LudoBites - you could call it extreme cooking, with unpredictable locations and kitchen conditions, thrown into the crucible of not a lot of time - yet churning out consistently inventive culinary creations. Time magazine's "chef of the future". New twins. And now Ludo Bites America on Sundance Channel, a fun format of culinary road trip / cross country adventure + drama of world class chef meets small town kitchens + inside look into husband and wife as business partners and how that works. Is there anything that Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre can't do?
Though that is the fairest way to offer out the limited number of reservations, it still leaves those of us - myself included - who didn't get one, all the more crushed to read about yet another amazing menu via other people's blog posts.
And this time all my favorite ingredients were on the menu.
I was despairing of needing to move to some small town like Mobile, that may be on the itinerary for LudoBites America 2.0, in order to ever have a chance to taste his food - when a fellow blogger reminded me that - hello - I could just try to catch cancellations when they are announced. But where was I to find 3-5 other people ready to drive like a bat out of hell, to downtown LA, on a moment's notice? I considered hanging outside the place, like KevinEats did, to try to catch a table - but again I didn't know anyone else passionate enough about food to wait around, in the backyard of Skid Row, for the possibility of getting a table. Plus, I work in the Valley, and office hours are 9-6, so there's no way to get downtown in time to snag a walk-in at 6. And everyone is going to be vying for walk-ins on weekends.
So, I begrudgingly came to terms with the fact that I was going to miss out on LudoBites. Again. Until last night.
On my way back from D23 in Anaheim, I realized that downtown was sorta on my way back home - and since I left the event a bit early - I was in the downtown area by about 5:15. I was by myself, but screw it - if I waited around for people to do things I wanted to do, I'd never get anything done. And this was on my way home. However, I had spied on Twitter that walk-in seating was 'al fresco' on Skid Row - so, being the way I am, I Googled time of sunset: 7:35pm. Plenty of time to eat and get outta there before The Living Daylights are gone literally and figuratively, if I got the 6pm seating. So, I crossed my fingers and reset my Waze app with a new destination: Gram & Papas.
So, I kicked off the meal with a Lavender Ginger Lemonade ($4) - no cocktails are on menu due to lack of liquor license (lots of people were going BYOB) - but this was the perfect drink for me after the long week - lavender for destressing, citrus for refreshment, and ginger to contribute a subtle kick to wake up the tastebuds.
I wanted to order everything on the menu - but with limited stomach capacity, decided on the ones that either contained my favorite ingredients, or had unusual combinations of ingredients that you probably would not see on anyone else's menu. I went with a few small plates, the better to sample more dishes.
All in all, an inspired and amazing meal, one of the best I've had this year. To those who may be weary of all the hype, and crowds, and possibly having the living daylights scared out of you by having to be downtown etc. etc. - get up and go try it for yourself, now, and you'll see the reason for all the hype. If you go early enough, before they even open for the night - based on last night it seems like you'll have a good shot of getting a table, and you'll be out of there before dark. Is it worth all the trouble? YES. Go. Now.
(They are still completely sold out. But you can follow Krissy on Twitter for latest table opening alerts, or stand by outside the place before opening like I did...good luck!)
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks mains)
Probability of return visit - 100% (if I can even get in!)
LudoBites 007 at Gram & Papa's
227 East 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Parking: Free on most streets after 6pm; $3 flat rate after 4pm in lot on Santee between 8th and 9th