The announcement of LudoBites is that event each year that has food lovers quivering with excitement, like the promise of a new food frontier - so many unknowns, in unchartered culinary territory, in the best way possible. (If you don't want to spend the next few minutes reading the ravings of yet another LudoBites fan, now is the time to turn back.)
This year, the surprise element extended even to the reservation process itself - instead of an 'open the virtual floodgates' moment on OpenTable, which had caused site crashes and record-breaking sellout times (weeks of bookings for the pop-up in under a minute!) - this time reservations were done through a lottery system via Urbanspoon. You submit the dates you want, cross your fingers, and hold your breath for a rose...erm, I mean, confirmation email.
Though I was disappointed when I didn't manage to get a booking, I was hopeful, based on the experience with LudoBites 007 that I might be able to score a walk-in, if I go early enough. And as luck would have it, just a week or two before the start of LudoBites 8 - I sealed the deal on a new job in West LA, a short hyper-drive to the (Lemon) Moon!
So it was that I pulled up to the bar one night after work, for the only thing that is predictable with LudoBites - for my mind to be blown.
This was a madly ingenious creation - a definite fav 'best of' dish that I couldn't resist repeating on a second trip! If I could I would eat this every day for the rest of my life and be happy.
Sometimes the alchemy of their brilliance with the right ingredients, preparation and setting produces proof of divine design - like the foie gras soup - but sometimes the results of the gambler's toss is not as ideal.
I definitely appreciated the recommendation as soon as the plate of fish was within sight. The plate was in a word - art. It looked like something that had washed up on the beach, exactly like this, but you know that can't be true because all the ingredients besides the fish itself, came from the ground. So your brain and eyes go back and forth like this for a while, and you admire the beauty of the presentation - before setting out to explore what lies beneath the waves of apple and topping of fried fish skin.
So below was another surprise - thin, fresh made potato chips. No, not as in the British-reference - real, thin, crunchy ovular petals of fried potato. A brilliant play on the ole fish 'n chips - well played, Ludo, well played.
And if you had to look up manzanilla - I did too - it's apparently spanish for chamomile. I couldn't see anything floral on the plate, but overall the fish had nuanced flavors that were clean and simply amazing. Especially when you make sure to grab a little bit of every element on the plate in each forkful.
This turned out to be one of the best tasting and most creative serving of fish I have ever had. Loved it so much it would rival for my affections for foie.
Then the whole thing was topped by frothy cappuccino foam. It was all kinds of umami and sweet and subtle bitter all at once.
I wish I could eat this every week...(Ludo when are you going to open up a restaurant?!)
All in all, an inspired, epic, out of this world meal, one of the best I've had so far this year.
[On a side note, I've talked about my favorite things food-wise about LudoBites, but there's one other thing I want to note too - that after all their enormous successes, in and out of the kitchen and with their own TV show - Krissy and Ludo seem to have remained exactly who they always were, and in every moment effuse passion for and dedication to what they're doing. Krissy's the one answering the phones for reservations, she's personally welcoming and seating guests, helping set tables during pre-opening, and wiping them down after. Expediting or serving plates as needed. Ludo's in the kitchen pretty much the whole time cooking unless accommodating excited guests' requests for photos with him. This is just what I can see of them in the restaurant - don't know them personally, but love them for all the reasons above - in addition to the mnd-blowing food of course.]
And also true to Krissy's marketing genius, though their last service just happened tonight - they've already started promoting to their next pop-up, which will for the first time be in Hawaii. