8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
310 205 0124
Through August 22, 2009
Hating the fact that even on my days off my body insists on waking me up at the ungodly hour of 5:45 AM, what else is there to do but write about last night's dinner? This week my BFF/ex-roommate is in town from London and we always eat well together. I knew we would have a special experience if I took her to Ludobites during the last few weeks of Ludo Lefebvre's engagement there. Seemingly for my amusement, H's sister R decided to come with us for a girls' night out. I don't think I have ever had more fun dining with someone than R. She experienced that dinner with such gusto...previously unbeknownst to me, this is a woman who will try anything. If it isn't right the first time, she will rearrange elements on the plate until she finds a combo with the ingredients that does work, and if it is right the first time she will lick the plate clean. Yay!
We started the evening with this bottle of California sparkling wine. A reliably good fizz for the price, Mom serves this at Thanksgiving to go with the Turkey and sometimes during the annual summertime Fried Chicken and Champagne Feast. Le sigh. I wish I lived closer to her food.
We perused the menu and had a star sighting. Shawn Pyfrom, Bree Van de Camp's son Andrew, was sitting back-to-back with R. We texted A to tell her, and initially she didn't care but rapidly decided she hated us for leaving her at home. Here is a pic of the back of his head, just for A. He's shorter than I imagined, but well made.
We started the meal on the lighter side, with some veg and soup. I wanted something green inside me, so I fell for the Green Beans, Peach, Coconut, Apple, Horseradish Lemongrass.
With al dente beans, surprising long shreds of fresh coconut, and small thin chunks of apple & peach, this dish was dressed with a lovely little horseradish lemongrass mousse.
H started us out with the chilled soup, Chorizo, Cantaloupe, Cornichons. This was maybe my favorite flavor of the evening. I ran into Mike from Pepsimonster at the door, and exchanging tweets later in the evening discovered this was one of his favorites too. He was sitting with L & A from the fish bones and karaoke evening in Little Tokyo a few weeks back, and their party of 6 ordered one of everything on the menu. One.of.everything. This soup was rich, a little like a bisque but not quite as thick. The flavor was totally saturated with chorizo, almost bacony. I thought the chunks of cantaloupe were gratuitous but only because I don't love cantaloupe. Normally I think melon and cured pork products are wonderful companions, thinking of honeydew and prosciutto. What was really delightful was the cornichon granita in the middle of the soup. Frozen vinegar and pickle. Naturally, the still very British R wants to bathe in this. Eat it on crackers, off crisps, or simply with her fingers. It was that good.
R dove in head first to the exotic, Snails, Spinach, Curry-Yogurt. The curry-yogurt was a little off putting for me when reading the menu. The only curry I love is a Thai curry. However, this was a curry-yogurt foam and didn't overtake the flavor/texture of the snails nor the spinach and heavy garlic coating said snails.
I have never seen a prettier dish.
I wanted to show how much pureed spinach there was under that foam, and how dense it was. After we finished the snails, R & I were scooping out every bit of spinachy goodness we could from the bottom and sides of the dish.
One perfect lone snail. Ludo has been twittering about these snails for days.
For the second round, H requested the Heirloom Tomato Salad, Red Onions, Feta Mousse, Oregano, Olives Niçoise. Niçoise, bishes. This is the best heirloom tomato salad I have had all season. It is one of two items still on the menu from the last time I ate with Ludo & wife. Les tomates were very fresh and retained a nice firmness. *snicker* H went ape shit for the feta mousse. She has a couple food allergies, and has trouble with dairy. I remember traveling the world and living together in our twenties as a painful tummy time for her and 100% respect her dietary needs. Since feta is not dairy from cows, she could indulge in this mousse, and now wants to know how to make it at home. I am going to work on this for her. I bet I can master it and send her the info. NOT the way I have mastered Sedlar's habanero caramel? No, much more masterfully. Caramel perfection eludes me.
