Friday, May 28, 2010

LudoBites at Gram & Papas (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

LudoBites at Gram & Papas
227 E 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Fri 05/28/2010, 06:00p-09:00p

LudoBites at Gram & Papas Exterior
May 28th served as the final night of the fourth incarnation of "Chef of the Future" Ludovic Lefebvre's "guerilla style pop-up restaurant" concept LudoBites. LudoBites 4.0 at Gram & Papas debuted to us eager Angelenos on April 8th, and, like its predecessors, has proven itself to be another unmitigated success. After closing out both LudoBites 2.0 and LudoBites 3.0, it wasn't even a question that I would be dining here on the last night of LudoBites 4.0. Joining me this time were Carina of Mission Fruition (and formerly of Uncouth Gourmands), Christina of Food, Je T'aime, Cynthia of Cookie Chomper, and Ryan of Epicuryan.

LudoBites at Gram & Papas Menu
The menu for "The Final Night 4.0" is shown above. Click for a larger version.

The Evening's Wines
This iteration of LudoBites was a strictly BYO affair, with corkage set at $8 per 750mL bottle. Interestingly, though the pop-up has always advertised a corkage fee, this is the first time where I was actually charged. Ryan and I each brought two bottles: I chose the whites, Ryan the reds.

2008 The Other Guys Viognier The White Knight
Our first wine was the 2008 The Other Guys Viognier The White Knight, from California's Central Valley. It was actually a bit off-putting at first, but opened up quite nicely in the glass, showing zesty, floral, and citrus notes, with a soft acidity.

Tartine Plate 'Warm Baguette' Honey-Lavender Butter & Smoked Lard
Tartine Plate "Warm Baguette" Honey-Lavender Butter & Smoked Lard [$4.00]
A "tartine" is a French term referring to buttered bread. The baguette here was indeed "warm" as advertised, and also had a nicely flaky crust and chewy interior to boot. I first tried the honey-lavender spread and found it slightly disconcerting actually, with a sweet floral flavor that Christina likened to "spa cream." I preferred the smoked lard--like butter gone rogue--with its heavy, heady flavor that really did justice to the bread--tastes like heart disease!

Brie Chantilly, Honey Comb, Balsamic
Brie Chantilly, Honey Comb, Balsamic [$7.00]
Brie is one of my favorite cheeses, and I really appreciated how its creamy, luscious character was so deftly preserved and highlighted here. Actually, this would make a great cheese course, with the honeycomb adding just the right amount of sweetness to things.

Dorade Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Spring Onions, Lemon Honey Paste
Dorade Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Spring Onions, Lemon Honey Paste [$14.00]
The ceviche on my previous visit was one of the stars of that meal; unfortunately, this version didn't reach such lofty heights. The issue was that the citrus here didn't quite have the power to properly counter the considerable brine of the dorade, which resulted in a somewhat lopsided dish. I did, however, greatly enjoy the use of onions and coriander in tempering the fish's gravity.

Ludo Chides Us
Humorously, Ludo chided us for taking too long with the photos, saying that the food would get cold (fortunately, we were enjoying the brie and ceviche at the time, so temperature wasn't an issue!). He even Tweeted to the effect...

Santa Barbara Prawn, Avocado, Passion Fruit, Cocktail Sauce
Santa Barbara Prawn, Avocado, Passion Fruit, Cocktail Sauce [$24.00]
My major issue with this dish was that the prawns were served too cold, which was a bit distracting. That being said, I greatly appreciated their fresh, snappy consistency and how the creaminess of the avocado complemented the crustaceans so well. My favorite aspect here, though, was the spicy, prickly, lingering finish from the cocktail sauce.

Marinated King Salmon, Red Wine Vinaigrette, Crème Fraiche
Marinated King Salmon, Red Wine Vinaigrette, Crème Fraiche [$14.00]
I had a version of this during my last meal here, and I'm happy to report that the dish has actually improved. The salmon's flavor was less monolithic, far more robust this time around, and really paired well with the tangy red wine vinaigrette. It was good enough to stand alone, even without the crème fraiche. Overall, a much more well-integrated dish than before.

Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce
Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce [$14.00]
Those readers with particularly good memories may remember a version of this dish from LudoBites 2.0 at Breadbar. The veal, in concert with the oysters and tonnato, was actually quite intense flavor-wise, with an almost fishy essence, though this was somewhat tempered by the almond oil. What I really enjoyed here was the use of seaweed, which contributed a marvelous, vegetal, briny flair to things that really completed the dish for me.

2007 Curran Grenache Blanc
The next white wine was the 2007 Curran Grenache Blanc, from Santa Ynez Valley. This was a fresh tasting wine, with marked notes of white fruit and straw over a backbone of crisp minerality.

Crispy Soft Shell Crab Cone, Spicy Mayo, Mango, Corona Granite
Crispy Soft Shell Crab Cone, Spicy Mayo, Mango, Corona Granite [$19.00]
Here we have an entire soft shell crab, served in a sesame tuile-like cone (it reminded me of a super-sized version of the one used for the spicy tuna amuse at Spago). I didn't get much of the mango here, which perhaps was a good thing, as I deemed the sweetness sufficient as is. My favorite part of this, actually, was the Corona granita, which was amazing in how it so accurately conveyed the essence of the cerveza. If you're wondering, the number on the paper cup denotes the number of servings made of the cone--not sure why they're keeping track of this dish over the others though.

Foie Gras, Green Cabbage, Kimchi Consomme, Pickled Turnips, Sesame Oil
Foie Gras, Green Cabbage, Kimchi Consomme, Pickled Turnips, Sesame Oil [$26.00]
The foie itself, wrapped here in cabbage (Alain Senderens famously did this at Lucas Carton), had a delightfully firm, yet pliant complexion that I loved. What was even better was the flavor, which was incredibly mild, subtle, yet astoundingly profound. The liver was quite tasty alone, but the cabbage contributed a great enveloping counterpoint to the dish, while the bitterness of the radish did wonders in tempering the power of the foie. And let's not forget the broth, which had a superb Asian-inspired essence that Carina likened to a wonton soup. Overall, this was my favorite course of the night and one of the best preparations of cooked foie gras I've had; it even reminded me of the fantastic Foie-Gras "en Papillotte" at Guy Savoy (which is the best hot foie I've eaten).

And here's the infamous photo Ludo snapped of us with his iPhone!

Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney
Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney [$29.00]
One foie gras course deserves another, and so here we had another revisited dish from LudoBites 2.0 (where the croque was one of the most requested items). What we got to taste here was the very marrow of foie gras, counterpoised nicely by the jammy sweetness of the cherry-Amaretto chutney; it was actually surprisingly effective. And if you're wondering, yes, squid ink was used to dye the brioche black.

Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guiness
Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guiness [$12.00]
The ham soup was one of the highlights of the meal previously, but it was even better tonight. The potage's meaty savor was bolder, more robust, more concentrated, and I really appreciated its interplay with the tangy cornichon and radish, as well as the delectable pieces of bread and Swiss swimming around in the bowl. A "liquid sandwich" indeed.

Boudin Noir Terrine, Apple Puree, Wasabi
Boudin Noir Terrine, Apple Puree, Wasabi [$12.00]
I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is like a savory chocolate cake, an amalgam of meaty flavors tinged by a bit of iron-y savor, with a subtle, saccharine-nutty backbone. What was really interesting was to eat the boudin noir with the paired apple sauce, which really transformed, tempered really, the nature of the terrine. Given its somewhat "challenging" character, I'm surprised this infamously slow-selling dish survived this long on the menu. For LudoBites 5.0, I'd love to see a take on the classic boudin blanc.

Squid 'Carbonara', Pancetta, Poached Egg (63°), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers
Squid "Carbonara", Pancetta, Poached Egg (63°), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers [$18.00]
This was one of my favorites from before, and didn't disappoint. I appreciated how the squid's brininess was more apparent this time, and how the luscious egg and weighty Parmesan worked so adeptly in countervailing the cephalopod. The pork belly, meanwhile, added a fantastic, overarching saltiness to the whole hodgepodge. Very nice.

2008 Château d'Oupia Vin de Pays de l'Hérault Les Hérétiques
The first red of the night was the 2008 Château d'Oupia Vin de Pays de l'Hérault Les Hérétiques, from the Languedoc region of France. This turned out to be the most challenging wine that we had, with strong touches of tobacco, earth, and leather intermixed with hints of dark fruit.

