I find myself being a late bloomer at times and in the case of the whole phenomenon surrounding Ludo Bites, I really didn't experience any of Chef Ludo Lefebvre's food until Ludo Bites 3.0 last year at the Royal T Cafe in Culver City. Since then, I've made my way to Ludo Bites 4.0 and 5.0, both of which have been at Gram and Papas this year. Eating my way through 3 different menus from this inspired Chef has been quite an experience because while I may not have liked everything that hit my table, I certainly found the food to be inventive.
Let's start with Ludo Bites 3.0 where out of 10 dishes, 3 were real standouts. One of those dishes included the Nantucket Scallop, Pineapple, Brown Butter and Black Bread Powder. I enjoyed how light and refreshing the ingredients were. The scallops were just barely cooked so they retained its tenderness and it played well with the sweet tartness of the pineapple.
Another favorite from that meal was the Tuna, Sushi Rice Ice Cream, Soy Sauce Gelee and Smoked Ginger Oil. It was the sushi rice ice cream that got my attention initially for being something a little out there; yet, it worked. The whole dish was like a deconstructed sushi roll albeit without the seaweed, but tasty nonetheless.
Ludo Bites 3.0 was my first experience with Chef Lefebvre's Fried Chicken and unfortunately, it's been my only one so far. Although I've only had that one-time experience, it was memorable. The skin was crispy and flavorful and the chicken meat was juicy and although the mole sauce that came with it wasn't the best I've ever had, I liked how it came about. Simply, Chef Lefebvre went to the home of fellow blogger, Teenage Gluster, to learn how to make mole from Gluster's mom and I think that's pretty awesome. You can read that story here.
One of the most talked dishes from Ludo Bites 3.0 was the Foie Gras Beignet with Saffron-Dried Apricots. I'm not much of a foie gras eater myself and I found the beignet to be too dense for my taste, so this dish isn't something I'd order again. However, I though the idea of using a luxury ingredient such as foie gras with more of a sweet dessert pastry was intriguing so I thought I'd share it below.
I wasn't that excited with the desserts from Ludo Bites 3.0, although I did enjoy the Jalapeno Chocolate Mousse with Orange and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The spicy and citrus notes with the dark chocolate was a wonderful flavor combination.
Between all three Ludo Bites outings, my favorite meal was Ludo Bites 4.0. In truth, while I liked my meal at Ludo Bites 3.0, I didn't necessarily see what the all the fuss was about. Ludo Bites. 4.0 made me a believer and at this outing, we shared 11 dishes. It's hard to narrow those dishes down to just 3 or 4 that really did it for me, because this was just one of those meals where everything was just beyond good. For example, marks for being both pretty and delicious go to the Burgundy Escargot, Garlic Flan, Green Jus and Violet Flowers.
An inventive ice cream like the cauliflower ice cream that came with the Scallops, Almond Puree, Pickled Grapes, Capers and Curry Oil Dish and a Pina Colada ice cream that topped a Seared Foie Gras added fun to the meal.
But you know what was my favorite dish of Ludo Bites 4.0? Simply, it was the Carrot Salad with Saffron, Anglaise Cream, Pearl Onions, Blood Orange and Orange Powder. It wasn't really fancy nor that unusual, but when a Chef can make a seemingly simple dish taste divine, they definitely deserve the props.
Unlike the previous menu at 3.0, this menu was divided into appetizers, mains and desserts. When it came to the mains, Chef Lefebvre hit it out of the park. I especially enjoyed the Squid "Carbonara", Pancetta, Poached Egg, Parmesan Snow and Chive Flowers. Using squid in place of the noodles was ingenious and I absolutely loved breaking the egg yolk and mixing all the ingredients together. A dish with a fried or poached egg is definitely the way to my heart.
Another standout was the Steak "Au Poivre", Shallots, Polenta Bone Marrow and Roasted Eggplant Puree. That meat was so tender that it was ridiculous and who can say no to polenta that has bone marrow as an ingredient?
Before I mention dessert, one of my dining partners kept raving about a lavender-honey butter that she had at Ludo Bites 2.0, or was it 1.0? Anyway, we actually ended up ordering the Tartine Plate"Warm Baguette" with Honey-Lavender Butter and Smoked Lard just before dessert. That butter was pretty darn good, but the smoked lard was a revelation. This is LA after all, land of "healthy" eating and fitness. I just loved the boldness of straight out serving lard.
