When you get approached to reminisce about a certain time and place, nay, a certain chef and his concept – on-camera – you know you’ve been hit with something very special. In the present age of reality TV, of course, you might have suspicions it could be exploitive, but then you know the show. And multi-Emmy-award-winning Mind of a Chef just so happens to be one of your favorite shows on cooking and the culture of food.
Furthermore, when you hear that the particular episode you’re asked to be a part is about LudoBites, and you’ll get to experience Ludo recreating a few dishes right in his own brand new kitchen. you know that it’s going to be good. There’s just so much to unpack, there.
It must be stressed that when one scores a reservation to LudoBites, practically every dish is essential. But that’s not to take away from my having been especiallyÂ inspired byÂ Ludo’s mackerel. The sugar glaze on the skin of the salty fish is ingenius, actually. Add to that the lush but sturdy leaves of verdolagas – with its slightly acidic taste matching a note of the true flavors of the mackerel – and you have a masterpiece. The baby leeksÂ add a subtle kick to things and “tiger’s milk” – plus whatever unbeknownst oils that lay at the base of the plate – will have you sopping whatever pools that lay with the provided green petals.
And that is just one LudoBites memory I choose to share with you all.Â I hope you got a reservation. Apologies if not. Check OpenTable regularly and be sure to follow KrissyÂ (@frenchchefwife) for cancellations. Per the website: “Â Typically cancellations come in during the morning after reminders have been sent out, so best time to check for availability on a given day is that morning.” Good luck.
(And for those who have selfishly secured more than 1 reservation for themselves, all I have to ask is, “Really?” Give someone else a shot, maybe?)
Oh look. It’s the obligatory LudoBites 4.0 post on e*starLA. Like it’s really an LAÂ food blog without it, you say. Well, you’re right. So while I’m at it, I’ll also remind everybody that 1) It’s completely booked, but also: 2) There are always cancellations. Follow Krissy Lefebvre (@frenchchefwife) for notice of these cancellations. And after you score that reservation, remember to BYOB it. A great wine shop to consult for your purchase is Domaine LA (@domainela), where Jill recommended a lovely ’08 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir that got rave reviews from my tablemates. Also check out the recommended wine list for LudoBites diners.
Last night was another Ludo fried chicken night at Akasha which doubled as a viewing party for Ludo’s return to Top Chef Masters. It wasÂ buffet-style and some lucky diners got to take home the leftovers. I was not so diligent in securing some for myself, I’m sad to say.Â But it was so fun to see how our favorite social media-entwined chef got “cast” as the crazy Frenchman in reality TV land, getting 100% subtitled and well, playing the part quite expertly.Â TheÂ party attendees sat and watched the episode intently, whileÂ smug that we gotÂ to experience Ludo’sÂ drama – live and in the flesh.
But back to LudoBites: My camarades and I tasted the entire menu, but today is not the day for the forever-scrolling blog post. So on with the favorites from the LudoBites 4.0 menu as we knew it (Ludo regularly changes and evolves his menu):
I also loved the Red Snapper Ceviche – a dish I couldn’t figure if more flavorful or refreshing. Jalapenos and red onions gave it a proper kick while tomatoes were an effective cooling agent. I snuck an extra helping of this one onto my plate. The scallop dish was an adventure of sorts, combining the perfectly seared bivalves (with that perfect ring on the outside) with almond puree and cauliflower ice cream. There were many little nuances from all over the place, especially when you also combined them with the pickled grapes and curry oil. The bite, however, wasn’t complete until you included a little of the caper paste smeared onto the plate. And after that was done, I found myself going back to the cauliflower ice cream – just to make sure it really was cauliflower that I tasted in the creamy – yet quickly melting – cold scoop. There were super-thin slices of raw cauliflower on top of each scallop which together were drizzled in a slightly spicy curry oil.
