When LudoBites 4.0 ended, a part of me felt as though something was missing. I had grown accustomed to clicking onto the LudoBites menu online in search of new additions, planning in advance for my next reservation, or popping by to say "hello" to Chef Ludo and Krissy. Thankfully, LudoBites 5.0 has begun, and the Ludo-shaped hole in my heart has been partially filled.
Again located at Gram & Papa's in downtown LA, LudoBites 5.0 runs from July 21-September 3. This time around, the menu features many Asian elements infused with the spirit of experimentation and, of course, French influences and techniques.
Our hungry party of three began with an order of vadouvan naan bread with salted coconut butter ($4.00). Vadouvan, popular in France, is an Indian spice blend consisting of onion, shallots and garlic, cumin, cardamom and, frequently, curry leaves. The marriage of the curry-like flavors to the soft, fluffy naan was both natural and delightful. Although the bread provided more than enough flavor for one's tastebuds, we none the less slathered it with the rich coconut butter, which we continued to dip our fingers into long after the bread was gone.
We next ordered the confit pork belly with raw choucroute Thai-style with mustard ice cream ($24.00). Popular in Alsace, choucroute is typically made with cabbage, potatoes, spices, white wine and smoked meat. In chef Ludo's version, the rich, soft pork belly played nicely off the sweet, tangy and crunchy choucroute. I only wished that there was more pork belly in this scrumptious dish.
As a lover of all things potato, I was particularly taken with 4.0's creamy, buttery potato mousseline. As such, 5.0's potato mousseline with poached egg and chorizo ($15.00) was a must-order. The delicate flowers atop the dish bely its strong, savory flavor courtesy of the chorizo and poached egg. In taste and texture, this dish's ingredients were truly harmonious.
Halfway through dinner, Krissy asked, "Are you going to order the beef?" referring to both the raw wagyu beef with dried miso, somen noodles, peanut vinaigrette and candied watermelon and my wimpy palate. And because LudoBites has become my testing ground for previously un-sampled foods, I did. Although I could not deny the beef's lovely miso flavor, my friend and I could not help but thinking about how delicious it would be cooked, and I focused my attention the peanuts, somen and sweet watermelon. My and my friend's mental block thrilled J, who happily polished off the dish.
Our final dish was the steamed duck with crispy skin puree and lemon verbena and a balsamic white peach ($26.00). This, my first steamed duck, was incredibly tender and very enjoyable with the crunch added by the crispy skin. Although I did not quite understand the peach, I happily ate it.
Thus far, LudoBites 5.0 strikes me as a perfect representation of Chef Ludo: the food takes his French roots as its base but pushes boundaries with its inspiration from other cultures and spirit of adventure.
Although eager diners overwhelmed the LudoBites reservation system, both crashing it and fully booking 5.0's run, you can try to snag a last-minute reservation by following Krissy on Twitter and keeping a watchful eye for tweets about cancellations.
LudoBites 5.0 @ Gram & Papa's
227 E. 9th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015