Thursday, October 21, 2010

LudoBites 6.0 at Max (Sherman Oaks, CA)

LudoBites 6.0 at Max
13355 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Thu 10/21/2010, 06:45p-11:00p

LudoBites 6.0 at Max Exterior

I didn't get a reservation.

No joke. I hope that this puts to rest accusations that "half the tables each night are reserved for food bloggers, critics, friends of the chef and other sycophants."

I stayed late at work on the 12th to make full use of my employer's 45Mbps T3 connection, hoping that the extra speed would boost my chances of scoring a coveted ressie. I had multiple browser windows open (including one dedicated to Krissy's tweets), and was punching F5 with gleeful abandon from 4:59 to 6:31. Sure, I managed to score a few time slots, but when I went to confirm, OpenTable, of course, crapped out on me. It was a disheartening ordeal, certainly. OpenTable, at least, has apologized for the debacle.

Fortunately, bloggers do tend to stick together (as this anonymous commentator sagely pointed out), and I was graciously extended an invitation to join Darin Dines' party of four on opening night. I could not have asked for a better resolution.

This time around, LudoBites is setting aside a dozen seats for walk-ins, so I imagine that I'll attempt to snag a few of those as well somewhere down the line. The series runs from October 21st to December 5th--with a hiatus from November 12th to November 29th (to allow Ludo to cater events for Tiffany and Louis Vuitton)--and will be held at André Guerrero's Max (recently known as Marché) in Sherman Oaks. Guerrero, for his part, also owns The Oinkster, and plans to reopen Max next year.

LudoBites 6.0 at Max Interior

LudoBites 6.0 Menu LudoBites 6.0 Wine List LudoBites 6.0 Wine List
The opening night menu, with plenty of what we've come to expect from Ludo, along with some rather unusual twists thrown in for good measure. Note, importantly, that this is the first time that LudoBites has had a liquor license, hence the wine list (curated by Domaine LA). Click for larger versions.

Warm Baguette, Baratte Smoked Butter, Sardine-Laughing Cow Cheese
Warm Baguette, Baratte Smoked Butter, Sardine-Laughing Cow Cheese [$5.00]
The bread arrived at the table nicely warm, with classic baguette flavors and textures. The two paired butters, meanwhile, were quite intriguing. The beurre de baratte is a French style of butter creamed with a churn instead of a centrifuge; here, it came doused with a hefty amount of smokiness. The sardine-cheese amalgam was even more interesting, showing of a brazenly fishy character over a soft base of luscious cheese; it was almost canned tuna-like in essence, and quite delicious.

Mexican Mojito Jan Purdy
The new LudoBites will be featuring a special cocktail each night, and tonight we had the Mexican Mojito [$8.75], made with Tequila Real de México. Apparently, this was the tequila that Ludo drank an entire bottle of (with no subsequent hangover) at the infamous Mexico-vs-France match of the World Cup. In any case, it was certainly a welcomed twist to the standard mojito, with the cilantro beautifully balancing the heft of the tequila, all with a subtle undertone of spicy jalapeño--nice. Serving as bartender tonight was Jan Purdy, Guerrero's business partner-cum-pastry chef and former romantic interest.

Kumamoto Oysters, Kimchi Consommé Gelée, Camembert Mousse, Apple
Kumamoto Oysters, Kimchi Consommé Gelée, Camembert Mousse, Apple [$18.00]
Heightened by the savoriness of the marinated lettuce leaves, Kumamotos were expectedly briny, and transitioned wonderfully to the lovely, crisp, juicy sweetness of pickled apple. A refreshing start to the meal, though I did find the Camembert a bit domineering when thrown into the mix.

Hamachi, Vietnamese Style
Hamachi, Vietnamese Style [$15.00]
Arguably my favorite course of the night, hamachi sashimi came dressed in a selection of Vietnamese-inspired toppings: jicama, papaya, lotus root, shallot, and rice wine vinaigrette, among other ingredients. The clean, subtle relish of the yellowtail was gorgeously complemented by its tart 'n' tangy accoutrements, and I loved the savory weight of the shallot. Perfectly balanced, just a faultless mélange of tastes and textures.