Oh, balls. I say such with adulation, not lamentation – since I was lucky enough to squeeze into Sam and Zach‘s reservation for a special Monday night. Ludo Lefebvre’s latest one-off collaboration took place at Akasha Restaurant in Culver City earlier this week – and the foodies were out in full force. This time,Â itÂ wasn’t so much a showdown as it was an opportunity for LudoBites fanatics to get a taste of his famed chicken -Â juicy, fried goodnessÂ to which reservations were fully booked 12 hours (or less)Â after the reservation line went live.
Akasha has not one but two deep fryers -Â andÂ Ludo’s chicken certainly benefitted from the tools. We wereÂ each provisioned three rosemary chicken balls, this time furnished with a lemon aioli (as opposed to the sweet chili sauce provided at The Foundry). Rounding out each order were two side dishes – coleslaw, collard greens, sweet potato friesÂ or smashed potatoes. There wasÂ a more lucrative $18 price point to match the chicken’s popularity (at The Foundry, theÂ two pieces of chicken were just $6 – without sides). The sidesÂ at Akasha were delicious, but of course we couldn’t forget Akasha’s own specialty, their perfectly-breaded-and-fried onion rings. Not too greasy or bready, the rings – with their side of ketchup and garlic aioli – actually had me wishing more came per side order.
Focus now! The chicken! As per usual, the chicken was perfect – a tad darker in mere color than I remember – but I was glad that there was an extra helping of breadding on my plate. It was seasoned with rosemary which was contrasted well by the citrus tang of lemon aioli; the juicy texture enabled each round nugget to fall at my fork. Before I was finished, I heard on my left, “If you leave that on your plate, you’ll never hear the end of it.” Yes, it was recent NYC ex-pat Zach of Midtown Lunch, the fan of all things greasy and succulent. He spoke too soon, as I savored each bite – including the extra skin – and washed it down with Syrah. Each intonation from the jazz trio that played nearby was lost on me as I concentrated on my palate. Thankfully, the movement the music provided to the already-cool, bustling and somewhat industrial-yet-well-lit (great for usÂ food photographers)Â atmosphere of Akasha was not.
We finished off with dessert. It was perfectly tangy and sweet – I would come back to Akasha for this pie alone. The crust was perfectly buttery – and Ludo and I joked that we could replace the crumbs on top of the pie with chicken breadding! And as always, the Ludo event had food bloggers and others in the scene crawling out of the woodwork – with out-of-town visitors andÂ @thejgold himselfÂ to boot. Foursquare check-ins (“with 19 other people”) were at an all-time high. Krissy and Ludo made their warm, welcoming rounds. It’s always a party – and I’m lucky to be a wallflower. Did I mention Ludo ran the LA Marathon the day before?! How is that for star power?
If you don’t have your LudoBites 4.0 reservation, be sure to stay tuned for the wait list queue – which begins March 28.
Apparently, Ludo Lefebvre and wife Krissy were in the neighborhood only last Friday and decided to drop by The Foundry to say Hi to their friend. Chef Eric wasn’t there – to which Ludo said (tweeted), “I should take over the kitchen!” One thing led to another and lo and behold, Ludo didn’t exactly “take over” the kitchen so much as he agreed to drop in on The Foundry’s regularly-scheduled Bluesy Tuesday and showcase his chicken next to Chef Greenspan’s. Akasha Richmond was gracious enough to supply fryers for the special event – because we are all family here.
The news was announced (albeit with an incorrect date on the flyer) and a flurry reservations were made for the special Tuesday night. For $6 per plate, diners could enjoy a piece of Ludo’s rosemary chicken and a piece of Greenspan’s bone-in buttermilk chicken. Maya of ShopEatSleep and I were happy to fill a 6 PM 2-top reservation – the very beginning of the night – because we could only imagine how crazy and possibly backed-up the rest of the night would be. Case in point: LA Street Food Fest and the cluster around the Ludo truck.
