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)
Cheese cupcake, chicken liver chantilly, tangerine, cornichon ($14).
Grilled squid, heirloom tomato salad, black rice, yuzu red onions, spring onions and umami, seaweed tartar ($15).
Heirloom tomato smoothie, squid ink vodka gelee ($11).
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).
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).
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).
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).
Not bad but not particularly memorable.
Roasted striped bass, lardo, garlic paste, onion soy milk, orange breadcrumbs, potato chips ($29).
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).
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).
Campfire smoked s'mores, guacamole sorbet ($12).
Not my favorite by a longshot.
Caramel souffle, blanco grapefruit, fleur de sel ice cream ($14).
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.