Wednesday, January 18, 2012

LudoBites 8.0 at Lemon Moon (Los Angeles, CA)

LudoBites 8 at Lemon Moon
12200 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Wed 01/18/2012, 06:00p-09:40p

Lemon Moon Exterior

I think they finally got it right.

Indeed, rather than enduring an hour long exercise in "F5" futility in front of the computer, praying to god that Opentable doesn't crash, hopeful diners were instead treated to a leisurely lottery for this eighth iteration of Ludovic Lefebvre's seminal, ephemeral, pop-up, touring restaurant, held this time around at Lemon Moon, the breakfast-lunch place of Melisse's Josiah Citrin and Jiraffe's Rafael Lunetta. We could enter the Urbanspoon drawing any time during a 24-hour period starting on the 11th, with winners selected (pseudo) randomly by computer the following Friday, for sporadic seatings from the 18th to February 22nd.

That being said, I still failed to get a reservation, for the second LudoBites in a row (according to Krissy, there was about a 5% chance of getting in). Fortunately, six seats are held nightly for walk-in diners, and we earnestly took advantage of those spots. Surprisingly, they were ridiculously easy to obtain: you could've come in at 7:00 and have been accommodated at the bar.

LudoBites 8.0 Menu
The LudoBites menu definitely has a more luxurious, seafood-centric focus this time around, and the prices reflect it. Click for a larger version.

LudoBites 8.0 Wine List LudoBites 8.0 Wine List
To drink, Jill Bernheimer of Domaine LA has selected a small list of reasonably-priced wines (and a smattering of beers) to pair with the food. Corkage, meanwhile, is set at $18 per bottle. Click for larger versions.

NV Cambremer Cidre, Domaine du Manoir de Montreuil, Pays d'Auge, France
We began with the superb NV Cambremer Cidre, Domaine du Manoir de Montreuil, Pays d'Auge, France [$18]. This was an apple cider from Normandy, and showed off a lip-smacking sweetness initially, followed by a countervailing tartness and finished with a marked barnyard character that I really enjoyed. Sommelier Whitney Adams of Brunellos Have More Fun, described it as "Martinelli's with funk." Or, just think of it as adult apple juice.

Chicken Tandoori Crackling
Chicken Tandoori Crackling [$6.00]
When I read the menu description for this, I was thinking that we'd be getting a bowl of chicken skin chicharrones. What we actually got, however, was even better. I loved the intense, heady relish of the chicken liver mousse, accented beautifully by a sprinkle of sea salt. It was delicious alone, but the key here was that crisp skin, with its fantastic savoriness that augmented the mousse perfectly. An explosion of concentrated chicken-y goodness on the palate.

Crab Meat, Shrimp, Avocado Guacamole, Pomelos
Crab Meat, Shrimp, Avocado Guacamole, Pomelos [$25.00]
A mound of hairy crab was the hero in this dish, with a lovely, sweet brine that formed a really neat interaction with the sugary, banana-infused guacamole. The sweet shrimp, meanwhile, added further salinity, as well as a textural contrast, and I greatly appreciated the accompanying umami-laden broth as well. I could've done without the pomelo, though, which added a citric bitterness to the fray that I didn't think was necessary.

Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffle
Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffle [$29.00]
One of our favorites was Ludo's deconstructed take on vichyssoise, which is basically a hearty soup of potato and leek. I loved the wonderfully rare slices of scallop here, and how they worked with the crispy, savory bits of leek and potato, with the whole amalgam tied together by that creamy, luscious sauce. Interestingly however, I didn't even think that truffle was needed here, given the strength of the other flavors at play.

2010 Savary Vieilles Vignes Chablis, Chardonnay, Burgundy, France
With our cider dispensed with, we moved on to the 2010 Savary Vieilles Vignes Chablis, Chardonnay, Burgundy, France [$48]. This was rather nice as well, with a tasty, citrus-y acidity and slight grassy character backed by a subtly savory base of minerality.

Ludo Lefebvre
Ludo torching our next course.

Uni Crème Brûlée
Uni Crème Brûlée [$18.00]
Our sea urchin crème brûlée conveyed a smart interplay of saccharine and saline flavors, with the essence of uni forming a light veil of brine over a sweet custard base, all perked up by pricks of salt from the dish's topping of salmon roe. I especially appreciated the sugary, caramelized crust on the course, and how the sweetness here lingered long on the palate.

Raw Beef, Radish, Beets, Eel
Raw Beef, Radish, Beets, Eel [$19.00]
Next up was easily one of the most interesting tartars that I've had. Raw beef was spot on by itself, but deftly augmented by a touch of fishiness from the smoky bit of eel mixed in. At the same time, I adored the countering piquancy from the horseradish mayo, as well as the crunchiness imparted by the bread crumbles. Finishing things off was the light, bright astringency of the radish, which worked wonders in cutting the heft of the dish. My only concern was the beet-balsamic coulis, which I found gratuitous.

