I had seen the tweet from @FrenchChefWife aka Krissy Lefebvre on Tuesday about how her husband, Chef Ludo Levebvre was on a shopping spree at Surfas getting poised for action the following day for his one night pop up in Redondo Beach. I dismissed the thought of ever being able to snag a spot at this highly coveted event and forgot about it.
Fast forward Wednesday and it was around 1.30pm. I received a text asking me if I was interested in going to LudoBites 2011 at 7pm. My mind went crazy. YES OF COURSE! But…. wait…. what was I to do with my son who I was on my way to pick up from an early day at school?
As I scrambled to gather my thoughts, I knew I HAD to go — I mean, how difficult, how virtually impossible it is to get a reservation at LudoBites when he’s running a 2 month course, and this is for ONE night!
Well, I figured out a way, found a sitter and my son, being the lil connoisseur that he is was actually excited FOR me that I was going to eat at LudoBites — he’s watched Chef Ludo on TV before — and honestly, would’ve wanted to go himself had it not been a school night.
When we arrived we found protesters had formed a group outside Casa Pulido, the Mexican restaurant which was the venue for the evening’s festivities. As we maneuvered our way towards the haranguing crowd, we were handed pamphlets and there were signs saying “Foie Gras: How Much Cruelty Can You Swallow” — ummm do you REALLY want me to answer that? And is it REALLY wise to give the man you want to quash even more publicity than ever???
As dinner guests made their way to the front door, they were harassed by the protesters, one lady with a newborn was yelled at and some other people with a little girl also received seething remarks. All I could think of was the delicious meal — possibly foie gras was going to be involved — and soon, my ears turned completely deaf to the chants and rants around me as my thoughts turned to what delights Chef Ludo had in store for us.
We had some time to kill and were waiting for our other friends to arrive, but we weren’t about to stand outside with the furor escalating so we escaped into the bar area and ordered a Salsa-Rita — the drink of the night.
This refreshing drink comprised of salsa tomato water, lime, cilantro, REAL Reposado Tequila with a sugar chile rim. It reminded me of a light Bloody Mary without the bite. It was tasty and addictive.
Guys with cameras were running around darting from this room to the next — and no, I don’t mean bloggers with expensive SLRs. I meant a camera crew was filming and believe it or not, this was an episode of LudoBites America, a reality series the Lefebvres have been shooting across America and this was the finale.
We peruse the menu featuring what Chef Ludo calls “French-Mex”, consisting of eight savory items and two sweet items. We began our meal by ordering one each from the savory portion.
Brocamole & Chips, a take on guacamole uses pureed broccoli and is accompanied with chips. It was a novel way to serve broccoli and although it wasn’t as creamy in texture as avocados would’ve been, it was a very clever idea indeed.
Our next dish was Ceviche Cucumber Water and Purslane. The bowl arrived with a beautiful green liquid dotted with two pieces of white fish, pickled onions and a few sprigs of purslane.
I didn’t care for the cucumber water much and while the fish was tender, the entire dish lacked flavor. However, it was highly refreshing and was welcoming especially since the dining room was starting to feel hot and stuffy.
The next few dishes were placed on our table rather quickly and as we try to take photos as quickly as we could, it was virtually impossible with five cameras going off here and there. Thankfully, the next dish was Chilled Red Tomato Soup, Carrot, Smoked Fish so we weren’t worried it was going to get cold any time soon.
I liked the soup which is reminiscent of gazpacho except it had a creamier texture than actual gazpacho. I loved the smoked fish giving it a salty component.
Monterey Squid, Chorizo, Banana, Honey Clementine was another “soupy” dish with lots of “sauce” and bits of squid floating in the bowl. I managed to get one tentacle but didn’t get enough of this dish to clearly get a complete feel in its entirety.
My favorite of the night was definitely Crispy Octopus, Smoky Chipotle, Piquillos Pepper Polenta.
We loved it so much we ended up ordering two more of these after we’d devoured the entire menu. Octopus tentacles were charred and served with the most delicious piquillos pepper polenta. It had a really nice kick to it which just brought this dish to a whole new level for me. The octopus was so very tender. If I could go back again and re-order the menu right now, I would get two orders of this just for me.
The star of the evening — and of course, why everyone was outside protesting — was indeed Foie Gras Quesadilla, Crispy Cabbage, Juniper Berry Oil.
Naturally, after we shared the one portion, it wasn’t QUITE enough to satiate our palates and we HAD to have more, so we ordered two more just to be safe. The creamy texture of the foie gras with the fresh crunch of the cabbage made every bite heavenly and we ravished both additional plates without much trouble.
Roasted-Poached Beef in Lard, Squid Ink Risotto, Lemon Confit, Dried Mole was not received well by all at the table but I loved it.
The beef was a tender medium rare and paired with the squid ink risotto were delicious enough on their own. But then, you get some crispy dried mole sprinkled in and the textural component of this dish turned insane. The mixture of textures was impressive with chewy, crispy, everything rolled into one. A little lemon confit helped cut the richness a little just enough to cleanse the palate to bombard it again with the decadence of everything else.
We had ordered Brandade Tacos, Dandelion, Creamy Extra Virgin Olive Oil which never made its way to our table. After several reminders, we finally got it at the end of the savory portion of the meal.
The brandade was a little too pureed for my taste as I like mine with a little more texture. I thought if we had eaten these before the quesadillas, I might’ve enjoyed them more. The dandelion greens added both texture, freshness, and slight bitterness which the subtle tacos needed.
Guacamole Sorbet, Catalan Cream, Fruit Salsa, Tequila was too acidic for me. The sorbet lacked any avocado flavor and although I would’ve liked to sprinkle some sea salt over it, I know Chef Ludo would’ve strangled me had he caught me doing so — NO I didn’t do it!
The Ancho Chili Pepper Chocolate Brownie, Caramel Leche, Red Beets & Rhubarb was definitely a hit with me. I loved the slight kick of the pepper sitting on the same plate as the beets and rhubard, lending a touch of tartness to the dessert. This is definitely MY kind of ending to a fabulous meal.
And here I am, once again, at the end of another meal at LudoBites, shared with good friends, another meal to log into the food adventure journal. I don’t care how you feel about Ludo Lefebvre, or about foie gras, or even pop-ups for that matter, there is no denying that an evening spent in Chef Ludo’s dining room, is definitely a night to remember.
LudoBites at Casa Pulido