Ludo Bites is Back with Comfort and Creativity
After over a year away in Las Vegas, Ludovic Lefebvre, author of Crave and former chef at Bastide, is back in LA and just started round two of Ludo Bites via Breadbar on W. Third St. Over the next couple months, and during the evenings from Tuesday through Sunday, Ludo is behind the front counter whipping up all kinds of amazing concoctions. His tapas driven menu is fresh, inspired, and interesting. Most of the items have components that are prepared ahead of time so that his evening in front of guests is primarily spent doing assembly and delivery. It is also very affordable, considering the quality of food being prepared. The idea that you can bring your own wine (as they do not serve alcohol ) with a mere five dollar corkage fee, and chat it up with chef Lefebvre, makes this dining experience fun, memorable, and highly accessible.
We were there this time on the first Saturday after they had opened. Our previous experience was based on a lucky reservation on the last night of Ludo Bites where the mood was celebratory and nearly all parties were sharing wine with Chef Lefebvre. This time around, Ludo’s lovely wife graciously sat us and our two friends at the chef’s table as we welcomed him back to LA and exuded enthusiasm. We were immediately greeted with a bowl of fresh made parmesan popcorn to munch while we perused the menu. After opening our first bottle of wine, a rich Hop Kiln pinot noir, we began slowly ordering a few dishes at a time.
Our first endeavor was the brocomole, a fake guacamole where broccoli replaced the avocado and wasabi stood in for the jalapeño, served with his house made tortilla chips. Overall the dish was a well-executed divergence from the norm with a surprisingly creamy citrusy undertone. Next came the poached eggs, mayo, and dried black olive bread. As he handed this freshly prepared plate over the counter, rather than waiting for the waitress to deliver it, Ludo explained that the eggs were prepared sous vide style over several hours so that both the yolk and white were similar in texture and easy to spread on the bread. At this point it was agreed upon by all that we needed to order a bread basket (with bread made at Breadbar) to soak up the remaining sauces from this and upcoming plates. Next we ate tuna tartar with beets, watermelon, and balsamic pearls with lavender flowers. This was a beautiful dish with vibrant colors of pink and magenta throughout. The watermelon was a refreshing addition. One of our favorite dishes of the night was the sautéed diver scallops in a smooth and fragrant curry yogurt base with cooked spinach.
With the transition to our second bottle, a dark Viader cabernet franc, we moved to a warm and cheesy rosemary polenta with oxtail beef and colorful carrot shavings. The rosemary flavor in the polenta was obvious yet not overpowering and it was so good we had to get another order to share. Our final meat course was a beef tartar rolled in rice paper like a spring roll and accompanied by a chunky peanut Vietnamese dipping sauce. The beef was seasoned with sesame oil and provided a France meets Vietnam spin on the standard tartar.
By this point of the meal we were thinking two things; cheese and dessert. The sizable cheese plate was appropriate to share and we were pleased by the variety of cheeses and their respective condiment pairings. Ludo leaned over the counter to explain each of the five cheeses and pairings, all of which were made by him except for the honeycomb. We proceeded to order one of each dessert selection, the strawberry soup with rhubarb, hibiscus, and marshmallow ice cream and the chocolate mousse with grilled bell pepper puree. The chocolate mousse had some heat and the bell peppers added an unusual flavor to the dish. The chilled strawberry soup was a hit and had all the sweet and creamy features one would want in a strawberry dessert.
At the end of our meal, we could not resist asking for a photo with Ludovic. His wife happily took my camera and made us feel at home in the cozy restaurant. Out of nowhere, Ludo handed both us and our friends a fresh loaf of cheese bread from the back. We were on such a high that we decided to end the night discussing our evening over a glass of dessert wine at our friends place nearby. Although none of us left hungry, the fresh cheese bread did not stand a chance that night. We may not again have the fortune of sitting at the chef’s table, but we plan on going back several times before Ludo Bites is over in August. We can’t wait to see how he changes the menu over this period of time. Welcome back Ludo; we are so happy we can experience your food again.
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