People love them some Chef Ludo Lefebvre. The passion that the food-obsessed feel for the Pop-Up King presents itself most fervently on two occasions: 1) when LudoBites reservations go live online (inevitably crashing the system); and 2) when one fails to obtain a reservation. On occasion number deux, said passion often turns on Chef Ludo and his wife Krissy, and scathing emails flood Madame Lefebvre's inbox. In an effort to indulge the love but avoid the crazy, LudoBites 8.0 utilized an orderly, random lottery system for reservations. Apparently, your chances of scoring a reservation hovered around 5% but, still, orderly. And it's hard to argue with a cold, unfeeling algorithm.
Fortunately, for those of us in the 95%, LudoBites 8.0 at Lemon Moon offers six walk-in seats a night, which is how Justin, his mom and I visited this latest iteration of the pop-up restaurant. Justin and his mom, in town for just one evening with her heart set on LudoBites, arrived at Lemon Moon right at 6:00PM and were seated without a wait. While I wrapped up at work, the two began with a few dishes they knew I wouldn't lament missing out on.
The mother-son dining team began with Chicken Tandoori Crackling ($5.00), crispy chicken skin topped with scoops of chicken liver mousse and sprinkled with sea salt. The two both enjoyed the combination of the airy mousse and the crunch of the crackling.
The next Noms-free bite was the Uni Creme Brulee ($18.00). In this savory take on a familiar dessert, an uni custard was topped with not only the traditional sugar coating but also salmon roe. Both Justin and his mom were floored by each rich bite of the inventive dish.
I arrived just in time for the Black Truffle Seaweed Brioche ($5.00), and thank goodness I did! This thick, crusty slab of brioche with more than its fair share of truffle flavor was one of my favorite bites of the night.
Next up was the Duck ($25.00). Although many duck dishes are often to be too gamey for my taste, Ludo's version was delightfully sweet and enhanced by the citrus notes of mandarin orange wedges and orange slices.
Our party then turned its attention back to the sea with Crab Meat, Avocado Guacamole and Pomelos ($25.00), mounds of shredded crab and dollops of guacamole and pomelo (a Southeast Asian citrus) in a broth. To this relatively new fan of shellfish, the dish was a little fishier than I was prepared for, and I let Justin eat my share.
For our last shared entree, we chose the Jidori Chicken ($22.00). Never one to settle for the familiar, Chef Ludo dressed his version of jidori chicken with broccoli, a parmesan soubise (a French onion bechamel) and walnut and egg sauces. Although chicken can seem boring compared to, say, uni creme brulee, the different components of the dish blended surprisingly harmoniously and were anything but a snooze.
Although we were nearly stuffed, the three of us convinced ourselves that the Goat Cheese Profiteroles ($15.00) could serve as a palate cleanser. On our plate, creamy goat cheese spilled out from a fluffy puff pastry and was drizzled with a pistachio oil and garnished with crispy leaves. Although "cleansing" this was not, it certainly was tasty.
For dessert, we ordered the Lemon Meringue Tart ($13.00), a deconstructed tart with poppy seed "crust" crumbles and fluffy mounds of lemon, meringue and vanilla. Each component was scrumptious on its own but decidedly kick-ass when mixed each of the other elements on the plate.
LudoBites 8.0 wraps up in just a few days on Wednesday, February 22nd. If you don't have a reservation for the pop-up's final days, be sure to give the walk-in seats a shot or check Twitter for any last minute cancellations!
LudoBites 8.0 at Lemon Moon
12200 W. Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064