DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - There are several good things, and one very bad thing, about being one of the lucky few to snag a reservation at LudoBites 5.0, the traveling, ever-changing restaurant created by chef Ludovic Lefebvre and his wife Krissy.
The French-born Lefebvre is a culinary rock star who temporarily rents out small venues, in this case the Fashion District’s tiny Gram & Papa’s.
LudoBites 5.0 scores on several levels. There’s the cool factor of being able to get in the place where just about every food lover wants to be. More important is the food, which is like nothing you’ve ever had before (Lefebvre changes the menu for each LudoBites incarnation). You’ll probably never have it again after the restaurant closes Sept. 3 — that’s the one bad part.
It was odd to see an otherwise desolate corner of the Fashion District filled with people packing a 40-seat restaurant on a Thursday evening. Inside, Krissy and Gram & Papa’s owner Mike Ilic greeted everyone who entered.
The dinners are communal, with most tables sharing every plate. Our foursome ordered nine of the 16 items on the menu that night and somehow managed to share amicably. This was despite my temptation to gobble down each entire plate.
A standout was the grilled octopus with oregano, grilled hazelnut polenta, pineapple aioli and piment D’espellette gelee. The octopus was not as chewy as one would expect. The meat was rich, and though not tender, it still managed to fall apart at the right moment in my mouth. It exploded with that “sea” flavor that good octopus should have.
Another winner was the poached egg potato mousseline with chorizo condiment. It was total comfort food, the egg yolk dripping into the warm, airy potato as the slightly spicy and salty flavor of the chorizo kicked in seemingly from nowhere.
There were two stars among stars, starting with the confit pork belly, with raw choucroute and mustard ice cream.
The pork was flawless: tender, rich, fatty, slightly salty and so juicy. The choucroute, reminiscent of lemony sauerkraut, accented the richness of the meat. To be honest, I don’t know if the mustard ice cream added anything to the mixture. While it was good on its own, it was simply overpowered by the other flavors.
Just as impressive was the steamed duck lemon verbena, with crispy skin puree, white peach, radish and balsamic.
The duck was fantastic, perfectly greasy and juicy. What made it stand out was the crispy skin puree. The flavor of the duck mixed with the crunchy skin and the sweetness of the grilled white peach is memorable.
After that last bite of duck I was sad. The meal was over. In a way, eating at LudoBites is like hooking up with someone way out of your league while on vacation with none of your friends around to witness it and no chance of replicating the experience.
I hope we meet again LudoBites. If not, I’ll always have a great story to tell about our time together in the Fashion District.
Gram & Papa’s is at 227 E. Ninth St., (213) 624-7272. For LudoBites 5.0 reservations go to ludolefebvre.com.
Contact Richard Guzman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
page 13, 08/16/2010
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