Foie Gras, Tamarind, Turnips, Daikon
Foie Gras, Tamarind, Turnips, Daikon [$22.00]
Ludo's known for his facility with foie, and here again, he demonstrated as much. The liver itself was cooked to a marvelously supple, silky consistency, actually reminding me of the transcendent foie gras shabu-shabu at Urasawa. Its taste was so subtle, so refined, yet remarkably profound at the same time, forming a perfect foil to the broth. And what a broth! It arguably outshined the foie, with its delicious mix of sweet, sour, and herbaceous flavors, amped up by the fattiness of the liver. My favorite course of the evening.

Steamed Black Seabass, Fennel, Lettuce, Bernaise Vinaigrette
Steamed Black Seabass, Fennel, Lettuce, Bernaise Vinaigrette [$22.00]
Sea bass made for a surprisingly strong dish as well, with the fish showing off a tender, yet flaky consistency and a tasty relish that paired swimmingly with the tart, tangy smack of the accompanying vinaigrette. Meanwhile, I also appreciated the licorice-tinged kick of the fennel fronds, as well as the crisp, light flavors of the Girovac'd lettuce.

Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds
Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds [$20.00]
Here was without a doubt one of the most creative preparations of ankimo that I've ever seen. A large lobe was presented in glorious form, displaying a wonderfully cooked consistency that I found rather endearing, and delicious, with smoky, slightly astringent flavors playing off the richness of the liver wonderfully. It easily stood on its own merits, but I enjoyed the tempering tanginess imparted by the pickles and mustard seeds as well.

From the Tank Red, Grenache/Syrah/Carignan, Rhone, France
At this point, it was time to move on to a red, and we went with a carafe of the From the Tank Red, Grenache/Syrah/Carignan, Rhone, France [$14]. This was a pretty straightforward, easy-drinking wine, surprisingly smooth, with a good mix of dark fruit, smoky, and spicy flavors.

Jidori Chicken, Parmesan Soubise, Broccoli, Walnuts, Eggs
Jidori Chicken, Parmesan Soubise, Broccoli, Walnuts, Eggs [$22.00]
Our first real meat course of the evening brought roast chicken, and certainly, Ludo knows his way around coq. The meat was just stupendously tender, moist, and tasty, with a wonderfully crisp, salty skin to boot. I also appreciated the additional weight and complexity imparted by the cheesy, slightly sweet soubise, as well as the vegetal crunch of the broccolini. My only complaint was the walnut, which seemed distracting and superfluous.

Duck, Orange, Olives, Carrots
Duck, Orange, Olives, Carrots [$25.00]
Here, Ludo paid homage to the classic French dish of canard à l'orange. The bird itself was nicely cooked, supple, and juicy, with a lovely duck-y savor and delightfully crisp skin. I actually enjoyed the sweet, tangy flavors contributed by the orange here, and even the olive worked in moderation. Carrots, meanwhile, served to brighten and lighten the dish.

Ludovic Lefebvre
Looking pensive.

Goat Cheese Profiteroles, Pistachio, Crispy Leaves
Goat Cheese Profiteroles, Pistachio, Crispy Leaves [$15.00]
Our cheese course consisted of a chèvre cream puff basically. The profiterole conveyed a great bit of lactic tanginess, which actually paired amazingly well with the saltiness imparted by the pistachio, while the greenery added a surprising, yet somehow fitting vegetal character.

Lemon Meringue Tart
Lemon Meringue Tart [$13.00]
A lemon meringue tart was much better than I expected, showing off a perfect blend of sugary and sour flavors, all beautifully integrated by the fantastically buttery pie crust crumbles.

Chocolate Napoleon, Orange Creamsicle
Chocolate Napoleon, Orange Creamsicle [$13.00]
We ended the dinner with a dish apparently inspired by a catering gig Ludo did for Clippers point guard Chris Paul. Think classic flavors here of not-too-sweet, slightly bitter chocolate and tart, creamy orange. It worked.

The kitchen did a bang-up job tonight, serving course after course of some of the best, most consistent food Ludo's ever put out. As we all know, meals at LudoBites can have definite highs and lows, so I was pleasantly surprised and how strong each dish was. The cooking just seemed more confident, more refined, more robust than I was expecting, which was absolutely great. Meanwhile, service, coordinated by Michael Nemcik, was on point as well, which is commendable for opening night. All in all, I do no hesitate in calling this the best LudoBites ever.

