Wednesday, June 01, 2011

LudoBites America at Casa Pulido (Redondo Beach, CA)

Ludo Bites America at Casa Pulido
228 Ave I, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Wed 06/01/2011, 08:00p-12:20a

Casa Pulido Exterior

163 calls, sans a redial button.

That's what it took to get through to Casa Pulido Tuesday evening at precisely 5:00. Of course, I'm talking about the latest incarnation of LudoBites, set to run one-night-only at the decidedly old-school Mexican joint in Redondo Beach. Sadly, once I got through, a phone snafu prevented the person on the other line from hearing me. My hopes were dashed. Fortunately, a certain somebody was able to secure a table, and I was able to sneak on to her reservation (thanks Diana!).

In case you've been completely out of it, over the past several months, Ludo and Krissy have been on the road filming their new television series, LudoBites America, which debuts July 19th on the Sundance Channel. The show follows the couple as they travel across the US, trying their darndest to reinvent, refine, and reinterpret classic American cuisine. Partnering with local eateries, the duo attempts to revive a community's interest in food by combining Ludo's haute French cooking with a bit of local flavor.

So far, they've graced the likes of Mobile, Alabama; Raleigh, North Carolina (It's All About The Hog at Gravy on 3/24); Santa Fe, New Mexico (Ludo Gets Fired Up On Chile! at Tecolote Cafe on 4/4); Denver, Colorado (All Buffalo Menu at Biker Jim's Dogs on 4/13); and Omaha, Nebraska (French Soul Food at Big Mama's on 5/21). Of course, given that LA gave birth to the entire concept of LudoBites, it was only fitting that the restaurant return to SoCal for a finale at Casa Pulido, a 40-plus year old, family-owned eatery located not too far away from the Lefebvre's home in Manhattan Beach.

Foie Gras Protesters Foie Gras Protesters
We were greeted by a small crowd when we arrived. Why, it was none other than the our good friends the foie gras crusaders, the very same group that picketed Providence a while back. We made sure to order up an extra helping of the foie quesadilla in their honor. How much cruelty can I swallow? Quite a bit, I assure you.

Moustache Man Film Release
A mustached man accosted us, and I thought we were being handed a petition to ban foie gras. Rather, it was a release form for the filming that was going on inside. Click for a larger version.

Ludo Graffiti Art
Upon entering, we were greeted with a large painting by graffiti artist Vyal One. As part of the show, LudoBites solicits a local artist to create a unique artpiece to commemorate each pop-up.

Casa Pulido Interior
The place was packed, with nary an empty table in sight. Not a good sign: we ended up waiting over an hour to be seated.

Holly, Anita, and Company Holly, Anita, and Company
Some familiar faces: Holly of The Endless Supper (yes, she changed her blog name yet again) and Anita of Diary of a Mad Hungry Woman, along with two of their compatriots.

Bricia Lopez Maria Monterrubio
The ladies of Guelaguetza: Bricia Lopez and mother Maria Monterrubio (both seen here modeling a Mexico soccer cap--a gift for Ludo).

Salsa-Rita Filming LudoBites America
During our wait, we sauntered over to the bar and ordered up the night's signature $8 cocktail, Ludo's "Salsa-Rita," made with Salsa Tomato Water, Lime, Cilantro, Real Reposado Tequila, and a Sugar Chile Rim. It was actually surprisingly delicious, conveying the tart, tangy essence of salsa nicely, and finishing it with a great kick of spice from the chili rim. I wanted some chips to go along!

Defeated Anguish
Krissy Expedites All Captured On Camera
Merde! Drama and despair in the kitchen, all captured on film. Note the presence of Chef and Johnny Depp look-alike Sydney Hunter III, fresh off his recent gig at Bastide.

Jo Hearts Cock Blocker Jo Sucks Cock Blocker
Jo and Ludo's Mom Prototypically French-Looking Woman and Ludo's Mom
Back in the dining room, nobody was surprised to see Jo of My Last Bite in the house, though her "Cock Blocker" device did catch me off guard. Joining Jo was none other than Mother Lefebvre, here from France to see the twins.

