I am new a believer in Ludo Lefebre and his passion. It’s not like I’m skeptical by nature, but following months of watching him on Top Chef Masters, reading reviews upon reviews of pop up engagements of LudoBites at Breadbar and Royal/T, and his fried chicken truck, I was just amazed at how his rock star popularity and counter culture moxy–bucking the restaurant establishment of a permanent space–could garner so much loyalty and enthusiasm. Only opened for several months, it was named one of the 99 Essential Restaurants in LA among countless other accolades. So I was finally able to experience (sans Kim..sorry honey!) the latest reincarnation of LudoBites 4.0 for the first time thanks to the generosity of Fooddigger.
His two month stay at Gram & Papas began April 8 and runs through May 28th and during the entire course of this engagement, Holly of Michelin Project, with no formal culinary training is working as one of his sous chefs! This is the type of excitement and energy he garners from those crossing his path and culinary creations. It’s certainly an affirmation for his love of bloggers which he confessed at the dinner. So say hi to Holly and give her some support. Wine and champagne pairings were generously provided by domaine547. While I enjoy wine, I don’t have the experience and training to even try to pretend to critique them and BS you guys, but I’ll just say that they were all delicious and complimented the food very well.
Now on to the food! Bread service was crispy crusty baguette with “three fat textures” consisting of lavender lard, clarified butter, and whipped brown butter. It was difficult but I had to stop myself from eating all the baguette and condiments to save myself for the rest of dinner.
The next course was a wonderful carrot salad with saffron anglaise cream, pickled pearl onions, citrus, and mustard powder. Both the citrus and carrots were vacuum cooked in gastrovac, a type of low temperature pressure cooker that cooks quicker than a traditional pressure cooker, leaving color, nutrients, and texture intact. It was clearly evident in the freshness and crispness of this dish.
Just when I thought that it couldn’t get any better, it did. The foie gras croque monsieur with lemon turnip chutney was out of this world. Toasty squid ink bread sandwiched a warm slice of foie, ham, and cheese contrasted by the tart chutney. At this point in the dinner I realized why Ludo has been called the “mad genius,” elevating a classic dish to such new highs.
Next came the Columbian river king salmon confit, spring cabbage, orange skin and juniper berries. The salmon was sauced with an agar agar, another novel touch. The salmon was cooked perfectly medium rare with crispy skin. Taken all together with the tart juniper, the dish worked well.
Poached jidori chicken, crispy skin with hazelnuts, garden vegetables, and bacon pudding was the next course that continued to highlight Ludo’s creativity. Stuffed and poached in a tube, the chicken was shaped more like a giant diver scallop but tasted every bit as moist and tender as any chicken I’ve ever had. Even if you’re the type to discard chicken skin, Ludo’s version of crispy bits of hazelnut and skin made any guilt of eating skin disappear and taste so delicious.
Cheese isn’t something I know too much about, but this 2 hour whipped brie napoleon with honey comb and balsamic was an eye opening experience. Holly of Michelin Project actually whipped the brie herself..infusing such an airiness and wonderful texture to the brie. The touch of sweet honeycomb was brilliant.
Finally dessert consisted of a dark chocolate souffle, chocolate cream, and a black pepper milk chocolate ice cream. Just when I thought the suprises were over with this classic souffle, one bite of the black pepper ice cream made my taste buds tingle with the spicy sharpness of the pepper and all at once cooled by the creamy milk chocolate.