Monday, November 30, 2009

Anticipating the Return @ Ludobites (Los Angeles)

We recently just had a Thanksgiving holiday, which got me thinking of a few things I am thankful for the year 2009. Met tons of new friends, visiting fascinating places and having a great meal to go along with it, great stories to share, and more importantly another year of good health.

Because of some great friends I met, they were able to share with me some of their favorite places they like to dine at. One of my favorite discovery for this year was not a taco truck, but a pop-up style restaurant where a chef would take over a non-descript place and run the restaurant like a Ghetto Gourmet in San Francisco. I never heard of a concept like a pop-up style restaurant until a friend of mine, Gastronomnom introduced it to me over the summer.

He confided to me that Ludo Bites was his favorite new restaurant along with Animal (which he suggested to me as well). Once he go into details on how the former chef at L'Orangerie and Bastide, Ludo Lefebvre have decided to turn a small Artisan Bakery cafe (BreadBar in Mid-City) into his personal kitchen and run it with great precisions. Then my friend begin to tell me how Ludo was able to turn some simple ingredients into a delicious fanfare, I was at the time more than intrigue wanting to find out more.

Then a slew of my other blogger friends relayed to me in that one of their blogger companion was at the BreadBar bragging about how great Pierre Gagnaire's food was, Ludo calmly replied with a smile and said "Yeah I know, I used to work for him for a few years".

With that, I knew I was going to love the guy and the food he was going to serve!

Green Bean Salad, Peach, Coconut, Apple, Horseradish, Lemongrass

Snails, Spinach Curry, Yogurt

Homemade Boudain Noir Terrine (Pork Blood) - Potato Puree, Mustard, Black Currants

Some of these dishes that I am about to show were some of my favorites in my three visits to LudoBites. When we first got the menu, I was very perplex to see some of the dishes on the menu. For instance like pork blood. Don't worry, I have pork blood plenty of times due to my steady of diet of Taiwanese cuisine as part of my raising by my parents. I was amazed Ludo was able to glamorized a street food and work it with a potato puree. Think of this like a soft pudding and get it dipped with some creamy potato sauce. Never imagine it with mixture of potato until now and was absolutely stunned that it can worked well together.

Already, the imagination on these charts worked splendidly better than I hope.

Creamy Polenta - Cantal Cheese, Oxtail Beef, Black Truffle

Foie Gras Black Croque - Monsieur, Ham, Cherry, Amaretto

Some of the few dishes that I was able to get my hands on, I was truly impressed and amazed by how complicated of a work these simple dishes can be made into these wildly intricate with vivid imaginations. A lot of the starters are favorites among my dining friends that joined me that night along with Gastronomnom and his fiance, FoodforFel from The Food Ledger, the Minty, and a common friend of the group, Ally. We also spotted FoodSheThought right when we were about to be seated in a corner table.

The two starters stood that night for me was the Foie Gras Black Croque and the creamy polenta. Think about this for one second: if you can get a hand on a perfect moist sandwich with a dipping of cherry jam and neatly stuffed with foie gras and ham. How much will you willing to pay? For myself and a few in the table, we would gladly fork over the $20 (the price tag at the time) if Ludo was willing to serve it for a take-out lunch bento box.

The creamy polenta with oxtail is something that is very comforting and one of the more traditional dish on Ludo's repertoire. An addition of black truffle was a major plus as it only enhanced a rich, creamy dish that was a favorite of mine.

Monkfish "A la Nage" Leeks, Nutmeg, Lemon, Potato

Spaghetti Carbonara - Santa Barbara Prawn, Sage

Grilled Duck Breast - Leek Salad, Ginger, Capers, Black Truffle

Let me pointed out that his savory dishes are some of his strength. I didn't get the chicken dish that was flavored with duck fat as it was wildly described by LA Weekly's food critic, Jonathan Gold. However, the three savory dish that I was able to experienced was more than adequately fill the void (where the chicken was last served the week before I got there).

