December 21st I celebrated my birthday quietly with D at Ludovic Lefevbre's most recent Ludobites engagement at Royal/T. Rather than explaining yet again all about the brilliance of Ludobites, you can read about it here, here and all about Ludo's most recent engagement at Royal/T here.
Having already experienced many items from this particular menu, I was able to focus on anything I adored the first time and anything new Ludo might have added that we might find intriguing.
We started the evening off with a beautiful berry-licious Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé sparkling wine. When living in London with H, one of our favorite pastimes was to pop around to the Odd Bins for a bottle of Crémant then lounge around the flat philosophizing while sipping fizz and munching on salt & vinegar crisps. At the time it never occurred to me to ask what a Crémant is, until now anyway at 6am mid-winter vacation.
Crémants are sparkling wines made in the methóde champenoise, but outside the Champagne region of France. There are seven Crémant regions in France and one in Germany. To earn the label Crémant, the wine makes must still adhere to strict wine making guidelines, mais bien sur!
- Grapes must be harvested by hand, in amounts not exceeding the set amount for their AOC.
- Crémants must be aged a minimum of one year.
- In Bourgogne, Crémants must be a combination of 30% Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris grapes. (Aligoté may be used to fill out the remaining %).
Information courtesy of Wiki. While I looked at a few other sites, Wiki compiled the information the most thoroughly and succinctly. Merci beaucoup, Wiki.
First course of the evening was a new soup. Celery root soup with black truffle and parmesan. Black truffle is such a subtle flavor compared to white truffle or the truffle oil that is permeating lesser menus all over the place. The truffle flavor here was subtle, the parmesan and celery root flavors snuggle against each other nicely. The warm rich texture of this soup was perfect for a cold winter's night, the first night cold enough to justify bringing my warmest long black winter coat out of the closet.
Tuna Sushi Rice Ice Cream, Soy Sauce Gelee, Smoked Ginger Oil. This is a beautiful little dish, so characteristic of Ludo's inventiveness. Very high quality fish, and both the soy gelee (salty) and ginger oil (bitter sweet) were beautiful with the fish. However, I was looking for more acidity in the rice ice cream. Sushi rice is typically made with sugar, salt and rice wine vinegar. While I got the sweetness and the rice of the sushi rice, I didn't get enough of the acidity of a well constructed sushi rice. It was a delicious ice cream nonetheless. Sinosoul, are you listening? Get in the kitchen and make me some sushi rice ice cream!!!!
On my birthday, I left the house with every intention of paying 100% attention to my spouse. Sans camera. Just enjoy the food, the conversation, the fizz, the atmosphere. Reflecting on the year past and plans for the future. But...NOOOO!!! No matter where you go, your iPhone is there with you.
This course I enjoyed during the Food Digger preview event. Slowly Sauteed Monterey Wild Squid, Chorizo Oil, Kimchi Puree, Black Olive. Loved the first time, loved it on my birthday. D found the squid to be undercooked, which to me means that it was cooked perfectly. Soft, malleable in my mouth, just a touch of resistance. The standout flavor in the dish is the kimchi puree, which is the mustard yellow schmear across the plate. Balanced nicely against the chorizo oil, the dehydrated black olive crumbles were just a fun fairly neutral flavored addition to the plate. I scarfed most of this myself.
D swooned over this. Brittanny Cod Teriyaki, Mashed Potatoes, Pickled Garlic, Lemon Miso. A fan of Ludo's plating, the lemon miso is the swipe of yellow against the wide lip of the dish. I loved the flavor combination of lemon paired with miso but felt it had a hard time standing up to the teriyaki, while the teriyaki sauce here was what D wanted to lick the plate clean of. The cod was gorgeous, succulent, meaty, no bones.
And about this time we up-ended the Crémant into the ice bucket. Ludo did something genius for his customers this run and partnered with the gal over at Domaine 547 to build a wine list both beautiful and easily wallet accessible. Therefore, our wonderful berry-rific Crémant was only $36, and our second bottle of fizz was only $30. (We didn't finish the second bottle, we are slowing down in our old age.)
This German Gilabert cava came highly recommended by several people on Twitter who had visited Ludo during this engagement pre-moi. It was better than the Crémant. Drier, little tighter fizz, apple flavors but not too tart. Full case-worthy. Cava is sparkling wine made in Spain, according to the methóde champenoise, wherein the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. You can buy this for $15 at Domaine 547 in Hollywood at 6801 Melrose, at the corner of Melrose and Mansfield. Just saying.
This is so not a great picture of a really umami-gasmic dish. Braised Veal Udon, Kombu Dashi, Enoki Mushrooms, White Curry. For some reason, in this iPic of my iMeal, the broth looks thick and viscous. It was nothing of the sort. 'Twas thin, dark, umami-wonderful kombu seaweed dashi broth bearing chunks of a rather lean veal and long thin threads of enoki mushrooms. Just eating this has to be good for the soul. The white curry paste on the side was a lovely element, unnecessary because the dish was complete without it, delicious nonetheless.
The fried chicken heard round the Twitter-verse. Tweeps have been tweeting about this fried chicken in mole with baby corms since Ludo opened the Royal/T doors. Fried Chicken, Cantal Polenta, Baby Corn, Mole. Anyone following Ludo closely knows he learned his mole making OG style in East LA under the tutelage of the Teenage Glutster's mom. On the night in question (did I mention yet that it was my birthday?), Javier and his mom were in the dining room tasting the fruits Ludo's mole making. I gotta say that Mama Glutster is adorable with that blonde hair and bright smile. You raised your kid good, Mama Glutster.
This chicken was delish. Not identifiable body parts, which is something I am usually more comfortable with in fried chicken thanks to my mom's skills with a butcher knife and her own fabulous fried chicken recipe. However, inside the thick slightly spicy breading are pieces of the most succulently rich chicken, the polenta had a soft, mild flavor and texture and the mole brought the pop and thrill to the dish. Javier said Ludo is doing things to the mole no Mexican would ever dream of, but to be honest it tasted pretty much like the mole I vividly remember eating in Yucatan so many years ago. And that baby corm in its husk didn't hurt the dish either. Likes.
Sadly, Ludobites has vanished seemingly into thin air yet again, leaving behind a barrage of blog posts to commemorate this recent successful run and hundreds of tweets extolling the virtues of Ludo's cooking and the graciousness of his wife and our hostess Krissy.
Happily, I had a sublime evening with my husband that ended with my head on the pillow before 11 dreaming of slow sauteed squid, kombu dashi and sushi rice ice cream.