil note of crushed stone, and offers subtle creaminess, lusciously juicy refreshment, and minerally interactive persistence. This illustrates slate as a sort of sounding board as well as support structure for fruit such as one also encounters in the best residually sweet Mosel Rieslings. Donnhoff routinely expresses acute awareness of a duty to make something truly special out of the cooler ‘wrong-side-of-the-river’ Oberhauser vineyards that until the latter part of his father’s era constituted almost the entirety of his family’s acreage. That duty has here once again been deliciously discharged.”


What would Shabbat be without Challah. Raison Challah to be exact.

After going to Spain last year I’ve been on a bit of a Gazpacho kick, despite my general aversion to raw tomatoes (which I’ve been overcoming). And then about 5-6 weeks ago we went to Jose Andres’ Tres for brunch where they have a wonderful Gazpacho bar. So afterward I dug up his recipe on the internet and we tried it.

When I get into cooking certain dishes I like to perfect them. I’ve been working on this with my Ultimate Pizzas, my Spanish Eggs, and my Margaritas. This is our second stab at Gazpacho. It tasted great the first time but the texture was too chunky, so in this instance we whipped the living bleep out of it in the ever-reliable Blendtec. This batch is made with heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers from the SMFM and premium Spanish extra-virgin olive oil.


But first the garnish. This is a bowl prepped. The basic approach is to do this, and then to ladle in the soup itself table side, then dress it with a bit of premium Spanish olive oil. This garnish is croutons, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, spring onions, and chives.


The olive oil is on the left. On the right are homemade croutons. These are rustic bread fried (by hand) in olive oil and garlic, and seasoned with a bit of parsley.


Some of the gorgeous tomatoes used as garnish. Other cool looking ones are in the soup itself.


Chopped chives.


I’m kicking myself, but I forgot to photo a finished bowl with the soup. This one is three-quarters eaten :-( It was darn good though.


For the main course we made a homemade Morrocan Basteeya. This is prior to baking. This is a savory pie of chicken and spices, slightly sweet.


Out of the oven.


You can see into it here.


One of our guests brought this lovely salad.


We also made this baked Israeli-style eggplant, with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers (all from the SMFM too).


Here it is baked.


And my mother’s amazing fruit crumble. This one had SMFM peaches, blackberries, and apples. With a sweet crust and pecan topping. Due to the fact that my mother was on the other side of the country, and the written recipe a tad cryptic, the crust turned out a bit “different” than her more crumbly variant.


Still, it tasted great after baking!


And some farmer’s market fruit to finish.

For more home cooked meals look at the bottom of the food page.

Osteria Latini 3

Restaurant: Osteria Latini [1, 2, 3]

Location: 11712 San Vicente Blvd.Brentwood, CA 90049 310.826.9222

Date: August 20, 2010

Cuisine: Italian

Rating: Excellent neighborhood Italian

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We have a regular rotation of neighborhood Italians. There are so many of them, but only a few make the cut as genuinely good. Osteria Latini is one of them. You can see my previous reviews here and here.


Olive and chickpea/squash/bean pastes.


The 1997 Biondi-Santi Brunello. This is a solid Brunello I had bought years ago in Italy (probably in 2000). It probably scores somewhere in the low 90s, maybe 91 or 92 points.


A special, lobster bisque.


“BELLA SALAD. Arrugola, pears, dry cherries, goat cheese, shaved parmesan.”


A special, calimari steak stuffed with lump crabmeat and drizzled in ponzu sauce. This is unusual, and certainly has a bit of fusion about it — but it’s good.


Gnocchi genovese (in classic basil pesto).


“ACQUERELLO RISOTTO. Organic carnaroli, sea urchin, truffle scent, lemon zest (Please allow 20 Minutes).” A very nice subtle sea urchin risotto. This special hand shaved rice takes 20-30 minutes to cook.


OSSOBUCO ALLA MILANESE. With saffron risotto.” Latini’s version of the classic dish. Certainly good with a very nice meaty bone. The risotto could have been perhaps a tad creamier.

Two “rounds” of freebee desserts. This mixture of prosecco, lemon sorbetto, and meringue is very refreshing.


Chocolate chip cookies and biscotti.

Osteria Latini is always reliable. They have a big menu of modern Italian favorites and pretty much everything is very good.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Or for a legion of great eating in Italy itself, here.