Monkfish, Baby Carrots, Carrot-Orange Coulis, Exotic Spices
Monkfish, Baby Carrots, Carrot-Orange Coulis, Exotic Spices [$26.00]
Here, I appreciated the monkfish's firm, dense flesh, but felt that the fish's natural sapor was completely overpowered by the vegetal sweetness of the carrot. I liked the use of "exotic spices," vadouvan I imagine, but even that wasn't enough to bring balance and order to the dish.

Fried Chicken, Coconut Polenta, Grilled Baby Corn, Diablo Sauce
Fried Chicken, Coconut Polenta, Grilled Baby Corn, Diablo Sauce [$18.00]
Ludo sent out an extra, complementary order of his chicken, and we were grateful for it. "LFC" is quickly becoming one of the Chef's signature dishes, and with good reason. This is some of the most succulent, saporous chicken I've ever had. I loved the meat's over-the-top, grab-you-by-the-balls flavor, and how this was so artfully accented by the bird's delightfully crispy, rosemary and thyme-encrusted skin. The coq easily stands alone, though I did appreciate the sharply spicy diablo sauce, which reminded me of the condiment that once came with KFC Hot Wings! I didn't care as much for the polenta though, which I found overly saccharine.

2005 Parsons Flat Cabernet Shiraz
The final tipple of the evening was the 2005 Parsons Flat Cabernet Shiraz, hailing from Australia's Barossa Valley. I rather liked this one, finding a spicy, coffee-tinged, jammy bouquet leading to plenty of berry fruit on the palate, along with traces of tobacco and minerals.

Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Dried Bonito, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint Potato Mousseline
Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Dried Bonito, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint [$26.00]
The only difference between this lamb and the one that I ate before was the substitution of dried bonito for smoked eel. The result, though, was considerably different. The meat was noticeably more "lamb-y," with a delightfully subtle katsuobushi flair, and I enjoyed the light, vegetal piquancy of the mint. Interestingly, Christina commented that she actually preferred the potato mousseline here to Joël Robuchon's legendary pommes purée, though personally, I prefer Guy Savoy's fist-poundingly-good truffled version!

Carina, Ludo
Carina poses for the requisite photo with Ludo.

Braised Beef Cheeks, Escargot Red Wine Butter, Leek Salad, Roasted Eggplant
Braised Beef Cheeks, Escargot Red Wine Butter, Leek Salad, Roasted Eggplant [$19.00]
Our final savory of the meal was also, as expected, the heftiest course of the night. The beef was everything you'd expect: rich, fatty, and tender, with dark, heavy, meaty flavors intertwined with a shade of red wine tang. The cube-like item, meanwhile, was an amalgam of beef jus, black currant, and agar. Given the potency of the beef, the crisp, bright astringency of the paired leeks was absolutely critical in completing the dish. Nice.

Holly of The Michelin Project staged here for the duration of the pop-up, and performed very admirably in the kitchen, according to Ludo himself. You go girl!

Organic Strawberry, Vanilla Whipped Cream & Lemon Verbena-Meringue
Organic Strawberry, Vanilla Whipped Cream & Lemon Verbena-Meringue [$12.00]
I actually preferred this to the strawberry dessert we had on my previous visit. I loved the incorporation of a richer whipped cream, which did wonders in balancing the sweetness of the strawberry, and even the macarons were more apparent this time around. The best part, though, was the use of "pop rocks;" they left a tingling sensation in my mouth that lasted for over 30 seconds!

Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream Christina Does Soufflé Christina Does Soufflé Christina Does Soufflé
Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream [$13.00]
We ended with a textbook chocolate soufflé, a classic medley of chocolate and whipped cream. Tasty, but very conventional--I didn't even get any of that delightful pepperiness from last time on the finish.

Carina, Jo Jo, Peter
Carina, Jo Christina, Jo
It's always a party when Jo of My Last Bite shows up. Actually, the blogger presence was surprisingly muted on this night, though we did meet Chad of The Provender, Ryan a.k.a. rydka, and Ravine Lal Hiranand, who will soon be debuting his Fresh East quick service restaurant concept at the new Pavilions shopping center in West Hollywood.