There was an option for 2 different desserts and of the two, the Dark Chocolate Souffle, Vanilla-Whiskey Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate Cream was the favorite of my party. I personally thought there was too much whiskey in the ice cream, but I couldn't get enough of that Hot Chocolate Cream.
This now brings us to Ludo Bites 5.0. For this particular outing, we ordered everything off the menu, except for the cheese plate and it was at the same time, both a satisfying; yet, unsatisfying meal. Satisfying in the sense that some of the dishes really shone while others were just okay. Let's talk about the highlights first which included the Poached Egg, Potato Mousseline and Chorizo Condiment dish. I absolutely loved the creaminess of the potato and as I mentioned, a poached egg will always capture my heart.
The Cheese Cupcake with Foie Gras/Chicken Liver and Chantilly Frosting, Tangerine and Cornichon was simply amazing, although I do think they could have cut back on the liver frosting just a tad or make the cupcake a little bigger.
I'm not much of a raw beef eater, but the Raw Waygu Beef, Dried Miso, Somen Noodle, Peanut Vinaigrette and Watermelon is a must order, if you have upcoming reservations. The nutty flavors of the meat when eaten with a bite of the refreshing watermelon really went well together.
The Goat Cheese Soup, Bacon, Lardo, Tofu, Green Apple and Frisee Salad was described as a deconstruction of a Goat Cheese Salad. Salad or soup, it was sheer perfection. Even though the soup was a little rich, I could have easily eaten a whole bowl by myself and I loved how the green apples added a tart crunchy aspect to this dish.
Other than wishing the fish skin was a little crispy, I really enjoyed the Wild Striped Bass, Cauliflower, Black Garlic and Yellow Panna Cotta. I couldn't get enough of that thinly cut cauliflower. It added a nice crunch texture to the fish, which was delicate and moist.
That crunchy texture was also repeated in the Confit Pork Belly, Raw Choucroute Thai Style and Mustard Ice Cream dish with the cabbage slaw that topped the pork belly. I wasn't quite sure about the mustard ice cream and while it's not something I'd ever slap on an ice cream cone and call it a day, it added a nice tang to the pork when eaten together.
Out of 15 dishes total, 6 were simply outstanding, which was less than half. As for the other dishes, there were a couple that I really had nothing negative to say about, but they just didn't wow me either like the Vadouvan Naan Bread with Salted Coconut Butter or the Heirloom Tomato Smoothie, Ice Dashi, Squid-Ink Vodka Gelee and Seaweed dish.
Some dishes had elements that I liked a lot, but it was more about the parts than the whole. For example, I liked the proscuitto chips and candied olives from the cold squid dish and the grilled hazelnut polenta that came with the grilled octopus dish.
Then there were a couple that I wish we hadn't ordered at all. One was the Hot Foie Gras Dynamite, Tuna, Lychee and Crackers dish. That dynamite sauce was so strongly flavored that it overpowered both the the tuna and foie gras.
The other really disappointing dish was the Steamed Duck Lemon Verbena with Crispy Skin Puree, White Radish, Grilled Peach and Balsamic. I loved the crispy skin puree, but the texture of the duck just wasn't for me and apparently, it wasn't for the rest of my party either. Both the Hot Foie Gras Dynamite and this Steamed Duck were the least favorites all around.
Unfortunately, the meal would have ended on a higher note if it wasn't for the desserts. The Campfire Smoked S'More was okay, but the Guacamole Sorbet was awful. This is coming from a big avocado fan who can eat avocado straight from its skin with just a spoon. I don't think the avocados they used were ripe, so there was a slight bitter after taste to the Guacamole Sorbet.
The Macha Green Tea Almond Cake, Red Berries and Mascarpone Mousse was nothing to write home about, although the mascarpone mousse was pretty good.
When it comes to disappointment, the Caramel Soufle, Blanco Grapefruit and Fleur De Sel Ice Cream really took the cake. Having enjoyed the Dark Chocolate Souffle from 4.0, we were all looking forward to the Caramel version. However, they took that souffle out of the oven too early. It wasn't cooked all the way through so towards the bottom, it was really mushy.
Looking back, my Ludo Bites meals have definitely been comprised of both hits and misses. If nothing else, I have enjoyed the uniqueness and inventiveness behind all the dishes, even if I haven't always enjoyed the execution of them. So whenever 6.0 comes along, I'll be ready to go for another round, assuming that I'm lucky enough to get reservations.
See My Ludo Bites 3.0 Photos
See My Ludo Bites 4.0 Photos
See My Ludo Bites 5.0 Photos
Visit Chef Ludo Lefebvre's Website Here!