Food as Art: Ludobites 7.0

Restaurant: Ludobites 7.0 [1, 2]

Location: 227 East 9th St, Los Angeles, 90015

Date: August 31, 2011

Cuisine: Eclectic Modern

Rating: Very interesting (& tasty) array of flavors.

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Last year my friends and I very much enjoyed Ludobites 6.0 (review here), one of LA’s most notable “popup” restaurants. So some of us Foodie Club members camped out on OpenTable.com to score ourselves a large party reservation. It took five of us hammering independently on the computer to get one in the approximately 70 seconds the entire run booked up. And it was nearly a month in. But score we did.


The walls are festooned with Ludo’s amusing cock & swine logo.


This year Ludobites is back at Gram & Papas. I guess they do it here because the restaurant doesn’t itself serve dinner. The space is small and casual.


One of the big advantages is that G&Ps does NOT have a liquor license. This means that my special BYOBgrape juice” was corkage free. Good think I brought a cork screw.

Very nice Burg from my cellar. Parker 93. “I loved the sweet cassis aromas of the 2002 Echezeaux as well as its powerful, intense, syrupy personality. Medium to full-bodied and gorgeously ripe, it bastes the palate with thick black fruit flavors. In addition, this wine reveals great depth and a lengthy, fruit-packed finish. Projected maturity: 2007-2017.”


Le Menu. With eight people we ordered two of EVERY dish. Worked out just about right. There was a small issue of our sole vegetarian. Not a single dish on the menu is actually free of meat, and our request initially phased the kitchen. But they recovered quickly and offered to make veggie variants of a number of dishes which worked out excellently.


“Lavender Ginger Lemonade.” Non-alcoholic. I liked the strong ginger kick, but the lemonade was too sweet and not sour enough. I like my lemonade painfully sour and strong.


“Bouillabaise Milk Shake.” This tastes exactly like it sounds. Like a fish milkshake. Basically the same flavor profile as real Bouillabaise, but with milk. I can’t say it was my favorite dish. Probably least or second to least.


“Choucroute Tart Flambe.” This “tart” is really a pizza or flatbread. But it was fantastic. The ham/bacon on top was great, as was the cheesy creme fraiche and onion thing going on.


They also made us a vegetarian version which was very good.

Neiman Cabernet “Caldwell Vineyard” 2000. Parker doesn’t rate this, but it’s a top top notch cabernet, probably 94 points or so. The years and a lack of over oaking left it very smooth. I picked up this wine at the Redd Collection, a cool new tasting/wine dealer I met at the Food Club Ultimo Wine Dinner.


The chicken wings (below) came with surgical gloves to keep the hands clean!


“Burgundy Fried Chicken.” The real burgundy was finished, but the wings were very very tasty. Succulent and perfectly cooked with a sweet BBQ style sauce.


The remnants!


This is a custom vegetarian salad they made up.


“Squid, Black Ash, Chorizo.” The squid was nice and tender, and the orange “chorizo” sauce around the edge really tasty. I’m not sure I was super keen on the ash texture, but it was certainly a decent dish.


This spectacular Brunello (the 2006 il Cocco) is totally unavailable in America. I got it at the vineyard from the owner on my mega Italy 2011 trip. He makes 7,000 bottles of wine a year, perhaps 3,000 of Brunello, and does 100% of the work (fields and cellar) himself! Probably a 94-95 point wine.


Prawn ceviche, Aji Amarillo, Red Berries. This reminded me of a Red Medicine type dish. It had very interesting and strong flavors, with a lot of vinegar/lime.


“Salt Cod Panna Cotta, Whipped Fingerling Potato, Smoked Tapioca, Black Olive Bread.” This was an interesting dish. The cod itself was not dominant at all. It mostly seemed like a panna cotta, or even like one of those Japanese seafood egg custards like I got here at Takao (about a third of the way down). I liked the little tapioca balls too, and the bread added some nice texture, just needed a little more cod flavor.


“Oxtail Beef, Rainbow Carrots, Shallots, Green Salad.” This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The beef was just amazing. And rest went really well too.


“Foe Gras, Corn and Coconuts.” Amazing and interesting dish. Another favorite of the evening. The foie was foie — and nothing wrong with that — but the corn coconut soup was awesome with it. Sweet like a corn soup, with the crunchy texture of popcorn, and with this coconut curry / lemongrass vibe on top. Wow!


