Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Trois Mec: First Look at Ludo's New Restaurant

Ludo Lefebvre, the enfant terrible of the Los Angeles culinary scene has struck again, partnering with the successful duo of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal and Son of a Gun to open Trois Mec.  The restaurant, whose name roughly translates as “Three Guys” is located in a former Raffallo’s Pizza in a strip mall on Highland, just steps from Pizzeria Mozza.  Lefebvre, whose itinerant pop-up LudoBites garnered significant attention as well as a massive email list, is serving French cuisine in a tasting menu format.  The current pricing is $75 plus a mandatory gratuity and tax.

I had the opportunity to dine at Trois Mec last week, and the menu was $69, plus the same 18% gratuity.  A $48 wine pairing was offered and Trois Mec is one of the few restaurants in Los Angeles that does not permit corkage.  This is likely due to the size of the restaurant; Trois Mec only seats 18 patrons at tables and 8 additional diners at a dining bar facing the kitchen.  The wine list was still a work in progress but at the time of my dinner was tilted towards wines at the $100+ price point, making the pairing an attractive option.

Dinner at Trois Mec begins with a flurry of amuse bouches, which included a boneless fried chicken wing and a duck a l’orange in which diners drink the orange sauce once the duck has been consumed.  I would not have minded a whole plateful of boneless chicken wings; just think of the possibilities of a Super Bowl party at Trois Mec.

The tasting menu consisted of five courses, the first of which is listed on the menu as
Peas, beans, smoked eel, lamb, green cardamom.  The lamb was served on top of the peas and beans and eel.  I shared the eel with my dining companion, so cannot comment on that element of the dish, but the lamb was rather delicious and well prepared.

Carrot, bbq, orange, yogurt, avocado, watercress was the second principal course.  This was followed by Potato pulp, brown butter, bonito, onion soubise, salers.  The two veggie courses were quite different, with the potato course almost a puffy latke, while the carrot course was cleaner.  The salers cheese was on display in a wheel that weighed over 70 pounds.

Chicken, asparagus, mustard flower mustard, pancetta, brioche was Ludo’s take on the classic chicken with mustard sauce.  Unlike traditional mustard sauce, this was made using the mustard flowers, rather than the seeds.  It made for a different, yet familiar experience.  My dining companion loved it.

The concluding course in the five course tasting was Strawberry, almond ice cream, rhubarb, rose ice, olive oil cake.  This take on a strawberry short cake was my dining companion’s favorite and one I very much enjoyed as well.   It is rare to have a savory kitchen turn out a dessert of note, the butterscotch budino at Mozza is one, but this dish was a highlight.  We were given a final mignardes along with the check at the end of the meal.

Overall this was an ambitious meal and successfully executed.  $75 for five courses plus amuses is more than fair; there is no danger of diners leaving hungry.  On the night I dined, neither Jon nor Vinny was there as I do not believe they will be there on a regular basis as this is Ludo’s kitchen.  Helen Johannesen, Jon & Vinny’s director of operations / beverage director, was on site to ensure everything went smoothly.

It was reported by Betty Hallock in the LA Times that Trois Mec will fill its seats via selling tickets rather than taking reservations.  This method, pioneered by Grant Achatz’s Next in Chicago, ensures that it will be quite difficult to get in and that the restaurant will not suffer any no-shows.  As diners have paid in advance, the only bill they are presented with at the end of the meal is for beverages.

Tickets can be purchased at their website here.  Good luck getting in.  It will be interesting to see how the resale market develops.  Scalpers for a dinner reservation?