It was a dream come true when Kevin of kevinEats invited me to the final night of LudoBites 4.0. Not only would I be able to sample Ludo's newest creations, but I would now have perfect bookends to the whole LudoBites 4.0 experience. I would be able to compare and contrast the dishes I had at the pre-opening night FoodDigger event with the dishes on the menu for the final night. Some dishes evolved into even better creations, some dishes didn't. Some got booted off the menu and others got added on to the list of innovative offerings. Of course, we had to sample the entire menu :)
The Final Night
@Gram and Papa's
227 East 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Mmm warm crusty bread is the best way to start off a meal. This time, the lavender ended up in the butter with some honey, adding sweetness. The combination of floral-y lavender and sweet honey was a little too overwhelming for me. The lard had an intense smoked flavor. I found both flavors to be pretty strong and as a result, could not eat very much of either. I'm a much bigger fan of the lavender lard I had at the first dinner--I wanted to moisturize myself with that stuff.
I also enjoyed the brie dish a lot more last time. This may be because of a few reasons: 1) The brie was sandwiched between two slices of crostini the first time I had it. This time the brie to crostini ratio was a little off. There was too much brie and not enough crunch 2) The frisée salad was a lot more peppery the first time--providing a better contrast to the extremely rich and creamy brie 3) Also, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar > a little dollop
Dorade Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Spring Onions, Lemon Honey Paste [$14]
This was one of dishes that was more visually appealing than anything else. It was so beautiful I couldn't stop snapping pictures of it. My first bite was extremely flavorful--spicy and acidic yet sweet from the lemon honey paste. My second bite included a piece of jalapeño. Then I couldn't taste anything for the rest of this dish.
I liked the vinaigrette on this dish. It was bright and acidic. However, I thought it would've been a little boring if it weren't for the crème fraiche. I liked how it made the salmon taste creamy and rich.
Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce [$14]
Fishy. That's all I have to say. The tonnato sauce was definitely very fishy--as it should be? But what about the veal tartar? The oysters? Honestly, couldn't really distinguish between the two. All I could taste was the sauce. However, once again, it was a beautifully plated dish...maybe I just like those flowers?
Foie Gras, Green Cabbage, Kimchi Consommé, Pickled Turnips, Sesame Oil [$26]
Hands down my favorite dish of the night. Although this dish was not the prettiest we had that night, it's flavor profile was one that I enjoyed the most. The dish as a whole was complex and deep. The perfectly cooked cabbage (soggy cabbage is the worst) was wrapped around a piece of creamy foie gras, sitting in a pool of consommé that had flavors reminiscent of wonton soup (good wonton soup). Now that I'm thinking about it, it probably reminded us of wonton soup because there was sesame oil in the dish. I also loved the lightly pickled turnips--not acidic enough to overpower the foie gras, but just pickled enough to alter the texture of the turnips a little bit. Even after we demolished the piece of foie, we were all still dipping our spoons back in the bowl for that last drop of consommé--now even richer from the foie that escaped from the cabbage.
Santa Barbara Prawn, Avocado, Passion Fruit, Cocktail Sauce [$28]
I actually enjoyed this dish. Some people found the prawns to be a little too cold but I didn't mind. I found them to be pleasantly citrusy as well. What really caught me off guard was the guacamole. I didn't expect it to be frozen shavings of guacamole! Looks are deceiving! It was surprisingly cold and kind of melted on my tongue. Such an interesting sensation. Sadly, I didn't get much passion fruit out of the dish...
Crispy Soft Shell Crab Cone, Spicy Mayo, Mango, Corona Granite [$19]
I really wanted to love this dish. I couldn't. It reminded me too much of fusion sushi which I am not a proponent of. Of course, Ryan pointed out that "Spicy Mayo" and "Soft Shell Crab" was in the dish description. What was I expecting? I'm not sure but somehow I thought it be a lot better. I will say though, the sweet, crunchy sesame tuile-like cone was tasty and the corona granite was refreshing. The number on the paper cup? I guess we were the lucky recipients of the 327th crab cone.
Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish Cornichon, Guiness [$12]
This soup literally tasted like a liquified ham sandwich with a side of dill pickle. The first bite I took consisted only of some soup and some pickled radish. It was only okay. Then my spoon happened to run into a little floating island of bread and melted cheese. That bite was definitely a lot better. In fact, I wouldn't mind another bowl to myself right now. I feel like I dismissed this dish too quickly. If I could just have some more piece of crusty bread and melty cheese floating in that bowl...
Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney [$29]
Drooool. I would do almost anything for another one of these croque monsieurs right now. I found the cherry-amaretto chutney worked so much better than the lemon-turnip chutney I had the first night. The combination of the sweet cherry chutney, creamy foie gras, crunchy bread, and salty prosciutto was amazing. This is the one dish that I enjoyed even more than I did the first time I had it.
