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)

Red Medicine is the Cure

Restaurant: Red Medicine [1, 2]

Location: 8400 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, Ca. 90211. 323-651-6500.

Date: Dec 22, 2010

Cuisine: Modernized Vietnamese

Rating: Pretty awesome!

 

I’m a loyal reader of Kevin Eats and two weeks ago when he posted an opening night review of a new Vietnamese inspired restaurant named Red Medicine I instantly knew I had to go. Boy am I glad I did. I love good traditional Vietnamese for its intricate flavor palette (see my review here). This new place takes it to a new level, updating and modernizing. This is highly innovative stuff — at least when you consider the sea of Japanese and Italian clones that overwhelm our fair city.

Vietnamese is tough stuff to pair with red wine, but a Grand Cru Burgundy is soft and fruity enough to manage. Parker gives this one 93 points and says, “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.”

The menu. This is all small dishes (the way I like it).  We ordered 12 savories and 3 deserts for 4 people and that was about perfect.

“KELLEY’S MOM’S FARM EGG / brassicas, pickled rose hips,  chili, fried garlic, boiled peanuts, lovage.” This dish typifies what the chef’s are doing here. It mixes all sorts of flavors, and a lot of fresh herbs, vegetables, and pickled vegetables. The peanuts were those large soft Asian ones and this egg was so soft it ended up in the dish like egg noodles. The overall flavor was salty and herby — and delicious. Plus HOT. Those red peppers were a bit of surprise, but a pleasant burn.

“fluke cured with lime leaf, radishes,  charred cucumber, pine needle.” This was another very interesting flavor combo. Hot again (there are serrano peppers in there) and strong notes of basil and pickle. Delicious!

“BEEF / fermented soy bean, bacon XO, chinese eggplant,  purple cabbage, celery stem, nuoc cham.” The beef and eggplant had an intense charred flavor, like filet minion BBQ or something. The purple cabbage paired with it like a kind of Asian variant on the cole slaw one might have with Southern BBQ.  Wow.

“CHICKEN DUMPLINGS / caramelized sugar, pork fat, lemongrass, confitures.” The elements (chicken, mint, pickles, scallions, sauce) are combined on a lettuce leaf as shown below. I nabbed a healthy blast of the red stuff. Hot again!

Other than the heat, this wasn’t as strongly flavored as the other dishes (and I like strong). It was good, but not as good.

“kabocha, burnt onion, chinese sausage, chrysanthemum,  creme fraiche.” This was basically BBQ squash with yoghurt and sweet BBQ sauce. It was really good.

“kohlrabi, tofu cream, grapefruit,  fish sauce, lettuces, sunchokes.” This was my least favorite dish of the night. Again, not bad, not just not as exciting. It was cool and refreshing.

“BEEF TARTARE / mustard leaf, water chestnut, spicy herbs, nuoc leo, chlorophyll.” Under the green is the beef tartare. You shovel it on the garlic rice crackers. It was incredible. Not intense, but a lovely flavor.

My brother enjoys some of the squash.

“WILD STRIPED BASS / brown butter-soy milk, verbena,  pomelo, raw chestnut, lettuce stems.” This very nicely cooked fish was bathing in this garlicky butter sauce. Nice too, but pretty rich.

“CRISPY SPRING ROLL / dungeness crab, calamansi, pea pods, fines herbs, chili.” Excellent varient on the crispy spring roll tradition. I liked the creamy bits of sauce.

Red Medicine has a very nice list of sweet whites, including many from Zind Humbrecht. They have a $25 corkage (normal enough), but if you buy a bottle they waive it totally. So I bought this nice riesling for $55 and essentially it cost me $5 (I saved 2 corkages). This is probably a 92-93 point Spatlese. Its apricot and pear sweetness did pair perfectly with the food.

“‘BANH MI’ / foie gras, pate de campagne.” Wow these were good. The fois meshed nicely with the bit of serrano, the pickles etc.

“PORK / caramelized black vinegar and honey, prunes, sorrel, dried almond.” This was a tremendous BBQ pork. The fluffy stuff is almond poppy seed puff rice. It mostly added texture and a vague nuttiness. The pork however was incredibly soft, the sauce almost mole like. The net affect was a pit like South Carolina pulled pork without the vinegar.

“DUCK / 5-spice, charred frisee, chicory, tamarind syrup,  grains of paradise.” This duck was also awesome, like confit — or maybe it was confit.

The open kitchen. The place was packed too, even on a holiday Wednesday, after having been open a mere two weeks.

The pastry chef here is world class.

“COCONUT BAVAROIS / coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory.” This was fantastic. All sorts of interesting textures (check out those fish eye looking things), and a soft taste of coffee, a good dose of peanut butter — and basil!

“LEMONGRASS POTS DE CREME / sweet potato, orange blossom, red bull, bergamot.” Creme Brulee basically, but lemongrass! Unusualy, but excellent.

“BITTER CHOCOLATE / kecap manis, oats, pear, parsnip,brown butter.” This was also good, crunchy, drier — pretty.

I’m very excited about this place and its new flavors. I’ll head back soon. I hope, though, that they switch up the menu with great regularity. Not that what is there isn’t great, but it would seem a waste to stagnate this kind of creativity.

For a second meal at Red Medicine (different dishes for the most part), see HERE.

Food as Art: Little Saigon

Restaurant: Little Saigon

Location: 6218 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044-3210 (703) 536-2633

Date: Nov 27, 2010

Cuisine: Vietnamese

ANY CHARACTER HERE

One of my favorite places back “home” (Washington D.C.) is Little Saigon, a local hole in the wall Vietnamese place with absolutely stellar food.

Yeah, Hole in the wall. But good!

We start with this prosecco. Basically Italian Champagne.

The menu is as long as War and Peace!

Table condiments.

Almost everyone here is Vietnamese, which is always the best sign of authentic ethic restaraunts.

This is marinated raw beef, soaked in fish sauce, with onions, chilies, and basil. Not a typical American flavor, but amazing nonetheless.

My two-year son’s favorite: rice cracker (with black sesame).

Vegetarian spring rolls, hot as the 9th circle of hell (temperature). The sauce is this amazing chili-sweet-soy combo.

The owner visists. My parents have been friends with her for years.

Vietnamese “hot wings,” but fried with TONS of garlic. Amazing. I was dipping the garlic by itself in the sauce and eating it.

We moved on to this tasty malbec. Toasty oak.

Soft egg noodles with tofu, brocoli, mushrooms, baby corn. Fine, but not the best dish of the evening.

Crispy orange duck. This must be Chinese inspired, but it’s amazing, totally amazing. The duck is perfect, and the sweet/bitter tang of real orange peels (not to mention the schechuan peppers) delectable.

Rock fish, steamed, with a ginger cilantro sauce. Very nice light whole fish.

One of my guilty pleasures is just soaking rice in the orange duck sauce!

The check for 6 people, $108! Not a bank breaker.

Observe more Vietnamese diners — they know their own cuisine. Never trust an Asian restaurant with blond waiters (none here).

There were oranges for desert, which nicely finish off the meal, and my two-year-old loved them.

For a second review of Little Saigon, see here.