Monday, April 23, 2012

LUDOBITES - Finally! LudoBites 8.0 at Lemon Moon

Stars and planets aligned and I was finally able to go to my first iteration of Chef Ludo Lefebvre's "pop-up" restaurant LudoBites in its eighth outpost. This time Chef Ludo took over Lemon Moon restaurant on West Olympic Boulevard. Thankfully, after so much hype and excitement there was not an ounce of disappointment from first experience under Chef Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre's care. 

By now it's been over two month's since I sipped hard cider and languished over course after course of Chef Ludo's cuisine. But better late than never, eh? And it doesn't feel like its something of the past because I am still thinking about and craving the tuna with somen I had that night every single day (no joke). (Sorry in advance for the dim photos, was trying not to be too ... flashy.)

So, let's start at the beginning. My dinner guest and I opted for the NV Cambremer Cidre. Our meal began with a bang- literally- as the cork popped out of the bottle of cider the moment the cage was undone.
Next it was time to survey the menu and devise our plan of attack. We didn't opt to have the whole menu, as many do. As it was I was totally full when we left after eating less than half of the menu. I admit I was thrilled to have this simple piece of paper finally sitting in front of me in real life, not just a photo on the internet for once:
Burgundy Gougères and Chicken Tandoori Crackling got things going. I found it smart and comforting that Chef Ludo offers up something as simple as cheese puffs on menu. It is a way to taste something familiar at start of the meal as a means of easing into his unique flavor combinations and cooking techniques. The cracklings were like super fancy nachos without a tortilla in sight. The chicken liver mousse was a meaty cloud on a crisp chicken skin 'chip'.

The tuna is coming, but the other dish from LudoBites I've thought about probably once a week since my meal there was this Lobster Salad with Yuzu and Honey. The dish was cold but the lobster was still succulent, the yuzu bright and the combination of textures- tooth-some lobster, crunchy daikon, and creamy honey- made for a perfect few bites. The brightness of summer in the coolness of winter. 
The most adventurous dish my dinner date and I tried was the Uni Crème Brulée. After so many people who had been to LudoBites 8.0 had raved about this dish, we had to try it. It was my first time trying uni and I enjoyed it, but wasn't over the moon about it. Crème brulée is something I know well, however, and I thought the preparation was spot on. A little pot of smooth, rich creaminess with a shattering caramelized top. The salmon roe made for fun little pops in the mouth amid the crunch of the bruléed top. 
Okay- here it is. My favorite dish of the night: Big Eye Tuna, Tahitian Vanilla, Somen, 7 Flavor Vinaigrette. I'm obsessed with this dish. I mention it to everyone. Even now. Months later. I longingly stare at the tuna in the fish case at the grocery store. Wishing I could time travel back to the moment I had this. Now, I may seem a little intense about this, but I must say I became a pescephile during my California vacation in February. My trip started out with a night at RA Sushi in Corona. I was there for Happy Hour with my aunt and uncle so we shared a mix of small dishes. My favorite was the all the tuna! So when I saw Chef Ludo's tuna dish on his menu a few days later I knew I had to have it. 

The tuna was perfectly seared- that is to say, very briefly. The Tahitian vanilla was a perfume the fish wore as if it were it's little black dress. And the somen in the vinaigrette accessorized the tuna to a T. I wanted to devour every last bit, but I sadly left some behind for I knew there were three more dishes to come. If I had been staying in Los Angeles the longer I would have gone back to LudoBites and begged Krissy to let me in just to eat the tuna again with nothing else. Chef Ludo, if you are reading, and we ever get to cook together- please let's make this!  
Sorry for the half-eaten nature of the photograph-- I couldn't wait to dig in!
After I, at last, let the tuna go we were served Veal, Black Olive Tapenade Crust, Orange Caramelized Endive, Clementine Beurre Blanc. There was a lot going on with this dish and it worked together. I would have maybe gone a different way than the olive tapenade because I found that it over powered the more delicate flavor of the veal. The clementine beurre blanc was a delight- I love seeing clementines getting some action outside of being eaten in their raw segments. 
Our final savory dish of the night was my dinner date's favorite. He is much more of a carnivore and wasn't wild about the tuna and lobster like I was. "Newport Pride Natural" Hanger Steak, Red Beets, Shallots, Goat Cheese was a new riff on the hanger steak Chef Ludo served at Meatopia in New York City in the summer. This cut is bursting with flavor and the sourness from the shallots and the tart tang from the goat cheese are balanced by it's meaty flavor. The crunch of the radishes kept the meat-centric dish feeling crisp and bright.
Dessert came in the form of a salty-sweet deconstructed tart of Lemon Meringue, Poppy Seed Crumble, Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Playful dollops of thick lemon and airy meringue  and whipped cream dotted a sandy bed of poppy seeds and savory crumbs with a creamy olive oil swipe on the side.
LudoBites did not disappoint. I hope my future holds many more iterations of Chef Ludo's inventive dishes and if I'm lucky, maybe even one sooner rather than later on my coast. 

Thank you Ludo and Krissy for a wonderful evening! Let's get together and make tuna next time I'm in town! 

Follow Chef Ludo on Twitter: @chefludo
and Krissy, too!: @FrenchChefWife

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