NV German Gilbert Cava, Brut Nature, Penedes, Spain
With our mojitos dispensed with, we turned to wine, and what better way to start than with some bubbles? The NV German Gilbert Cava, Brut Nature, Penedes, Spain [$28] was a fitting tipple--unabashedly dry, yet with a soft, almost feminine character that just begged to be drunk.

Black Trumpet Mushroom Cappuccino, Creamy Butternut Squash
Black Trumpet Mushroom Cappuccino, Creamy Butternut Squash [$15.00]
We have here a cool mushroom-potato base, topped with a layer of warm butternut squash soup. On the palate, the sensation was clearly sweet (but not overwhelmingly so) at first, but soon transitioned to the far more savory base of the cappuccino--with strong notes of potato and garlic--while the finish was imbued with the earthy essence of mushroom. A fascinating study in contrasting tastes and temperatures.

Marinated Mackerel, Leche De Tigre, Baby Leeks, Verdolagas Leaves
Marinated Mackerel, Leche De Tigre, Baby Leeks, Verdolagas Leaves [$15.00]
Mackerel was a polarizing course. It was, expectedly, quite fishy in savor, and had a skin that was coated in sugar then torched in a brûlée-esque manner. The resultant interplay of sweet and briny flavors was slightly disconcerting actually. The key, though, was the verdolagas (purslane). Its piquant taste adroitly offset the weight of the mackerel, completing the dish perfectly.

André Guerrero
Max/Marché/Oinkster owner André Guerrero. We chatted briefly about his upcoming restaurant projects--some exciting things in store!

Mussels Velouté, Green Peppercorn, Pineapple, Fennel, Potato Paille
Mussels Velouté, Green Peppercorn, Pineapple, Fennel, Potato Paille [$18.00]
Mussels, presented here in velouté form, showed off a complex interaction of sweet and ocean-y flavors, which then led to a lingering finish redolent of peppercorn. The pommes paille (potato straws), meanwhile, were a tasty, crispy, salty complement (though rather difficult to eat). Krissy even likened the dish to a deconstructed moules frites.

Barely Cooked Squid Noodles, Pad Thai, Prawn, Tofu
Barely Cooked Squid Noodles, Pad Thai, Prawn, Tofu [$16.00]
The squid was suitably tender here--though I would've liked more snappiness--and went beautifully with the crunchy bean sprouts. Flavor-wise, the calamari's subtle sweetness was deftly augmented by the use of coconut, and I really appreciated the bit of nuttiness in the dish as well, but I could've done without the pineapple and grapes. Lovely, lingering heat here from the application of red chili pepper, too.

Scallop, Celery Root Remoulade, Red Port, Walnuts, Passion Fruit
Scallop, Celery Root Remoulade, Red Port, Walnuts, Passion Fruit [$24.00]
Scallops were expertly cooked, showing off some nice caramelization and a suitably soft consistency. Their sweetness was aptly balanced by the vegetal tang of the celery root, while the passion fruit contributed just a tinge of tart sweetness. Very enjoyable texture on the celeriac, as well.

Poached Foie Gras, Green Lentils, Miso Broth, Turnips & Radish
Poached Foie Gras, Green Lentils, Miso Broth, Turnips & Radish [$34.00]
I can always count on Ludo for his inventive presentations of foie gras, and this was no exception. Since the liver was poached, it had a simply amazing texture to it, with an almost "eggy" character that I adored. The foie, subtle yet profound in savor, was simply delectable on its own. However, I did also appreciate the tempering earthiness imparted by the lentils, as well as the great bit of vegetal tang from the turnips and radish. Probably one of the best preparations of hot foie gras that I've ever had.

Server extraordinaire Emileigh, whom I first encountered at LudoBites 5.0. Look for the blue hair.

John Dory, Potato, Herbs, Broccolini Flowers, Green Jalapenos Nage
John Dory, Potato, Herbs, Broccolini Flowers, Green Jalapenos Nage [$26.00]
Dory was suitably tender and immensely delicate in flavor. The potato crisps, thus, added a great bit of saltiness to the fray. Even better was the broccolini, with its bright, green savor that really made the dish for me.

