Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ludo Bites 5.0: Hottest Ticket in Town

Chef and provocateur Ludovic Lefebvre is back downtown for a soldout run at the Gram and Papa's Theater, where he is performing nightly as Ludo, the star of Ludo Bites 5.0. This is the fifth iteration of Ludo's pop-up restaurant concept, the first two having been at Bread Bar, the 3rd at Royal Tea Salon in Culver City and the 4th at Gram and Papa's, where he has returned for a repeat run but with new dishes.

I was fortunate to get through to Ticketmaster, as OpenTable was briefly known the day the demand for LudoBites tickets was so high it crashed the system, and procure two seats for the performance last Thursday evening. My dining partner brought two bottles of wine, which were enjoyed but I did not record them for posterity.

We began the meal with the Cheese Cupcake, Foie Gras-Chicken Liver & Chantilly, Tangerine, Cornichon. This dish, pictured above, has become one of the signature dishes of Ludo Bites 5.0 and was one of my favorites of the meal. The cheese cupcake had the foie gras and chicken liver mousse as the frosting, which made this a very savory cupcake. The cornichon were shredded and sprinkled on top and tangerine puree was on the side. The dish is very playful, offering a rich and savory bite in the form of a traditional sweet dessert. I was thrilled that this dish was offered with foie & chicken liver the night I was there as it was made with ham and chicken liver on the first night of 5.0, and I would have missed out on this treat as I don't eat pork.

Next Vadouvan Naan Bread with Salted Cocount Butter arrived. The naan (pictured above) was hot and we were starving and ate this dish quickly. The coconut butter melted quickly on the bread and so I had my second piece without the butter, and it was even better.

The third dish we were served was Raw Wagyu Beef, Dried Miso, Somen Noodle, Peanut Vinagrette, Watermelon. This take on beef tartare with the raw beef in strips instead of diced and the egg yolk on top as usual was a nod to the traditional dish, while the mint leaves, watermelon and bed of somen noodles brought it squarely into the realm of fusion cuisine. The nuts added some good texture and the egg when cracked and mixed in, bound it all together.

Poached egg, Potato Mousseline, Chorizo Condiment was the fourth dish we had. It was presented with edible flowers strewn across the field of white potatoes. The potato mousseline was as rich and creamy as those of Joel Robuchon's. I only had a tiny taste off of the top of this dish (pictured above) so as to not eat any of the chorizo sauce. The egg was cooked at a precise temperature so that the egg white and yolk would have the same consistency.

My dining companion's favorite dish, Goat Cheese Soup, Bacon, Lardo, Tofu, Green Apple, Frissee Salad, is pictured above. There was a double dose of pork in this scene, with the bacon and lardo providing a one-two punch.

Confit Pork Belly, Raw Choucroute Thai Style, Mustard Ice Cream was my dining companion's other favorite. The mustard ice cream was visually dramatic with its bright yellow hue, and the crunch provided by the pork confit was enthusiastically enjoyed.

The last savory course we had was the Steamed Duck Lemon Verbena, Crispy Skin Puree, White Peach, Radish & Balsamic. The grilled peach was sweet and had a good solidity to it, while the layer of crispy skin puree on top of the steamed duck made the dish for me. The radish salad was like a high class slaw and removing the skin from the duck and serving it as a separate element was a risky touch that worked for me.

Our first dessert was Campfire Smoked S'mores, Guacamole Sorbet. The S'mores had a nice smoky kick to them. The guacamole did not add much to the dish, so we chose to leave it and eat all of the s'mores.

We finished up with the Caramel Souffle, Blanco Grapefruit, Fleur de Sel Ice Cream. The caramel souffle had risen perfectly and was delicious. The unusual tweak to this dish was the fleur de sel ice cream. I have had salted caramel ice cream but never caramel dessert with salt flavored ice cream. I happen to love salt, so this really worked for me, both as two individual elements and together. The grapefruit was fine as a refreshing touch but wasn't necessary.

Overall the service was helpful and enthusiastic and Ludo's wife Krissy brought several of our dishes to the table. Even Ludo broke the fourth wall and was able to speak to us, although in character, about the menu and his excitement about the recent rave LudoBites received in the New York Times.

I am hoping that this sold out run is extended and am glad not to have had to pay a scalper to get my front row seats. At this point your best bet may be to stand outside looking for a shady dude saying, "tickets, tickets, anyone selling tickets."

Ludo Bites 5.0 @ Gram & Papas.


  1. Great write up Aaron. I tried to score tix but OT kept crashing. I'll try again next time. Mary's going next week and has asked for a wine suggestion. Since you've been, what type of red do you suggest?

  2. Thanks! Yeah, it was hard to get through on Open Table, especially on my Droid phone. I'd suggest a light bodied Pinot; that should pair well across most of the courses.

    Ludo Bites has so much energy in the room as everyone there is so psyched to be there. Plus Ludo can cook.