My wife even got a vegetarian version, without the foie, which really was almost as good (good as the foie was).


“Pigs Head Compressed and Mimolette, Barbeque Gelee.” This sounds awful, but tasted just okay. Flavor wise thought it just tasted like some kind of meat sandwich with a really tangy mayo. The sweet sauce helped a bit. One of my other lessor dishes of the evening.


“Egg, Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc.” Really tasted a lot like scrambled eggs and caviar. Which was pretty darn good. The Uni (sea urchin) was present, but subtle. I could have done with more. But the egg and caviar thing is really good together, so I enjoyed it a lot.


This is no Uni version. The egg tasted stronger and saltier without the sweetness of the Uni, but it was still a very good dish.


“Plancha Tandoori Octopus, Yogurt, Cauliflower, Grapefruit.” The octopus itself was very tender with a nice tandoori flavor. The cauliflower texture was really interesting. I think the yogurt could have had more punch, or more of it, but still a nice dish.


“Duck, Cherry, Spicy Saucisse, Beets, Radish.” There are two meats in here. A sausage (which was really yummy) and a very nice rare duck breast. Both were excellent with the cherry sauce. The beet/radish thing seemed a little orthogonal, but it didn’t stop this from being terrific.


“Lamb cooked in fat Moroccan style Artichoke, Mint.” There was some serious fat on this lamb. Serious fat. But it tasted damn good with the cooked dates. That was the whole key to this dish for me, tender lamb with a sweet sauce.


The peeps, midway somewhere.


The meal took awhile and so we could have used an extra bottle of wine, but i only brought four. This dessert Riesling, the every reliable, Parker 97! “White peach preserves, luscious Persian melon, fresh red raspberry, cooling lime, green tea, iris and gentian are all projected on the nose of Donnhoff’s 2009 Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese, then take on a fleshy, silken, yet svelte form that combines infectious juiciness, invigorating salinity, uncanny buoyancy, and vibratory interactive complexity, leaving my tongue tingling and my head buzzing. The depth of savor here is such that to speak of nut oils or of shrimp or lobster shell reduction merely points in the correct, otherwise ineffable general direction. “Creamy, dreamy, transparent” were the last words I could pronounce in the presence of this natural wonder that will certainly be capable of spreading joy for at least the next quarter century. “There was a tiny bit of perfectly dry botrytis here,” notes Donnhoff, “and to get much over 90 Oechsle you usually need that.” Needless to say, its presence has in no way precluded the utmost purity of fruit, clarity, or subtly electrical energy of which Riesling is capable in this amazing site. “I-m warning you, they’re not necessarily better,” said Helmut Donnhoff with a grin when serving me his two 2009 vintage Auslesen.”


Now our whacky “cheese course” the “Pick-Up Stick Cantal Cheese, Curry White Chocolate.” The cheese almost tasted like slivered apple.


“Lavendar Tropezienne Tart, Aloe Vera, Lychee.” This wonderful pastry reminded me of a giant lavender Macaron. I love certain kinds of exotic herbaceous flavors like rosewater and lavender and I love custard.


“Chocolate Cake, Chipotle Ice Cream, Orange.” Wow! This was a 10/10 dessert (and the lavender was like a 9/10!). The chocolate slab was great, you can tell just by looking at it, but that ice cream. It tasted like bacon! Really. The combo was incredible, and a bit spicy.


“Pistachio Brown Butter Cake, Marcaspone, Red Berries.” This was the weakest of the three desserts, but it was still very good, with a nice pistachio flavor. The Marcaspone could have used a little more kick or sweetness.

Overall, maybe it was a good thing coming into Ludobites 7.0 after a couple of weeks. Things were really on point with the food. Service, which very pleasant, really isn’t up to the food standards. There is no slick Michelin 2 (or 3) star type management of the table like at a place like Melisse, but the attitude was fine and there were no problems. Water service was sluggish and we had to self pour our “grape juice” into water glass type glasses. But actually I don’t mind self pour or opening my own wines. I could have used some more water :-)

But the food was really standout. A large variety of very creative dishes, and some were fantastic, particularly the desserts. So bravo.

Click here for a review of last year’s Ludobites 6.0.

The Food Club extravaganzas.

Or all LA dining reviews.


Me, with the big macro-lens-and-flash rig.


Mirella gets her crazy on.


Swag! (not that I bought any)