Krissy & Bricia Krissy & Bricia
Ludo & Bricia Ludo & Bricia
Both Ludo and Krissy came out to cavort with Bricia and her megawatt smile.

LudoBites Server Sexy Jessica LudoBites Server Sexy Jessica LudoBites Server Sexy Jessica
When we were finally (finally!) seated, we were greeted with yet another familiar face: our lovely server Jessica from the last LudoBites iteration at Max.

Ludo Bites America at Casa Pulido Menu
Casa Pulido was transformed into Casa PuLudo, with a menu comprised of "Tapas French Mex" fare. Naturally, with our party of six, we easily gamuted it, ordering everything on the menu--times three. Click for a larger version.

Brocamole & Chips
Brocamole & Chips [$4.00]
Brocamole came out looking more like brocalsa verde. It didn't have the weight of guacamole, but was instead surprisingly light, nicely conveying the essence of broccoli with a tangy, acidic kick. A bit strange at first, but surprisingly addictive.

Mezcal Shots Mezcal Worm All Eyes On Me
Some mezcal to kick off the meal. Of course, I ended up getting the worm, which turned out to be quite the spectacle (the camera crew made sure to get that on film). Really, it wasn't offensive at all, tasting much like its accompanying booze and serving as more of a textural component.

Ceviche, Cucumber Water, Purslane
Ceviche, Cucumber Water, Purslane [$7.00]
Ludo's ceviche featured a mild, dense base of fish played against a cool, refreshing broth of cucumber. It was an effective combination, but the key here was clearly the purslane, which showed off a good bit of tartness that really tied everything together for me. I quite appreciated the crunch of the red onion as well.

Camera Crew
I had a strange feeling that we were being watched...

Chilled Red Tomato Soup, Carrot, Smoked Fish
Chilled Red Tomato Soup, Carrot, Smoked Fish [$8.00]
Soup was quite bracing to say the least. The smoky savoriness of the fish was in-your-face from the get go, and lingered long on the palate. At the same time though, the tomato really did work in terms of tempering the sheer power of everything. What made this special, however, were the carrots, which contributed a delightful sweet crunchiness to the fray, as well as the sprouts, with their green, light, peppery tang that served to balance the dish. Somewhat reminiscent of Ludo's famous Chorizo Cantaloupe Cornichon from Version 2.0.

More Mezcal Everybody Takes a Shot
Pouring out a little mezcal for Bricia.

Crispy Octopus, Smokey Chipotle, Piquillos Pepper Polenta
Crispy Octopus, Smokey Chipotle, Piquillos Pepper Polenta [$9.00]
Octopus was one of the stronger courses of the evening, with a pleasantly supple, yet still snappy consistency. Its flavor was delectable ocean-y, with a lovely bit of creeping spice courtesy of the chipotle, as well as a tinge of sweetness from those piquillos.

Jessica Takes the Worm DO NOT WANT
Jessica gets the worm now--DO NOT WANT.

Monterey Squid Chorizo, Banana, Honey Clementine
Monterey Squid Chorizo, Banana, Honey Clementine [$9.00]
Squid had a lovely texture, with a great natural sweetness at play. The chorizo worked well here, but the combination of citrus and banana was veering toward the overly sugary. I would've liked more heat perhaps to balance things out a bit.

Brandade Tacos, Dandelion, Creamy Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Brandade Tacos, Dandelion, Creamy Extra Virgin Olive Oil [$9.00]
I'm a sucker for salt cod, so I guess it should come as no surprise that Ludo's potato taco was my favorite course of the meal. Brandade was mixed with potato purée, making for a magical interplay of flavors that recalled the tacos de papa that I enjoyed during my summer in the D.F. I thoroughly enjoyed the textural contrast between the creamy brandade and taco's crispy fried tortilla shell, while the dandelion leaves imparted a wondrous bitterness to things.

A note: apparently, these tacos were inspired by a similar dish on the menu at the Redondo Beach outpost of Chronic Tacos, which happens to be owned by Jackass' Wee Man, Jason Acuña. In fact, Acuña, known around these parts of Oui Oui Man, was present this evening and seated next to Jo I'm told. Not sure how I missed him, though I guess he is quite small.