Lemon Moon Interior

Previous LudoBites posts: v7.0 at Gram & Papas, LudoBites America, 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].


Anonymous Darin said...

Best LudoBites ever hmm? Bold words. Hope to try soon...

Thursday, January 19, 2012 8:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the food looks good, many of those prices seem WAY out of whack. He's serving tapas at entree prices.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 9:34:00 AM  
Anonymous agavin said...

Hey Kevin,

Did it seem like a 4 top could walk in? We had 7 people submitting to the lottery, but no go :-(

Clearly Ludo needs to increase either supply or the prices!

Thursday, January 19, 2012 9:48:00 AM  
Blogger Sam C. said...

Uni Creme Brulee aye? Now that's something I've got to try. :-)

Thursday, January 19, 2012 9:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a t-shirt @ 24 bucks? Oh, come on!

Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Chris Hei said...

Wow looks great. I finally get to experience my first LudoBites next week!

Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comprehensive review and photos! :)

It looks like a variation of the ingredients he used in LB7 (which was stellar). Going tonight, and now I know what to look forward to~

Thursday, January 19, 2012 2:31:00 PM  
Blogger MW Klingensmith said...

Complaints about the prices? If they are too much for you, let one of the hundreds that couldn't get in take your place! Call me.....

Thursday, January 19, 2012 4:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew you would be on top of the game and post your experience at LudoBites. Thanks for the heads up on what to order next week. M

Thursday, January 19, 2012 8:49:00 PM  
Anonymous theneedleATgmailDOTcom said...

@MW Klingensmith: actually, we have 1 spot open in our four-top next Thursday. Since money is no object, and your delicate baller sensibilities are offended by anyone exhibiting anything but an if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it attitude toward Ludo's masterworks, you are welcome to take the fourth spot and pick up the entire check.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Darin: How come you didn't try to go yesterday? I was expecting to see you there.

Anon: I thought the prices were on the higher side, so I went back and looked at all of Ludo's previous menus that I'd had. It's actually the second most expensive on a per-dish basis (opening night at 6.0 was the priciest). However, the luxuriousness of the ingredients this time around seems higher than before as well.

Andy: Yes, a four-top is a definite possibility if you arrive right before 6:00. However, I expect walk-ins to become more difficult as word gets out.

Sam: Did you end up making it out on Thursday?

Anon: At least it's cheaper than the $28 last time!

Chris: Nice--so you actually managed to snag a ressie I take it?!?

Anon: Interesting that you're noticing similarities between this and 7.0, as the thought never crossed my mind (but I only went to 7.0 on opening night).

MW: Lol. You didn't leave your phone number. ;)

M: No problem. Fortunately, the dishes are all pretty strong this time around, so it's harder to go astray on the menu.

Needle: Ha! I could see someone actually hardcore enough to take you up on that offer.

Friday, January 20, 2012 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger Sam C. said...

I did end up going tonight and I think this is a very strong showing of Ludo's skill. The uni creme brulee was definitely the highlight of my night (I actually ordered 2 cuz one of my friend came late. So I made her ordered another just so I can eat it again.Muhahah). The foie gras and chicken were also my other highlights also.

Friday, January 20, 2012 12:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Darin said...

Already had plans to meet some friends!

Friday, January 20, 2012 1:24:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great review- and absolutely agree after dining there thursday evening via walk-in too.

Great photos, btw. what lens did you use?

Saturday, January 21, 2012 9:26:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Sam: Glad you could make it out. Did you manage to go through the entire menu?

Darin: What? LudoBites isn't worthy flaking out for? ;)

Cecile: Thanks. I used a Sigma 28mm f1.8 macro for the photos tonight.

Monday, January 23, 2012 2:38:00 AM  
Anonymous PSJ said...

Thanks for writing this. After reading your blog we decided to walk in last Friday night. Arrived shortly after 7 & had no wait or problem getting seats for two. Prices & menu were slightly different than yours. (Chicken crackling was $5) There was also a brioche with yuzu seaweed butter also for $5. The entrees are definetely not tapas size. The chicken was half a chicken. White & dark meat. As much as we would have loved to try everything our bellies & wallet wouldn't permit. Everything is served to share & we managed to get 3 starters, 1 entree, 1 dessert, & 2 beers for $89. With tip we spent right under $110. (we could have probably forgone the 2 beers at $7 bucks each and gotten another starter or another entree but -Yeah right?! Ha!)

Will definetely walk in on future Ludo Bites.

Monday, January 30, 2012 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Glad things worked out for you PSJ. I'm really quite surprised that walk-ins have been so easy to come by.

Thursday, February 02, 2012 2:29:00 AM  

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