Sunday, November 7, 2010

Still Chasing the Highs: LudoBites 6.0

Remember when I said that getting a LudoBites reservation is harder than getting into the Ivy League? Well, I was right. I didn't get a reservation to 6.0.

But, thanks to the generosity of a friend of a friend and the wonders of the Internet, insomniac and I scored spots last week at LudoBites 6.0 at Max in Sherman Oaks and made two new food-loving friends in the process!
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LudoBites 6.0 was the most professional version of The Legend of Ludo that I've experienced to date -- full bar, warm and comfortable atmosphere, and seamless service. Extra special thanks to our server. I don't remember her name, but there she is in the picture above. She was friendly, knowledgeable, genuine, and prompt -- everything you could ask for in a server.

But I found a lot of the food challenging again. Too extreme. Unrefined. Too...too much. I think Ludo may need to start heeding the old fashion adage of taking off one accessory before leaving the house.

We can always count on Ludo to push the envelope. However, I wish that he would find a suitable permanent space, settle down, and harness and perfect his phenomenal talent. The highs are so high. But the lows are disappointingly low.

A chef of his caliber shouldn't be sending out lows. Instead of this nomadic pop-up, test-kitchen-type, now-almost-gimmicky, traveling food show, an established Ludo lair with an actual address would guarantee just the highs.

And that, folks, would be epic.

Am I glad I got to go to LudoBites 6.0? Of course. Did I enjoy every dish? No.

Warm baguette, baratte smoked butter, sardine-Laughing Cow cheese ($5).
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Pleasant start.

Hamachi Vietnamese-style ($15).
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Light and fresh.

Black trumpet mushroom cappuccino, creamy butternut squash ($15).
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The butternut squash soup was piping hot, smooth, sweet, and wonderful. The black trumpet mushroom cappuccino was a big, cold, confusing blob at the bottom of the bowl. We didn't get it. If you do, can you explain?

Barely cooked squid noodles, pad thai, prawn, black radish ($16).
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Reminiscent of the squid carbonara from Ludobites 4.0. Sadly, not nearly as good.

Sea urchin roe, frozen milk, balsamic, orange broth, black rice ($18).
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No. Just no.

Oriental mussels veloute, heirloom tomato, small fries ($18).
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Enjoyable. An inspired pairing of the less ordinary and the über familiar.

Marinated mackerel, leche del tigre, baby leeks, verdolagas leaves ($15).
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Excellent. Skin was crispy. Fish was tender and flavorful. Cleaned this plate.

Scallop, celery root remoulade, red port, walnuts, passion fruit ($24).
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Neither memorable nor offensive.

John Dory, potato, herbs, brocollini flowers, green jalapeños nage ($26).
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This tasted like someone shoved 837 herbs into my mouth. It was a bowl of bitterness.

Marinated Korean steak, crispy kimchi, mustard seed ($29).
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Tasty. It's hard to mess up steak. Small pieces of bone marrow sat atop the chunks of meat. Eat them quickly before they congeal.

Half chicken, poached egg, chanterelles, chorizo ($24).
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Fabulous. Some of the best chicken I've ever had. Ludo really does know his chicken. So moist. So perfect. Gold star.

Poached-roasted foie gras, honey, autumn fruits, rose flowers ($34).
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Notwithstanding the fact that the pool of pink gel in the lower left corner tasted like Bath & Body Works, this dish was easily my favorite of the night. This is what all foie gras should aspire to be. Seared just right. Accompanied by the light natural sweetness of honey and fresh fruit. An amazing segue to dessert. This is what we want, Ludo, night after night in one steady location. This is what we love.

Pear, chocolate, matcha green tea broth, mint ($12).
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I adore pears, but this was a tad firm for my liking.

Warm carrot cake, coconut, Thai curry, mango sorbet, kaffir lime oil ($10).
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This was the best dessert I've ever had at LudoBites. I could do without the kaffir lime oil, but all of the other components taken together were first-rate. I loved this warm carrot hug from a Thai grandma. Absolutely scrumptious.

Am I a tough judge? I don't think so. Perhaps I expect more from Ludo because I've tasted extraordinary things from his kitchen.

That's what keeps us all coming back -- the hope that we'll taste the extraordinary again. We're all chasing the highs.

Stop making us chase, Ludo. Put the highs all in one place.


  1. Unfortunate you didn't seem to enjoy your meal here - looks like there's been a few menu changes since I went.

    I do always fantasize on what it would be like if I could get all of my favorite Ludo dishes in one sitting. Sigh.

  2. I'm beginning to think that it's best to eat at Ludo Bites toward the tail end of the run. That way, I have access to many reports (like yours) and Ludo has finessed the menu.

    Thanks for the report.

  3. Glad you finally got a reservation but sad it was slightly disappointing.

  4. Um... I plead the fifth. lol Nice job with your review, though. :)

  5. Ludo's foie is what turned me into a foie believer. Still dreaming about that foie tart from 2.0... it was the turning point for me - perhaps even more than his famous foie croque monsieur! Would love to see it on a permanent menu. Dare I dream?

  6. I've only done 4.0 and had highs and lows too. I don't think I hated anything though. Just really liked some and was meh about others. But the reservations are just almost impossible!

  7. Okay, maybe I hate you & Insomniac a little less after hearing your reviews. ;)

  8. Thanks for prepping me for my meal at Ludo's tomorrow...I almost forgot to prepare myself for dishes that just don't work!

  9. This sounds like a game of Battleship: sea urchin roe-miss, foie gras-hit, etc.

    A permanent LudoBites location would be really, really nice!

  10. thanks for the honest review. perhaps he's one of those chefs that never want to settle down.....

  11. Oh sorry to hear you were underwhelmed. At least i dont feel THAt bad for wasting 1.5hr trying to get a ressie to no avail. Maybe 7.0 will be better??

  12. thanks for the post!
    i still haven't been to 6.0 and i doubt i'll snag a ressie... i'm hoping i can get a seat via walk-in... which will be at the end of this installment.

  13. Thank you for this honest synopsis of your experience. Really enjoyed it.

  14. dude, sardine laughing cow cheese?? that sounds pretty delicious.


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