What? Another Ludobites post in the blogosphere? Yeah, well -- I was a late bloomer. Actually, perennial procrastinator is more like it ~ since I kept putting it off until missing it entirely last year, and only went for my first time ever last week, practically 10 days from their finale (this Saturday) thanks to Kung Food Panda for organizing the event and giving me the push to finally go.
On my last week's excursion with about a dozen other bloggers, yelpers, twitterers and foodies in general (including Food, She Thought, Will of FoodDigger, PepsiMonster, Two Hungry Pandas and CityNitz, oh and my +1 Mr. Binary Tastebuds) -- we basically assembled our own tastings and pretty much ordered 80 percent of the menu. Sharing stuff family style, we just pass the plates up and down the table and took a forkful here, a spoon's worth there, seconds and thirds for those who particularly cared for a dish. Of course, this is after the obligatory photo gangbang with our point-and-shoots, digi-SLRs and even phone cameras.
I wouldn't say everything was a hit (a few items were too salty or unnecessarily greasy in my opinion,) but when courses do work, the effect is wondrous!! Since the menu changes up every day, instead of moping about dishes that didn't pan out for me, I'd rather highlight the favorites that I truly enjoyed and hoping that they'll make a comeback when I return . . . tomorrow!
creamy polenta, cantal cheese, oxtail, black truffles ($14) - admittedly one of the less crazy-creative dishes on the menu, but I think it's equally hard to do a simple dish right, and this version is superb. The polenta had a grits-like texture (mostly creamy with micro poppity bits) that had a barely detectable tinge of truffle, and just the mildest stretchiness from the cheese. Pair that with braised-to-mouth-tender oxtails and you get a slightly elevated and simply elegant version of a comforting classic.
foie gras black croque monsieur and cherry-amaretto sauce ($20) - as if using quality prosciutto and cheese (guessing Gruyere) isn't enough, Chef Ludovic decided to stick some foie gras in for good measure -- no objections here! With perfectly grilled bread, thankfully made black by squid ink and not a carcinogenic overkill of a char, the sandwich was lusciously rich overall but I am glad to be able to still taste the ham and the cheese components. And of course, that aromatic, flavorful jammy sauce just puts it over the top.
spaghetti carbonara w sage and Santa Barbara prawn ($22) - I had the hardest time wondering why this dish had an interesting vegetal, herbally and almost green-peppercorny flavor (surely just sage couldn't have done ALL that!) then a dining companion shocked me by saying the spaghetti is actually celery strands! After the "A HA!" I was just amazed at how they fooled me for real, if odd-tasting, pasta. Thank goodness this wasn't a few years back, or Breadbar will be swarming with low-carbing "dieters"!
marinated heirloom tomato, feta mousse, olive, red onion ($14), or as I call it "Caprese Meets Greek" - having an appreciation of lighter, vegetable-based fare too (actually, even much more welcomed in this meal given all the heavy dishes that have been served) I love the clean, pure taste of this salad that simply lets the freshness of the ingredients speak for themselves -- extra props for the re-making of the feta, whose flavor and mouthfeel are made much more subtle by lightening up as a mousse.
creme fraiche panna cotta, caramel, caviar ($15) - while most of our party is going ga-ga over the much-blogged-about chocolate cupcake and foie gras chantilly cream, bacon & nuts, I actually like the panna cotta more and appreciated the playfulness of using caviar to achieve that sweet-savory contrast--adding a sea-briny, very slightly fishy elements in addition to saltiness that works surprisingly well! And of course, everyone else fighting over that cupcake's remains only means more panna cotta for me!
Of course, I'm definitely open to novel creations that'll appear on the menu tomorrow too -- and even if certain items don't work, I definitely applaud Chef Ludovic's efforts to push the envelope and deliver eccentric, high-brow fare in a casual setting and approachable prices.
And here's hoping you're lucky enough to have secured yourself a spot in these last few days, and I'm crossing fingers that he'll stick around in the LA/OC area after this is over (not to mention treating himself and his wife to much-deserved break.)
LudoBites at Breadbar 3rd Street
8718 W 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048