My favorite was the Grilled Duck Breast which had a conflict of battle in taste, but somehow came beautifully once it is inserted into your mouth. Some chefs likes to play with presentations or with molecular gastronomy. Chef Ludo likes to let the tastes and flavors be the deciding factor. If you were able to tell me that ginger goes along with salt on a duck, I would have plenty of skeptical doubts. Taking the unconventional road and recreating it was a risk worth taking if you have the confidence. Not only it pays off beautifully, it was a dish I would order every chance I can get when I step in to his Bread Bar location.

Of course this was a man who was on a TV competition show trying to hawk a pig's ear quesadilla. He is not only brave, but very daring and willing to take risks.

Vanilla Panna Cotta, Caviar, Carmel

Peach Curry - Masacarpone, Verbene

Chocolate Cupcake, Foie Gras Chantilly, Candied Bacon Almonds, Maple syrup

Desserts are usually not my favorites, but you just couldn't skip some of the treats waiting in store at this place. Have you had a savory chocolate desserts? How about a foie gras on your cupcake? Maybe a caviar on top of a panna cotta?

Sweet mixing savory? Does it work? Believe it or not, my mind says no way, but my taste bud didn't stop licking what is on the spoon or plate. Just asked my friend Hall-e of The Michelin Project (below picture) about it. She can't stop either.

Trust me when I say it's a sight to be hold until you get to experience these little pleasures in life. There always something new every week when I was there. After my initial visit, by chance I was able to come back the second time in three days span. Didn't stop there as I came back again for the third time two weeks later.

If the question from my loyal readers was that does Ludo still have his pop-up restaurant at Bread Bar, then the answer is no. Fret not, he does have a new location and an interesting twist to his new venture. The new location of his pop-up restaurant is at Royal/T cafe in Culver City where the space is also a Japanese-style cosplay café where you do get to see something of interesting arts that is provided there for your constant amusement. It's one thing to get an entertainment out of the food, but to also have bizarre art pieces to display around your dining table probably will complete your evening of curiosity.

Not only am I excite to see what he have in store for us on the menu, but can't wait to see how a work of Takashi Murakami fit in to this dining experience.

ps. Make sure to make your reservation on their website. Even though the reservations might be filled up, you can get on the waiting list for this limited, selected 13-day engagement at Royal/T. The start date official begins on December 2nd. Don't miss out!

LudoBites (old location)
8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 205-0124

LudoBites (new location)
Royal/T Cafe
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

Reservations for Royal/T can be made in the website.

LudoBites (at Breadbar) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thomas Keller Book Signing at South Coast Plaza

In case you don't have a reservation at the grand opening of Bouchon in Beverly Hills next Monday, don't fret. The master chef extraordinaire, Thomas Keller will be signing his book "ad hoc at home" tomorrow in the South Coast Plaza Williams-Sonoma.

You can ogle at him or just tell him that his restaurant Per Se and French Laundry is not that hot. Either way, this is probably the best chance you will get to meet him up close and personal.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Black Goat Extravaganza @ Chin Go Gae (Koreatown)

No English Translation on the sign (just look for the Korean signage)

Has anyone ever tried Black Goat? That is until you realized it does not taste or looked like lamb meat. It's a pretty weird concept and worth a Deep End Dining style trip to further enhance your foodie adventures.

It's a weird concept only because this was an actual protein that is very popular in Korean cuisine, but only a few places in Los Angeles would served it. Seriously, I would need to dig deeper to find other hole in the wall places to get this kind of discovery.

Bahn Chan (side dishes) - Seaweed, Cucumbers, sweet daikon, and kimchee

I have heard this place was very popular in Koreatown for over two decades. Many Korean Angelanos have regard The Black (heukk) Goat (yeum so) is served two ways here. The most popular ordering choice is served in hot spicy soup (tang) and can be ordered in sauteed fried style as well. Both popular dishes will set diners back to around $15 each and will feed about 4-6 people for each order.