2007 Camus-Bruchon Bourgogne Rouge, France
We needed a red to go along with the more substantial courses to follow, and Krissy recommended the 2007 Camus-Bruchon Bourgogne Rouge, France [$36] for us. This was a light, lovely wine, pretty much what you'd expect from the region, with the requisite notes of cherry and smoke over a backbone of leather and earth.

Half Chicken, Chorizo, Poached Egg, Chanterelles, Saffron Onions Soubise
Half Chicken, Chorizo, Poached Egg, Chanterelles, Saffron Onions Soubise [$24.00]
Chicken was marinated in chorizo, then cooked sous vide, resulting in some of the best poulet that I can recall ever having. Unbelievably tender and undeniably succulent, the chicken was simply a joy to eat, especially when taken in concert with the bird's fantastically savory skin. The chanterelles and runny, poached egg added further gravity to the dish, but the chicken easily stood alone. A table favorite, though I could've done without the soubise.

Nebraska Ribeye, Japanese Whiskey, Smoked Shishito Peppers, Amaranth
Nebraska Ribeye, Japanese Whiskey, Smoked Shishito Peppers, Amaranth [$38.00]
Our final savory course of the night brought us the best steak that Ludo's ever served. The meat, American wagyu, was as rich, as unctuous as you'd expected, with an almost foie gras-like savor to it that was keenly balanced with a bit of bitter char. The beef, certainly, was tasty alone, but was even better when paired with the heat of the shishitos and the tangy amaranth leaves.

Warm Carrot Cake, Coconut, Thai Curry, Mango Sorbet, Kaffir Lime Oil
Warm Carrot Cake, Coconut, Thai Curry, Mango Sorbet, Kaffir Lime Oil [$10.00]
Ludo's first dessert was inspired by the Thai soup tom kha. We were instructed to pour the oil on top of the cake, then eat everything together in one bite. The effect was quite amazing, as the dish vividly recalled the essence of the coconut milk-based soup. Very cool.

Pear, Hot Chocolate, Matcha Green Tea Broth, Mint
Pear, Hot Chocolate, Matcha Green Tea Broth, Mint [$12.00]
Finally, we had a dish of poached pear, an undeniably classic dessert, but with a Ludo twist, of course. The pairing of chocolate with the pear is fairly traditional, but the use of matcha was a pleasant surprise, effectively moderating the sweetness of the fruit with a great touch of astringency.

And with that, another iteration of LudoBites has been thrust upon us once again. Ludo's food seems more deliberate, more articulate this time around, and I love some of the more whimsical, globally-inspired touches that have been incorporated on the plate. v6.0 is strong contender for the title of the top LudoBites yet, but I'll have to reserve judgment until I get another visit under my belt...if I can.

Ludovic Lefebvre

Previous LudoBites posts: v5.0 at Gram & Papas [1], v4.0 at Gram & Papas [1], v3.0 at Royal/T [2] [1], v2.0 at Breadbar [1].


Blogger Sam C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Friday, October 22, 2010 2:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Darin said...

I'm all about problem resolution, Kevin. Glad you could make it!

Friday, October 22, 2010 2:36:00 AM  
Blogger Sam C. said...

Man! you're fast!And as always, great pictures. haha. Wished i could've tried everything...*sigh* I need to revisit Ludobite for scallop, chicken and steak.

Friday, October 22, 2010 2:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice pictures and you're fast to post this, but do you actually read what you're writing these days compared to how you use to write before? Your language has become so flowery and theatrical these days, it is frankly distracting to what you are trying to say. You're not Sam Sifton; just post how you feel without the theatrics. That's what drew your users to your site previously. You were a regular dude who wrote in a down-to-earth manner about his food experiences. It doesn't feel that way any more, and feels forced or fake.

Friday, October 22, 2010 9:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian Resnick said...

Hey man, excellent post and always great running into you.

