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.


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 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)

Food as Art: Ludobites 6.0

Restaurant: Ludobites 6.0 [1, 2]

Location: 13355 Ventura Blvd Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.

Date: Nov 02, 2010

Cuisine: Eclectic Modern

Rating: Excellent, but a tad intellectual.


Chef Ludovic Lefebvre has been doing this series of “mobile” or “popup” restaurants that appear for 1-2 month stretches in the space of another place. He brings very rapid experimentation to the forefront. While not as polished or perfected as a place like Calima, this is a very creative and tasty avant garde establishment. Oh, and did I mention how hard it is to get a table. I and another foodie friend were spamming the reservation site as they became available for 6.0 and we barely snagged our Tuesday 6:30pm table for six. We’re glad we did.

A Ludo signature COQtail, “Yuzu Tequila Martini.”

Tonight’s menu. We had everything!

I brought the wines from my celar as usual. The 2005 Comte Armand Pommard Clos des Epeneaux. Parker gives it 94-96 points and says, “The 2005 Pommard Clos des Epeneaux was still in three lots segregated by age and location of vines when I tasted – each fascinatingly delicious in itself, and the concentration of the old vines portion in itself almost too severe. Fascinating dark berry, carnal and mineral notes mingle in the nose. Low-tone sirloin meatiness, black cherry, cassis, faintly bitter black chocolate, and toasted hickory inform a glycerin-rich, polished, yet firmly structured palate. Notes of licorice, horehound, and mineral salts add complexity to a finish of palate-staining intensity and grip. This superb Pommard should require 5-7 years of cellaring and reward considerably more.”

This Ludobites has a wine list now, small but good. But I prefer my own cellar. Corkage was a reasonable $15.

“Warm Baguette, Baratte smoked butter, Sardine-Laughing Cow Cheese.” The bread was fantastic. The sardine spread reminded me of good whitefish salad.

Sea Urchin Roe, Frozen milk, balsamic, orange broth, black rice.” This had a very novel texture, and tasted like… well Uni (sea urchin).

“Oriental Mussels Veloute, Heirloom Tomato, Small Fries.” The fries were to die for, like fresh potato sticks. The mussel veloute was silky smooth, creamy, and delicious. Somewhere between a french cream soup and a very soft Thai green curry.

“Marinated Mackerel, Leche del tigre, baby leeks, verdolagas leaves.” This was a great dish too. The mackerel had a pleasant fishiness to it, but the prep was a bit like a Nobu miso glaze.

Hamachi, Vietnamese style.” This was my favorite savory dish. The hamachi was nice, but the topping was like some great Vietnamese salad, with spice, interesting texture, and a refreshing citrus note.

“Barely cooked squid noodles, pad Thai, prawn, black radish.” This was weird, but good. Not for the timid eater because of the textures of the raw fish, but I liked it.

“Scallop, Celery Root Remoulade, red port, walnuts, passion fruit.” Tasty. I liked the salid bit (slightly Waldorf slaw-like) best, but I prefer my scallops raw.

“Poached-roasted Foie Gras, Acacia Honey, Autumn fruits, rose flowers.” This was damn yummy. The fruit was one thing, but the pink stuff is some kind of reduced rosewater, and it went great with the Fois, lending it a middle eastern note.

“Salmon ‘a l’huile’ Somen Noodles, carrots, red wine vinaigrette, grilled salmon roe.” This was a really good dish. The salmon was raw sashimi, and the roe like Ikura. The noodles lent it a nice slippery coolness.

John Dory, potato, herbs, brocollini flowers, green jalapenos nage.” There was nothing wrong with this dish. The fish was succulent and perfectly cooked, but it just wasn’t as exciting as some of the others.
The 2001 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. I’ve long been a fan of this Chateau, even going so far as to visit last year. Then I got to split a free bottle of the 2007 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage A Jacques Perrin (100+ pts). But tonight’s wine Parker gives it a mere 95 and says, “Beaucastel has been on a terrific qualitative roll over the last four vintages, and the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape (which Francois Perrin feels is similar to the 1990, although I don’t see that as of yet) is a 15,000-case blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and the balance split among the other permitted varietals of the appellation. This inky/ruby/purple-colored cuvee offers a classic Beaucastel bouquet of new saddle leather, cigar smoke, roasted herbs, black truffles, underbrush, and blackberry as well as cherry fruit. It is a superb, earthy expression of this Mourvedre-dominated cuvee. Full-bodied and powerful, it will undoubtedly close down over the next several years, not to re-emerge for 7-8 years. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2025.”
“Half chicken, poached egg, chanterelles, chorizo.” Tasty and rich, but I was starting to fill up.
“Marinated korean steak, crispy kimchi, bone marrow.” The steak was very rare. Not as good as a great cut at a top Korean BBQ place, but good. The marrow added a nice richness. Starting to get very full.
Onto desert. The “Cold chocolate soup, peanut butter, marshmallow, long pepper chantilly.” This was damn good. The texture and peanut notes of the marshmallow really added.
“Warm carrot cake, coconut, Thai curry, mango sorbet, kaffir lime.” It was weird, but good. The overall flavor profile was like a Thai red curry. The mango sorbet, refreshing as it looked, was actually fairly spicy. The icing stuff tasted like butter icing. Inside the ramekin is Kaffir lime oil. The savory quality of this desert reminded of my first Ludo meal, at Bastide, where I ordered the “Chocolate spaghetti al carbonara,” a desert that actually had pancetta and raw egg cracked over chocolate noodles with a scoop of parmesan ice cream!
Overall the meal was very very good, although a tad intellectual. A few dishes felt like they were trying too hard without totally paying off. Still, it’s a rare restaurant this creative.