Sunday, August 29, 2010

LudoBites 5.0: Slightly Less Magical

Getting a reservation at LudoBites 5.0 proved far more difficult than getting into an Ivy League school and was possibly an even more prestigious accomplishment.

Lucky for me, my husband and insomniac secured the coveted admission and saw fit to include me in their parties.

I summarize my two visits below. Prices rose a dollar on some of the dishes between my first and second dinners. I've listed the more recent prices. We ordered the entire menu, sans cheese course, during both visits.

Vadouvan naan with salted coconut butter ($4).
Not at all like real naan but tasty nonetheless.

Cheese cupcake, foie gras-chicken liver chantilly, kumquats, cornichon ($14)
ludobites 5.0 006
Melts in your mouth, not in your hand. Loved this.

Cheese cupcake, chicken liver chantilly, tangerine, cornichon ($14).
Somehow not quite as rich and decadent as my first version. Less "frosting."

Grilled squid, heirloom tomato salad, black rice, yuzu red onions, spring onions and umami, seaweed tartar ($15).
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Smoky. Chewy.

Heirloom tomato smoothie, squid ink vodka gelee ($11).
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Cold and good for summer. I think I would've liked it more if it had been served in a little chilled shot glass. But I think I'd really prefer it hot and paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. What can I say? I'm a plebeian.

Heirloom tomato salad, mozzarella ice cream, basil crumble ($15).
Fantastic. Enjoyed this a lot more than the smoothie above. Great menu evolution.

Raw Wagyu beef, dried miso, somen noodles, peanut vinaigrette, watermelon, mint ($17).
A highlight of both visits. Raw meat usually skeeves me out, but this was exquisite. Was it the beef that made me fall in love? Was it the peanut? I don't know, but I was smitten.

Goat cheese soup, bacon, lardo, tofu, green apple, frisee salad ($15).
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It's hard to share soup. Suggestion for Ludo -- in the future, provide small bowls and a serving spoon.

Poached egg, potato mousseline, chorizo condiment ($16).
Smooth. Creamy. With a little porky kick. Seriously addictive.

Grilled octopus, oregano, grilled hazelnut polenta, pineapple aioli, piment d'espellette gelee ($18).
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Perfectly charred and paired well with the polenta. Really good polenta.

Grilled octopus, oregano, burnt red bell pepper polenta, pineapple aioli, piment d'espellette gelee ($19).
Octopus was even better this time, but I preferred the previous polenta.

Grilled corn Mexican-style, brown butter powder, fresh wasabi, tomatillos, cilantro ($12).
Simple but tasty. In all honesty, though, $12 is a bit painful for corn.

Hot foie gras dynamite, raw tuna, lychee, crackers ($34).
One of my favorites. The flavors. The textures. Like a French-Japanese explosion.

Black bass, cauliflower, black garlic, yellow panna cotta ($28).
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Not bad but not particularly memorable.

Roasted striped bass, lardo, garlic paste, onion soy milk, orange breadcrumbs, potato chips ($29).
Superior to the previous bass dish because of its stronger accompaniments.

Confit pork belly, raw choucroute Thai-style, mustard ice cream ($25).
This impressed me more the second time I ate it. It was a little dry during my first visit, but my second plate was tender, juicy, and luscious.

Steamed duck lemon verbena, crispy skin puree, white peach, radish, balsamic ($26).
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Fail. I don't know what else to say. Sorry, Ludo.

Crispy veal sweetbread, pink pepper, peach, balsamic, maple syrup ($22).
Our sweetbread looked like Africa! Definitely an improvement over the duck. Crisp. Sweet. Succulent. Thank you.

Kobe Wagyu steak, charcoal oil, goat cheese, candied black olives, cauliflower ($33).
Pleasant but not extraordinary.

Chocolate cake, spicy olive oil ($10).
Things that make you go hmm. Hmm. Not mmm. Lots of funny faces at our table.

Pistachio ice cream sundae, Bing cherries, hot chocolate sauce, salted pistachio ($14).
This dessert was palatable, but the $14 price tag was not.