The second item that remained the same on the menu from my previous visit is the oxtails and polenta. Creamy Polenta, Cantal Cheese, Oxtails, Black Truffle. Of the infamous twitter feed wherein the entire vat of oxtails was spilled on the floor one evening in the kitchen and several tweeters declared willingness to eat it from the floor, this dish is delicious. The truffle this time was more prominent than last. I am sure it is a truffle specific issue. Like onions, some truffles must be naturally more flavorful than others.
For the second round, R spoke for the duck. Duck Breast, Crispy Skin Puree, Carrot Cake Coulis, Pink Grapefruits, Orange Blossom Water, Baby Rainbow Carrots. The right side of this plate was amazingly sweet, warm, savory, fatty duckness.
The left side, the side with the beautiful baby carrots, was overwhelmed by the fragrance of the orange blossom water. I normally love orange blossom water and fragrance. However, this heavy handidness overwhelmed the delicate carrots. I cried to see them go, but couldn't eat a second carrot. The duck was wonderful, and would have been better accompanied by simple buttered baby carrots. But where's the fun in that?
I caved on the Foie Gras Black Croque-Monseiur, Ham, Cherry Tomatoes, Amaretto. Hard to go wrong with ingredients this deliciously decadent. However, the bread was too crispy, a hair short of burnt. Shamelessly tossing the bread to the side, I nommed on the delicious guts, the liver contrasting nicely with the crispy ham and unmelted cheese. Now, here's the thing. In a Croque-Monsieur (or Madame) the cheese is supposed to be melted and the bread is supposed to be soft enough still to bite with your teeth. The ingredients down to the swirl of berry jam were incomparable, but the execution was a little off.
Last night was a crazy decadent food orgy with two of my favorite women on the planet who I just don't see often enough. My regular readers know I am not a dessert fan, however, how could I say no to spending another 45 minutes and another gastronomic adventure with my two beautiful companions. I could not and promptly ordered the Chocolate Cupcake, Foie Gras Chantilly, Candied Bacon Almonds, Maple Syrup. It's not my fault. Folie-a-Choisauce told me to. Looking at her blog right now quickly, a current tweet there describes pornographically (kinda) her love for the chocolate foe cupcake.
"@PepsiMonster those two were my absolute favs. I mean wowMOMwow!! that cupcake is easily my new fav dessert in the city"
Both beautiful and disturbing.
H loved the cake part of the cupcake, and actually liked the candied bacon almonds. She declared the foie gras chantilly disturbing. Creepy, even. She was a little afraid to sit at the same table as the still unfinished dessert. She subtly scooted back her stool and reached for the mace.
I was surprised at the chantilly. It was so foie. The texture was marvelously light and creamy, and the foie flavor was so strong. This is an unusual and intriguing dessert. I might need to try it again to decide how I really feel about something so dangerous.
Vanilla Panna Cotta, Caramel, Caviar. R had her eyes on this one immediately. Not a fan of caviar though, she was a little shy about how to tackle this. I dove in and relieved some of the caviar from its duty. She worked her way around the caviar, eating the simple panna cotta and perfect GD caramel. Eventually, the only thing left on the plate was some caviar and a great pool of caramel. So, she scooped some of both up with a spoon. And.....discovered....wait.....for....it.....
Ever so slightly fishy salted caramel!!! Brilliant! She.ate.it.all.
Last night was a slightly less perfect meal than last time, flavor wise. (Company wise it will not be topped, ever, until Friday.) However, I have never had food this adventurous, this surprising...this occasionally disturbing. No one else is making food like this, anywhere that I know of. This kicks the ass of molecular gastronomy like the archetypal schoolyard cigarette smoking bully pummeling the spindly class mathlete with a pencil protector all up and down the middle school hallways. Everything is inventive without so much pretense, so many machinations. Every single ingredient is perfection on its own. (We watched the produce delivery for the next day some traipsing through the restaurant at approximately 9:15 PM.) Not that there weren't a couple of miss steps here and there, but there will always be miss steps on the path to perfection. And that perfect caramel still haunts me this morning.