We get the usual bahn chan starters before the main courses arrives. Usually the Korean appetizers are there to tie you down just like peanuts in a steakhouse can do for you. The cucumbers and sweet daikons are some of my favorites in these Korean restaurants. It was too bad that the ever popular bean sprouts was not in effect at this place, but it doesn't diminish the arrangements that was placed in front of us before the mains were served.

Yeum So Moo Chim (Goat Salad) - $15.50

The first dish is a sauteed Goat Salad. According to my research, the yeum so is served with arrays of different vegetables. The main components of that salad style dish has some Korean sesame leaves (kkaennip) with a dash of chili, garlic, red pepper, and sesame seeds (deulkkae).

Now here's the catch with this plate. The table provided a glass of deulkkae (the same sesame seeds in the goat salad) where you can mix it with the bowl of chili paste to make your own dipping sauce for the yeum so (goat) meat.

Toasted Deulkkae (Perilla Seeds)

Special Sauce - sesame oil, chili paste, and toasted deulkkae

The sauce isn't really that secretive nor hard to make. Considering most of the ingredients like the sesame seed can be easily acquired in most Korean shops or markets. There is some sesame oil that is added to enhance the dipping sauce.

By dipping the sauteed goat to the sauce add a bold strong flavor taste. Surprising for me was that it was not overwhelmingly spicy nor any drastic sour taste to the meat. If you want a comparison to what it taste like, my best given answer would be like a flank in a Mexican Sriracha sauce. The texture is not as a gamey as I originally had feared, but rather soft and very tender. It was very delicious in an absolute easy dish for it to be made that was also very pleasing to the stomach.

Before - the leaves were added on before getting pushed down

Yeum So Tang - with Green Onions, Kkaennip (Korean Perilla Leaves) - $15

The big attraction finally arrives to the table in the form or a big pot with a portable cooker underneath was the goat soup (yeum so tang). It started off with the servers placing the kkaennip (Korean Perilla leaves) on top of the soup and pushing it down to be simmered while the boiling soup also cooked the goat meat.

As we quickly devoured the soup and the black goat meat, couple of observations hit me: one was that the soup just like the goat salad wasn't too spicy. In fact I was expecting the soup to be as hot and spicy like the ones I had in On Dal or Ham Ji Park. My best guess can also be attributed to the fact that maybe someone in our table requested that, but nonetheless the soup is something I want to slurp. The soup was very rich and flavorful while the meat was already in a soup that had the similar components as the sauce was very delicious as well.

The other observations was that the leaves and other ingredients in the soup make the broth taste better than most shabu shabu or hot pot places. The soup is probably the highlight in this dish more so than the goat.

In this go around, the goat meat was stewed and have this nice texture like a slow braised pork. With the chili paste and other spicy ingredients added on to the goat meat, it was like a melted piece of delicious treat.

Is there an adverse after effect like a bad steak? Luckily for me, I was alive and still kicking it the day after. I couldn't say the same for me in an unfortunate dining at Chung King.

Kimchee Fried Rice

Like some of the traditional Korean places, the meal will end with a round of Kimchee rice. They used the pot from the goat soup to add in rice and a bowl of various kimchee ingredient to make this popular end of the meal treat. I could honestly say I have better (Ondal being one of the place), but it was still very good for what we have that night and still a welcome treat after the meal.

My adventure of the black goat dining have me scratching off the list of names of protein I wanted to try. Special thanks to my pal the Minty who invited me along in this unusual Korean specialty dish.

This place is a foodie dining institution for many Korean natives who probably doesn't want hoards of invaders coming over to this place as the small place really only have about 8-10 tables. Probably still on the down low as we speak. When I come back here again, the two yeum so dish will be conquered, but I'll make sure this time around they can up the level of the spiciness for the soup.

Chin Go Gae
3063 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 487-0159


Chin Go Gae on Urbanspoon