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)
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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.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pa-Ord Noodle: Out of the Ordinary

Pa-Ord Noodle (5301 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood) is Sapp Coffee Shop's biggest rival.
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I may surprise some folks when I say this, but I think I like Pa-Ord more than Sapp.

Thai iced tea and Thai iced coffee.
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The usual sweet and creamy stuff you expect. You'll need these. I'll tell you why soon.

Pad se-ew -- fried noodles, Chinese broccoli, beef ($6.00).
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A familiar noodle staple in popular Thai cuisine. Very nice version.

But we're not really here for these. We're here for the legendary noodles in soup. We're here for fire.

Our server asks us how spicy we want our noodle soups. He laughs when we say hot. He continues to laugh when we reconsider and say, "Hmm. Ok. Medium then?" He tells us he is going to give us all "mild."

We are dismayed by his lack of confidence in us. We can handle the heat, damn it.

The noodles come.

Heed the advice of your server. "Mild" will fucking sear your intestines. Like wreck you.

It hurt so good.

Large tom yum noodles -- ground pork, BBQ pork, pork balls, dried shrimp ($5.50).
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Incredible. The flavors are brilliant, powerful, and complex. Pungent, tangy, even a tad sweet. This is the one that is fire in a bowl. It may not hit you right away, but it will hit you. It's worth it. I was in pain, yet I still wanted more. (This is when you reach for your Thai iced tea or Thai iced coffee for intermittent relief!)

Large boat noodles -- pork, liver, tripe ($5.50).
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More oomph than Sapp's version. And you know I love Sapp. Such a rich and meaty broth.

Large boat noodles -- beef, liver, tripe ($5.50).
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Same as above but with beef instead of pork.

Sliced crispy pork and Chinese broccoli ($7.50).
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OH-MY-GOD-SO-GOOD. SOOOOOOOOOO GOOD. This wasn't spicy at all. But it was fried and crisp and melt-in-your-mouth freakishly delicious. We all agreed that we could eat this every day. Mr. Monkey almost ordered a second dish. You absolutely must get this. You wouldn't think to choose it at a noodle shop, but it is crazy fantastic -- one of the best things I've eaten this year.

At Pa-Ord, you can opt for any of three types of noodles in your soups. See?
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I favored the thin rice noodles, but Mr. Monkey liked the thin firm egg noodles the most. My brother and father were too busy eating to answer my queries.

I do still love Sapp Coffee Shop. The consistency of all of Sapp's noodles is top-notch, admittedly superior to those at Pa-Ord.

But Pa-Ord packs a punch that Sapp sorely lacks. Call me a masochist, but I kinda liked having my ass kicked by the tom yum.

And the crispy pork, people. Your life is not complete without this crispy pork.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

25 Degrees of Burgeration

I think I've found my favorite burger in Los Angeles. At least for now.
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25 Degrees has won my heart until another burger sweeps me off my feet. Don't hold your breath. I'm a whore when it comes to burgers. I fall in lust easily.

Mr. Monkey remains faithful to Umami. He liked 25 Degrees, but he wasn't head-over-heels like I was. Still, he had no complaints and was very happy with our meal. Look at that smile!

But me? I became a raving lunatic for 25 Degrees after just a couple bites.

Arnold Palmer.
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Our usual classic half lemonade, half iced tea. Quite a nice version.

Number 2 -- roasted tomato, crispy prosciutto, burrata, pesto ($12 with a side).
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Enjoyable. How could it not be? Did you read those ingredients? But I don't think burrata belongs on a burger. It has too much water in it and inevitably soaks through the bun. I probably wouldn't get this again, but it was a valiant effort. If you can't resist this attractive combination of toppings, I recommend eating this burger as quickly as possible to avoid a soggy bun.

Number 1 -- caramelized onion, prelibato gorgonzola, crescenza, bacon, arugula, thousand island (I subbed garlic aioli instead) ($12 with a side).
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This is called Number 1 for a reason. This is the burger that made me swoon. Big. Meaty. Juicy. Two delectable cheeses. Bacon. Packed with flavor. It's Number 1! It's Number 1! sinosoul was right, down to the detail of asking for garlic aioli in lieu of thousand island dressing. He is probably smirking as he reads this.

25 Degrees is a pretty good deal for what you get. Sure, you can build your own burger and add whatever you like. But why would you when, for $12, you can get one of three signature burgers and a very generous side?

And the sides are damn good.

Half & Half.
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Overflowing golden onion rings and French fries. As awesome as they look.

Chopped vegetable salad with avocado, grapes, tomatoes, beets, pine nuts, white beans, ranch, and parmesano reggiano.
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A most excellent salad. Yes, I just called a salad "excellent." Perfect for a summer day.

The sweets at 25 Degrees don't disappoint either.

Strawberry milkshake ($6).
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Mr. Monkey ordered this, but there was plenty extra for me to try in the metal cup.

Warm apple crustade with vanilla ice cream ($9).
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We didn't expect much, but this warm flaky dessert pleasantly surprised us! Loved the caramel and the ice cream, too.

There wasn't one thing that I didn't like at 25 Degrees. That doesn't happen often.
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