Maya and I started out with an absolutely deliciousÂ Whiskey Trollope eachÂ – with ginger and pineapple – at a very reasonable $8. On top of that, the pineapple was a subtle finish and the drink overall wasn’t too sweet. Solid. The chorizo veloute with cornichon gelato on Jonathan Gold’s 99 Things to Eat in L.A. Before You Die brought me back to the bliss of Ludobites 2.0 (can’t let the leftovers from The Gold Standard – an event I missed – go to waste, now can we?).
Since we wereÂ on Greenspan’s turf, we couldn’t pass up the grilled cheese ($9) as a lead-in to the chicken. So we did exactly that – with telaggio cheese comprising the center of a raisin-breaded sammich, encased between layers of apricot-caper puree and short rib (extra $3). While the grilled sandwiches were delicious, we were so relieved we weren’t full – yet. A fried green tomato would accompany our fried bird and alleviate our consciences a tadÂ in the area of poor nutritional indulgences while keeping with the Southern theme. Vegetable or fruit? I say it’s still up for debate – but the dish itself is a good punch in the mouth, complete with fresh tomato and arugula.
It could’ve been just another November Friday night in L.A. of standing in line outside just to stand shoulder-to-shoulder inside. But no – it was Culver City not Hollywood, and this pop-up culinary experience called “LudoBites” came packaged inside a Japanese cosplay cafe accented with a concurrently naughty theme. That theme would be “In Bed Together” – in regards to the displayed art around the cafe – and the French chef’s wife would have a … rooster on her back.
There were the standard passed appetizers like tuna carpaccio, steak-wrapped asparagus, French fries and miscellaneous toasts that would satiate us aside from the dishes du jour. Chef Ludo Lefebvre himself would be encased inside a glass box in the center as guests filed into that box on one side of the velvet rope while not necessarily exiting on the other. Bright lights. It was hot in there.
But that didn’t stop Ludo from fixing hundreds of Solo cups filled with a delicious mixture of scallop crudo and pineapple in brown butter – all of which came dusted in dark specks. Hey – we all love butter but the surprising thing about the dish was how light it was. The sweet pineapples were perfect in highlighting the mild flavor of fresh scallops. The salty squid ink brought everything out together.
I work nearby the Miracle Mile outpost of the ongoing food truck revolution. My target today would be the Grilled Cheese Truck andÂ I would ultimately miss – thanks to their popularity and resulting 30-foot line. From what it looked like, the line was stagnant and my suited arse had to be back at work.
Krissy, a.k.a. Mrs. Ludo Lefebvre, referenced our lunch at Jitlada last week, which was organized by Jo of MyLastBite. I had played hooky for delicious Thai food, but also to pick my cat up from surgery in the boondocks. “@estarLA: I guess only @jitladala can force you into a day of hookey from work. :)”
Or something else that wasn’t in my wildest dreams available. I responded: “LMK when LudoBites does lunch then we’ll talk ;)”
Yes. Do: Let me know. And she did – right away. It was tentative but not expected, and that was enough.
FrenchChefWife came back: “That might not be too far off 🙂 RT @estarLA LMK when LudoBites does lunch then we’ll talk.”
The bulk of the news was exchanged in Twitterland, and to round out the story: They’re between two places for LudoBites’ next stint after Royal/T – which, by the way, hasn’t even started yet and has been sold out since last week. Never fear. They’ve been planning for mid-January 2010 at the earliest for their next potential lunch and dinner spot. Yes, lunch! Squee…!!
Bummed you didn’t get in on the sold-out In Bed Together LudoBites installment at Royal/T? Well this is your chance. And if you don’t work nearby, believe me – this lunch will be worth playing hookey for. 😉
I’m looking forward to the launch party on Friday. Krissy says she will be debuting the new LudoBites T-shirt, which “is very funny and semi-tasteless, but it is all in fun.” Oh! We knew that! What is LudoBites if it isn’t fun?! (Aforementioned t-shirts will also be available for sale.)