Friday, October 22, 2010 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger nelehelen said...

jealous! i tried to snag a ressie as well.. but failed. :( if you decide to do a walk-in, let me know! i'd love to join. :)

Friday, October 22, 2010 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous ila said...


especially that hamachi x vietnamese thing going on over there.

Friday, October 22, 2010 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger stuffycheaks said...

i hear ya, i F5 for 1.5 hrs too but no success (sob). Might have to try the walk-in. Looks great tho, Ludo really does know how to cook a scallop

Friday, October 22, 2010 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Kevin, is the 12 walk-in seats, one seating only, or does it turn over?

Friday, October 22, 2010 1:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kumamotos were expectedly briny."

Skookum, Falsa Bay, Malaspina, and others are briny. Kumamotos are not ever expectedly briny, they're expectedly creamy and sweet. As were Ludo's oysters, that night, two tables away from yours.

Friday, October 22, 2010 1:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Opening night! Jealous! OK, time to work on a cancellation, friend with a table or a walk-in. Food looks great, as usual. Fascinated by the squid noodles, poached foie and carrot cake tom kha.

Friday, October 22, 2010 1:59:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Darin: Thanks again for the invite. Now to work on closing night...

Sam: You know, if you were to do a walk-in tonight, you'd probably have a good chance at that.

Anon: I believe that the floridness of my posts ebbs and flows naturally; it's not really a conscious decision, but I see where you're coming from. I will make an effort to be more straightforward with my prose in the future.

Brian: Great bumping into you as well! I'm sure that our paths will cross again in the near future.

Helen: Will do. It'll probably be at least a couple of weeks, and I must make sure to have a backup restaurant in place.

Ila: Yeah it was a tasty Vietnamese-Japanesey mix, just like you!

Stephanie: I think that pretty much every food blogger in LA was undergoing the same F5 exercise that fateful Tuesday. Thankfully, at least a few of us made it through.

Evan: It actually does turn. On this night, at least twice.

Anon: I believe that pretty much all oysters have a core of brininess inherent in them. Yes, it was a sweet brine though.

Linden: Walk-in may actually be your best bet, especially if you're only a party of two. My recs are the hamachi, foie, chicken, and rib eye.

Friday, October 22, 2010 2:18:00 PM  
Blogger Rodzilla said...

I actually saw that you posted this the other night, but waited until I felt I had enough time to dedicate to reading it. I was not disappointed, great detail and pictures as always.

Saturday, October 23, 2010 8:44:00 PM  
Blogger gourmetpigs said...

I didn't snag a ressie either, I wonder if the wait for the walk-in would be crazy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 1:10:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Rod: Thanks--I appreciate the restraint that you showed!

Fiona: It actually wasn't too bad on this particular night. I think you should try a walk-in, but just have a backup restaurant in the area in mind.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 8:06:00 PM  
Blogger chew chew food review said...

how could this put a rest to this accusation when in reality you were invited through your network of elite food bloggers?!! hypocrisy at its best.

Monday, October 25, 2010 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Chocolate & Chants said...

Wow. I love your blog. I'm not a food blogger (although I love food and eating out), but felt the need to post about my experience at Ludobites 6.0 on my blog.

I think i'll be referring to your blog a lot when it comes to finding places to eat in LA! I'm always coming up short when visitors ask me to take them out. I just usually stick to my favorites.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Famished Foodie said...

Looks excellent, a trip to the Valley is in order (I never make trips to the Valley for dinner).

Friday, October 29, 2010 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

starwind: Thank you. However, as you can see, I don't have a blogroll. Sorry!

Chants: You have quite a nice blog going, but it needs to focus more on food. ;) I read your LudoBites post--don't worry, Ludo's food can definitely be challenging, and it's not for everyone.

FF: Me too! You can count on one hand how many times I've gone to dinner in the SFV. :)

Friday, October 29, 2010 4:36:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Andrew, the accusation is that LudoBites specifically saves roughly half the seats for bloggers/critics/friends.

As an "elite food blogger," I should have top priority for those seats, right? That fact that I did not would suggest that tables, are, for the most part, not held.

Friday, October 29, 2010 4:40:00 PM  

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