Ludo Bites, Ephemeral Delights
In downtown Los Angeles, Chef Ludo Lefebvre is a culinary rockstar, dishing up his "pop-up" cuisine inside of Gram & Papa's on 9th Street and Los Angeles. This was an exciting experience, a chance at discovering the culinary delights of Chef Ludo's exquisite and unique cuisine.
The menu. I welcomed the selections with an open palate, poised for new flavors. To preface, I have been vegetarian for most of my life, but now I'm willing to try anything that appeals to the senses. I might attempt to tell you all about Chef Ludo and the concept of "pop-up" kitchens, but there is enough information out there about that. What I want to express is the sensuality of his food and the unique dining style in which he presents his cuisine. Dinner was casual, in a unpopulated area of downtown Los Angeles, inside a little diner that he has inhabited for this particular version of Ludo Bites (007). Considered a "traveling kitchen" of sorts, it is a brief showing of his talents, ephemeral, like cherry blossoms. In this kind of transitory fashion, the menu itself is in constant change. This quality reminds of how Monet painted many versions of a landscape, changing colors with the passing of time and daylight.
We ordered the Onion Tart with Bottarga (salt cured fish roe) first...
The delicacy of the Onion Tart--- a crisp thin tart crust like a flatbread pizza, layered with caramelized onion, so finely sliced and nearly melting on my tongue. The dust of bottarga coated my taste buds with its pollen of fine salty-smoky fragrance, carrying my mind off into a rustic kitchen somewhere with a warm brick oven. Served simply on a wood cutting board.
The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star. ~Brillat-Savarin
The second dish arrived: Dorade Ceviche in Cucumber Water and Purslane...
I have never before tried ceviche of any kind. This dish opened my eyes (and mouth) to the exquisite experience of Chef Ludo's gifted abilities--- my first try of ceviche. One bite contained the fresh taste of summer: feathers of cilantro, velvety wide leaves of purslane, fragile cucumber flowers, dazzled with slivers of jalapeño, pickled onion, and halved cornichons, showcasing the dorade in its glory. "Dorade," or Sea Bream, brings me to the 'a-ha' of discovery. A favorite Japanese manga comic called Oishinbo (美味しんぼ, "The Gourmet") features the remarkable flavor of "Sea Bream" in one episode. After reading Oishinbo, I continued to wonder what exactly Sea Bream was, and how it would be prepared. If this dish was featured in Oishinbo's story about Fish, Sushi, and Sashimi, certainly it would be a winning dish. The watery and refreshing flavor of the cucumber magnified the lightness of the fish, mingling on the tongue in a way that brought sunlight into one's mouth.
Salt Cod Panna Cotta.
This little bowl of sensuality was a sublime and nearly orgasmic (alright, yes, it was orgasmic, I admit) mouthful. The decadent creaminess of the panna cotta and whipped fingerling potato, pearls of smoked tapioca and fragrance of olive oil seduced my palate with the silkiness of the salt cod and the crunch of olive bread croutons, sprinkled with constellations of starry flowers. Yes, this ramekin of heaven caused me to shudder and writhe in pleasure; every slow bite was as languid and lusty as a passionate kiss, leaving my body helpless as I swooned with longing and desire. It was the olive oil that made this panna cotta so erotic. Creamy, smoky, flavor of ripe olives, salt, hint of ocean brine, and sweet with the potato and panna cotta.
Foie Gras "French Dim Sum," Crispy Kim Chi, Sake-Black Truffle Cream.
Another first. I had never before tried foie gras. Ravioli-esque circles of "Dim Sum" à la française, rich and round and full of foie gras--- creamy, velvety, fatty with delightful abandon, the musk of black truffle infusing itself as a magical ingredient, where I am softly cradled in a blanket of flavor, it becomes a lover taking my tongue, and the euphoria of desire overwhelms me.
The number of flavors is infinite, for every soluble body has a peculiar flavor, like none other. ~Brillat-Savarin
Egg, Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc.
Uni, or Sea Urchin, has not been on my list, having tried it on several occasions. However, being a food adventurer, I chose to forget all past experiences, and open my mouth for Chef Ludo's bites, to renew and awaken my senses, and my appreciation of this food artist's palette. So the colors from his palette: sea urchin, with egg, caviar, and champagne beurre blanc. This was a dish of aphrodisiac appellation, defining its territory in my mouth, tempting me to expand and forget the past.
Époisse Cheese Risotto.
Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken. ~M.F.K. Fisher
Époisse Cheese it is a pungent unpasteurized cheese that the gourmands of history fable. The famous epicure Brillat-Savarin himself classed it as the "king of all cheeses" and for that reason as I write this, I understand exactly why. The taste of this Époisse Cheese Risotto had the faintest hint of a Camembert. But, let me explain, do not even imagine this cheese is obvious. Its pungency is barely there. The egg yolk is served within the nest of risotto, for your spoon to swirl into the body of this dish. If Chef Ludo had prepared this dish for Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin himself, I am certain he would have made yet another victory in romancing a true sensualist. The grist and crunch of hazelnut combined with the herbs allowed my mouth to savor the textures and aroma of the ever-so-faint cheese, that stained itself indelibly on my palate the way a lover's touch is always remembered. Dipping my spoon into the yolk was suggestive enough to arouse any epicurean.
The Lavender Ginger Lemonade was refreshing with my dinner. With water in simple glasses, and the heavenly flavors marrying in my mouth, enjoying the small tastes of erotic food, Chef Ludo's cuisine has aroused this former vegetarian. Never again shall I be the same.