Boudin Noir Terrine, Apple Purée, Wasabi [$12]
Thank goodness we were a table of five. I could not have finished this dish on my own if you paid me. It was definitely VERY rich. It was my first time having any kind of boudin noir, and I can't say I loved it. I can't say it's pleasant on the eyes either. However, I got some interesting hints of nuttiness from it--like pistachio or hazelnut. Not sure why. The apple purée was a little bit sweet for me, but I really enjoyed the heat from the wasabi.
Squid "Carbonara", Pancetta, Poached Egg (63 degrees), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers [$18]
This was another dish that I had been lusting over that failed to live up to my expectations. Of course, anything with a poached egg can't be bad but this was just a little bland for me. Without the fatty chunks of pancetta, the squid was a little flavorless to me. The only bite that was good for me was the one with pancetta--too bad there were only like three pieces of it.
Monkfish, Baby Carrots, Carrot-Orange Coulis, Exotic Spices [$26]
The monkfish was the only dish that completely did not work for me that night. The coulis was way too sweet. I love the combination of carrot and orange...but usually in my Jamba Juice, not drizzled over my seafood.
Fried Chicken, Coconut Polenta, Grilled Baby Corn, Diablo Sauce [$18]
Sadly, I've missed every previous opportunity to have Ludo's fried chicken. I applaud those who waited in line for hours just for these balls of meaty goodness. I don't know if I would do that. Sure they were good--mainly because I enjoy dark meat a whole lot more than white meat--but they were so salty! Luckily the coconut polenta and grilled baby corn tempered that saltiness. I loved the coconut polenta--the essence of coconut was faint but it was there. Usually I dont enjoy baby corn, but it worked well with the fried chicken. The diablo sauce was pleasantly tangy and spicy but I didn't really need it. Overall, I'm glad I finally got to try Ludo's balls. They were just a little salty... uuhh that was awkward.
Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Dried Bonito, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint [$26]
Was not blown away by this lamb. It wasn't as tender as I was hoping it would be, and there was almost more fat than meat on this thing. However, I've recently discovered my love for fresh goat cheese, and I loved the pairing of goat cheese with lamb. Most importantly, I enjoyed Ludo's potato mousseline MORE than I enjoyed Robuchon's pomme purée. Don't tell Robuchon!
Braised Beef Cheeks, Escargot Red Wine Butter, Leek Salad, Roasted Eggplant [$19]
Another dish that wasn't pretty to look at or photograph, but tasted pretty good. Initially I didn't realize that within that mound of darkness, there would be piece of tender escargot. Then my fork found some chunks of snail, and I forgave the ridiculously salty cube of reduced black currant and beef cheek juice. Ahh escargot :) so delicious. Oh and that smear of blackness of the plate? It tasted like smoke. Literally.
Organic Strawberry, Vanilla Whipped Cream & Lemon Verbena-Meringue [$12]
I enjoyed this dessert more than the soufflé. Although that giant cloud of whipped cream might be a little intimidating, underneath were some beautifully fresh strawberries and chewy, quartered macarons. If I happen to have a failed batch of macarons in the future, this is what I'm going to do with them. **I forgot to mention the pop rocks in this dessert! I've noticed that the use of pop rocks in desserts is becoming exceedingly popular. I've seen it used by Joël Robuchon and at Petrossian. This was my first time experiencing the crackling sensation of pop rocks popping in my mouth in a dessert course and it was awesome! It works surprisingly well**
Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream [$13]
The black pepper ice cream that was paired with the soufflé I had the first night was definitely more innovative. I loved the spice it added to the chocolate. This hot chocolate cream just blended right into the soufflé. I couldn't even tell it was there. Tasty, but my heart belongs to Ramon's soufflé now.
As a whole, I would have to say I enjoyed the dishes from the final night more than the first night. Of course, I now knew a little more of what to expect from Ludo, and thus was not as surprised by the dishes as I was the first night. So in that respect, there was less of the intrigue and surprise. However, I definitely felt that there was a better variety of flavors and textures this time around. Not everything was saturated in fat and butter. There were a few lighter dishes. Not many, but a few. My only gripe? Everything was a little too salty for me.
I was also dining in great company that night. Thanks to Ryan of Epicuryan...after all, it was his reservation and to Kevin for inviting me. It was also a pleasure to meet Cynthia of Cookie Chomper and Carina of Uncouth Gourmands. Of course, the fact that we were all food bloggers led to this lovely tweeted iPhone photo--courtesy of a slightly unhappy Chef Ludo. Yes, sometimes the food got a little cold but come on...there were 5 of us!