The first sign was ominous, a simple phone call from Christine to Breadbar early in the morning for a table at Ludobites. Christine's request for a table that evening was denied with a flat-out, "the chef is closing the restaurant tonight because he does not feel like cooking." Though the ramifications of that phone call were discussed over Eater, it clearly generated additional buzz for the temporary restaurant and helped Chef Ludo launch his own Twitter account. After the former Bastide/L'Orangerie chef mounted another comeback to his small plates concept at the 3rd St bakery. My previous visit in late 2007 was a winner, with key dishes such as salmon crudo with tangerine gazpacho and bay scallops in curried yogurt and spinach as standouts, easily some of the most imaginative dishes I'd ever had.
Eventually, Christine became friends with Chef Ludo and his charming wife Krissy after multiple visits and being tagged as the "Twitter girl" by the staff. Christine even did a classic "stage", donned in the black t-shirt and classic apron manning the garde-manger after hours of prep work.
The petite dining room and the rather chilly but romantic patio sets the stage for what could be the most creative and adventurous cuisine in Los Angeles at the moment. Ludo takes risks that most other chefs wouldn't daring to combine flavors such as caviar, vanilla panna and caramel or pork belly, sauerkraft gelee with wasabi peas. The menu changes nightly with ingredients available to Chef Ludo and perhaps his daily muse. For a few weeks diners were treated to fantastic white asparagus he was able to source from Holland, featured in a creamy veloute or served atop steak tartare and studded with anchovies. Comfort dishes side the unfamiliar, with the oxtail polenta and cantal cheese as well as celebrated duck-fat fried chicken available on various evenings.
Chef Ludo is often on the floor, chatting with clients, getting instant feedback about his preparations. He'll spot old friends from the Bastide days, sharing a glass of wine that people open for a paltry corkage. He'll switch over to the kitchen to manage quality, but his faithful cooks Alex and Eliot produce most of the dishes in the minuscule and badly outfitted kitchen usually intended for baking breads or assembling sandwiches. Service is as accommodating as you could ask for, with a bussers clearing tables and servers available at a moment's notice.
What's most intriguing about the food is its whimsy, its daring ventures into flavors and profiles diners have never seen. Sometimes the dishes are less than fully successful, but Ludo often acknowledges and makes changes accordingly. He presents dishes are complex yet approachable. At prices reasonably set around the teens to the low twenties a dish with shareable portions, you might think you're at a Michelin-starred hangout for hipsters and hardcore foodies.
Probably blogged beyond imagination, the middle-media of the food world have generally embraced the concept with enthusiasm. A recent bonanza on Chef Ludo's Top Chef Masters premiere came with as many cameras as diners, and as many flashing bulbs/clicking shutters as the Oscars' red carpet. Still, tables are available nightly, with a small attrition rate that would fit a few two and four-tops despite what the reservationist says.
Expect LudoBites to persevere until somewhere around mid-August before Ludo closes shop, though he's told me he may continue the stint until end of year. Afterwards, he's planning to crystalize the menu and pair with an affordable base of wines for a more permanent, or rather indefinite venue. I reckon it'll still be the epicenter of foodiedom and creative cooking in LA, as it is right now.
at Breadbar on 3rd St.
8718 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048