More Shots Krissy Needs a Drink Cheers!
A round of Real de México tequila for everybody, including Krissy.

Foie Gras Quesadilla, Crispy Cabbage, Juniper Berry Oil
Foie Gras Quesadilla, Crispy Cabbage, Juniper Berry Oil [$12.00]
The bane of our aforementioned protesters was easily the best quesadilla that I'd ever eaten. It was surprisingly well-integrated, with the foie gras serving as a wonderful focal point in the dish, playing perfectly with the queso, while the cabbage did a superb job in moderating the liver. It's probably safe to say that this turned out markedly better than Ludo's infamous pig ear quesadilla from Top Chef Masters.

Ludo Needs a Drink, Seriously Now You Listen to Me!
After a night like this, Ludo could use a drink as well.

An Appreciative Fan
The requisite photo with Ludo and Krissy.

Roasted-Poached Beef in lard, Squid Ink Risotto, Lemon Confit, Dried Mole
Roasted-Poached Beef in Lard, Squid Ink Risotto, Lemon Confit, Dried Mole [$12.00]
Beef arrived suitably tender, and went just swimmingly with its bed of black risotto. We all know of Ludo's mole at Version 3.0, but this dried preparation was even more intriguing, serving as a complex counterpoint to the meat. I did find the sourness of the lemon confit a touch too powerful however.

Busting Out the Black Label Jessica Downs Another
Jessica busts out an entire bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label for our last round.

Ancho Chili Pepper Chocolate Brownie, Caramel Leche, Red Beets & Rhubarb
Ancho Chili Pepper Chocolate Brownie, Caramel Leche, Red Beets & Rhubarb [$8.00]
Unfortunately, this dessert just didn't come together for me. I really wanted to taste more spice. As it stood, the brownie was pretty much just like any other, and though the caramel helped somewhat, the whole dish seemed surprisingly tepid.

Guacamole Sorbet, Catalan Cream, Fruit Salsa, Tequila
Guacamole Sorbet, Catalan Cream, Fruit Salsa, Tequila [$6.00]
Ludo's Campfire Smoked S'mores, Guacamole Sorbet from Version 5.0 was divisive to be sure. Well, the notorious guac sorbet made another appearance tonight, and fortunately, seemed to work better the second time around. It actually paired with the almost fascinating sweetness in the dessert, which almost had a bubblegum-esque flair to it for me, while another one of my dining companions likened it to a "Chinese cake."

Overall, tonight's dinner was actually more cohesive than a typical LudoBites experience, though the cuisine didn't exhibit the same level of polish, being brasher, grittier, and particularly evocative of the restaurant's brazenly ephemeral nature. As for what's next for LudoBites, the pop-up will return sometime in August if all goes according to plan, after Ludo and Krissy get a much needed bit of R&R and some quality time with the kids. The location is already secured, so stay tuned...

Just Make Happen LudoBites Placemat

Previous LudoBites posts: v6.0 at Max [1], v5.0 at Gram & Papas [1], v4.0 at Gram & Papas [1], v3.0 at Royal/T [2] [1], v2.0 at Breadbar [1].


OpenID said...

That moustache has got to be fake! ;) Good to see familiar faces and, yes, Jessica :)

Friday, June 03, 2011 4:10:00 PM  
OpenID said...

I love this post for so many reasons... especially for this gem "How much cruelty can I swallow? Quite a bit, I assure you." Those ducks died for a great cause... foie gras quesadilla a la Ludo!

Friday, June 03, 2011 4:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Marian the Foodie said...

The foie gras quesadilla looked so good!

I'm deathly afraid of worms so I hate seeing those in tequila.. ughhhhh

Saturday, June 04, 2011 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Linden: No, not fake; I touched it. The moustache, not Jessica. ;)

Eliza: Ha! Indeed. That was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the sign.

Marian: Most worms are actually in mezcal, not tequila. See here. ;)

Thursday, June 09, 2011 3:42:00 PM  

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