And with that, we come to the close of another chapter--arguably the strongest--in the LudoBites saga. This leaves us, of course, wondering where the next round, Version 5.0, will pop up. From what I gather, it'll start somewhere in the July timeframe, after the Chef serves a stint on his Ludo Fried Chicken truck. The bigger question, thus, is where? The official word is that it'll be somewhere "Downtown," but, from talking with Ludo and Krissy, the shocker may be that the next LudoBites might stay right here at Gram & Papas. Only time will tell, but you can bet that I'll be there, as always, in earnest. Until next time...


Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

Great report, can't wait for the Ludobites 5.0! Hopefully it'll be after I get back from Chicago!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 2:27:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

If 5.0 really is in July, I might actually be in town for that. So many new names and new faces. Certainly too many blogs to keep up with

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 7:43:00 AM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

It's never a final LudoBites night without YOU either Kevin!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 9:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Darin said...

I found Ludo's tweetpic highly amusing!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 9:17:00 AM  
Blogger Cookie Chomper said...

I agree with you on the shrimp..cold and rubbery. =) So this is what you keep on that "notepad" of yours. LoL.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 9:24:00 AM  
Blogger food je t'aime said...

I'm craving a foie gras croque monsieur right now haha all because of your picture of it. It's always such a pleasure eating with you :)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 3:38:00 PM  
Blogger Nomsnotbombs said...

The only thing that I wanted to try that I didn't get to sample was the ham soup. It sounds like I missed out!

The things that I came away obsessed with were the crab cone (+ granite mmmmm), potato mousseline and strawberry macaron dessert. I miss them already.

Great writeup! And thanks again for the invite :) Next time!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 8:28:00 PM  
Blogger Christie Bishop said...

Nice write-up; loved Ludo's tweetpic! I've missed the last two iterations of LB, so definitely looking forward to 5.0!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 8:41:00 PM  
Blogger bagnatic said...
great looking eats and zero calorie pics! i like.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger nelehelen said...

nice! great write up once again!

hopefully we'll be able to go to the 5.0 together?! :)

Thursday, June 03, 2010 2:52:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Danny: Yeah I'm pretty sure that it will be after. Where are you hitting up in Chicago (other than Hot Doug's)?

Aaron: You're coming back for the 4th of July right? What are the exact dates? We should go out somewhere.

Jo: Please, you're the life of the party!

Darin: Us, we were slightly less amused. ;)

Cynthia: Yes, among other juicy tidbits. ;)

Christina: You too! I'm craving that other foie gras dish.

Misty: Yeah that ham soup was all sorts of awesome. As always, next time! =)

Christie: For sure. It's actually quite interesting to see the progressions between the different LudoBites iterations.

Amy: Did you return after your opening night dinner? Would've been nice to bookend the engagement. ;)

Helen: Thanks. Looking forward to 5.0 as well. :)

Friday, June 04, 2010 4:59:00 PM  
Blogger bagnatic said...

couldn't go back cuz i've been a busy mofo :( it would not have been right for me to pull out my laptop to do work while i noshed on some ludo bites. salvation is near.

Sunday, June 06, 2010 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Right now:

Frontera Grill
Alinea (Of Course)
Graeme Elliot

Nothing is final I guess. I'm debating if I should add either L20 or Moto in the mix. Also looking at Avec. Wanted go to Avenues, but it's going to be closed when I visit. For some reason, Trotter doesn't interest me much....any other suggestions?

Monday, June 07, 2010 2:58:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Amy: Ludo puts up with the cameras; I don't think he'd mind the laptop too much. ;)

Danny: Good choices! I'd also look at Schwa, Spring, TRU, and Topolobampo in place of Frontera Grill. Who you going with?

Monday, June 07, 2010 2:04:00 PM  
Blogger Elise Thompson said...

You are so insanely thorough it almost gives me a complex.

That brie was truly luscious, sigh. And I ate the ham soup three times.

On the night we ordered the baguette, we didn't get the lard. My mother grew up on a farm and she used to say she was grateful they had cows so she got to have butter sandwiches at school. The poor kids ate lard sandwiches. But now I'm dying of curiosity.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 9:20:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Kiki, if no lard, then what???

Friday, June 11, 2010 2:58:00 AM  

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