Campfire smoked s'mores, guacamole sorbet ($12).
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Not my favorite by a longshot.

Caramel souffle, blanco grapefruit, fleur de sel ice cream ($14).
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Wet and runny both times I had it. Disappointing, considering how wonderful the chocolate souffle was at LudoBites 4.0.

People have raved and raved and raved about LudoBites 5.0.

For me, however, LudoBites 5.0 was comprised of hits and misses. My second visit (with insomniac, Ann Marie, and Amber) outshone my first visit (with my husband, my brother, and Mr. Cruiser), but neither dinner in this series made my heart sing like 3.0 or 4.0 did.

But I can't quit this mad genius. If there's a 6.0, I'll be trying for reservations again.

It'll be like getting into an Ivy League graduate school.


  1. wow! you did serious due diligence here, on your way to ivy league ludobites masters for sure. Interesting to see the developments of the dishes as I went the first week of 5.0. I wish I could have tried that mozz -tomato salad.

  2. Wow! I do realize these pictures came from two trips, but you still had a lot of food! The grilled octopus looks delicious in particular.

  3. Excellent recap, Rivers. Ya know what? I actually liked 5.0 better than the earlier ones. I went last week and loved everything that I ordered. I think it was a good idea to go midway through Ludo's run so that I could read what others thought was great and stick to those. See ya at 6.0!

  4. Ditto everything you said. Bring on 6.0! :)

  5. You guys are ballers ordering all of these things! Your photography is getting much more fierce, btw

  6. Ivy League grad school can't be that hard to get into. I did it. All the best with getting a reservation for next time and I hope the food lives up to it's previous standard.

  7. It all looks so good, but is definitely more adventurous than I'd like to eat. I guess I'm a state school kind of gal.

  8. I never thought you would find a duck dish you didn't like. Still it all looks good.

  9. I agree with all of your assessments, at least for the dishes that I tried.

    I think that 3.0 is still my overall favorite, although 5.0 had dishes I wish I could eat again and again.

    Looking forward to 6.0!

  10. hardcore. sounds like 6.0 to woo you back?

  11. I'm inclined to agree. I was a huge fan of 4.0. But I didn't get to eat the menu for 5.0, so I feel that I missed out. I honestly feel it does Ludo a disservice to compare him to himself. I think we have to take each incarnation separately and in and of itself.

  12. On the contrary, I feel there is no fairer comparison than to one's self.

    If I considered 5.0 separately and did not evaluate it with any knowledge of 3.0 and 4.0, I can't say I would be that interested in 6.0.

    My ultimate positive assessment and forward outlook stems from my faith in Ludo's talent and creativity based on past meals.

  13. I dare say that getting a ressie for 6.0 will be harder than getting into an ivy league grad school. I liked that tomato dish. And I made a face at the souffle. A hurt face. Tu m'as blessee, Ludo souffle.

  14. Beautiful looking dishes. I don't know if I'd eat the confit or fois gras but everything else I'd be game for. Especially the octopus. Love octopus. Maybe one day I will go to one of these too!

  15. I know that a lot of people have said that 5.0 is his strongest yet, but I preferred 4.0. Maybe because there was more I ate?... That being said, glad to hear you like the dish with tomatoes and mozzarella ice cream. It's one of the dishes that wasn't around for my first visit that I'd like to try on my second!

  16. I'm lol at the sweetbread, because Africa was my first thought as well! Your description may have made me drool, just a little bit. I'd like some crispy sweetbread right now.

    Too bad about the souffle. It looked perfect.

    I have to start following Ludo on Twitter to watch out for 6.0. So many interesting dishes! As usual, great pics.

  17. I wonder if 10YT knows what sweetbreads are? I'm thinking no.

    ::evil cackle::

  18. you are so lucky! Twice? Sigh I couldnt get a single reservation. That foie dynamite looks so interesting, would never think to waste foie in all that sauce, but as long as it tastes good

  19. bahaha, what ssinca said.

    the mozzarella ice cream is super duper intriguing. wish i could try that.

  20. Very nice. I only went with 1 other person so didn't get to try as many dishes! Boo :(


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