At a restaurant, even at a pop-up restaurant like LudoBites, it’s important to see an evolution. The food should taste better and be more refined after several months of tinkering. My last LudoBites experience was on opening night in May, when Chef Ludovic Lefebvre was adjusting to life without an army of Vegas chefs at his disposal. By mid-August, LudoBites was rolling at full speed. He’d inspired a passionate contingent of L.A. food bloggers to fawn over his food, to help him in the kitchen, and even to teach him to make some unique specialty items. He invited us to return to BREADBAR before LudoBites’ August 22 close, and Take 2 was even better.
Each plate was further confirmation of Ludo’s willingness to take chances. Given his skill level, that normally paid off. We started with a bowl of “Chorizo, Cantaloupe, Cornichon” ($11), a smoky soup made from chorizo that was floating with cubes of sweet cantaloupe and a scoop of cornichon granite that helped cut the richness of the creamy soup. A whole bowl would have been too intense, but split between two people, it worked pretty well.
Not every dish was a ride down Category 4 rapids. Ludo’s Green Beans Salad ($9) was a fairly straightforward representation of the season, with al dente beans tossed with strips of young coconut, tart green apple and sweet peaches, flavored with lemongrass and topped with a dollop of spicy horseradish cream.
Ludo’s house-made boudin noir terrine ($10) has no casing and looks like a slab of meatloaf, but has a deep burgundy color that could only be generated with pork blood. The hot terrine had a peppery finish, featured a pudding-like consistency and came drizzled with black currant sauce. The rich Dose of Vitamin P was plated with a pool of mustard-whipped potato puree. A small pile of flower-capped banana slices and passion fruit seeds seemed like an odd pairing, but the fruit’s mild sweetness complemented the other end of the plate.
Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur ($20) was an inspired take on the classic French ham-and-cheese sandwich, featuring grilled squid ink bread oozing amaretto cream and sporting melting slabs of rich foie gras.
“Spaghetti Carbonara” ($22) was a stellar play on carbonara featuring a peppery julienne of firm celery root topped with a poached egg, two sweet, oversized Santa Barbara Prawns, crispy sage leaves and sheets of bacon. We punctured the egg and the yolk infused the “spaghetti.”
Grilled Duck Breast ($22) was one of the night’s top dishes, centering on rosy, expertly cooked cuts of duck with crisp skin. The pairings were spot-on, featuring thin-shaved leeks in a tangy ginger and caper sauce. Topping off the dish: two shavings of earthy black truffle.
Lobster Medallions ($18) were the night’s only clunker, featuring chewy, overcooked lobster chunks topped with crunchy daikon discs and an overly sweet honey-sherry vinegar vinaigrette that was all sweet, without enough balancing acidity.
We quickly forgot about the lobster when the towering Chocolate Cupcake ($12) arrived. The foie gras cupcake had become a signature dish for good reason. The moist dark chocolate cake was topped with cool, rich Foie Gras Chantilly, a drizzle of maple syrup and a shower of candied bacon and almond bits, which provided a great textural contrast.
LudoBites wrapped on August 22, but Ludo is in negotiations to graduate from pop-up to permanent. Follow his progress on Twitter.