Continuing on my thankful streak from November, December began with another event I'm humbled and honored to be invited to the preview dinner of Ludobites' new pop-up restaurant at Royal/T, courtesy of review site FoodDigger - which also provided some amazing wines for the occasion. I'm no stranger to the cafe-meets-art space-meets-nifty gift store and their constantly changing exhibitions with artists locally and globally, but I think this is the first time they let another chef take helm of the kitchen. Given his successes from the Breadbar stints earlier this year and last, I'm definitely curious to see what he got up his sleeves this time around.
Being no strangers to their numerous blogger fans, Krissy invested in a lightbox for all of us to use for the dishes (thankfully I sat underneath pretty good lighting, and I preferred the warmer tone at my seat. And I'm lazy.)
The nine course affair was overall very playful, with a lot of modern, East-meets-West elements reflective of Ludo's French technique and the Japanesey atmosphere of the space. Since numerous others already gave a rundown of the entire menu that night, I'll avoid a re-hash of the nitty-gritty (I probably won't be as succinct as the aforementioned posts anyways) and highlight some of my favorite items of the night.
Scallop, brown butter, pineapple & black powder - actually no stranger to this dish, since Ludo prepared this for guests at the debut of the "In Bed Together..." exhibition. And I enjoyed it every bit as much the second time around, the combo of nearly-raw scallops and pineapple with brown butter evokes a unique texture flavor that I can best describe as somewhere between a cole slaw (minus the veggie notes, obviously) and a fruity, less acidic ceviche. The touch of toasty-nuttiness from the browned butter adds a delightful depth to this starter.
Foie gras beignet w celery remoulade - a guilty pleasure, given my semi-conscientious stance on eating. But the tasty beignet, stuffed with two ounces of the fattened liver, managed to shut the trap of my higher morals. Crispy on the outside with a sweet glaze, upon biting it bursts into hot, fluffy dough and a flood of near-liquid richness. I also appreciated the accompanying remoulade and would've liked even more, it was a bright, refreshing contrast to the fattiness of the foie and was great for resetting the palate, like the ginger slices between sushi.
Marinated hangar steak with crunchy escargot, baby corn, bok choy and black olive mole - while most fusion fare typically blend influences from two disparate styles of cooking, the ever adventurous Ludo took it one extra step further with this dish and worked with three -- with French (escargot), Asian (the vegetables) and Latin-American (the mole) elements all on one plate. Being finicky with olives, I wasn't sure if I'd like the mole - but it turned out amazingly well, the olives themselves a pleasant surprise for the tastebuds, complementing the smoky, earthy and slightly sweet mole. Props for this dish also goes to Javier, a.k.a. Glutster, and his mom, who taught Ludo the art of mole making.
Chocolate cake, coconut sorbet, caramel coffee - what really made this dish for me was the addition of the pink peppercorns that went unlisted on the menu. Chocolate and peppercorn is one of my favorite eccentric pairings - offering a mild, snappy bite of vegetal spiciness as opposed to the lingering heat and smoke of the chocolate and chili combo (which I enjoy too, but that coupling has gotten a lot more play lately.) I'm also surprise by the intensity of coconut flavor in that sorbet soup, nicely holding its own against the richer, more intense chocolate and coffee caramel.
The other dishes featured that night were delightful as well; even if the flavors didn't work for me, I definitely appreciated the complexity and the creativity in their construction, forcing me to pause in-between bites to think about what's going on in my mouth--even inspiring me to be a bit more adventurous in my own cooking. A little aioli with my steamed/poached bass? maybe veal with my udon noodle soup? Sure, why not.
Now, before you fret about missing your chance to reserve at Ludobites (since it got booked up pretty much the moment it was announced a month ago,) I was told that there has been some substantial last-minute cancellations -- so you can always trying calling in and seeing if you can squeeze yourself in. It's definitely worth a try, especially after you check out the everchanging menu. And while you're at it, the wine list too - put together by Domaine LA
And of course, I can't wait to see where Chef Ludo will pop up, or settle into, next...
Finally, goes without saying, another big thank you to Ludovic&Krissy Lefebvre (and the staff) for putting up with us, cameras, notebooks and all, FoodDigger for hosting yet another wonderful dinner and, of course, all the attendees for the wonderful company and conversation.
Ludobites In Bed Together w Royal/T
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
more photos from flickr here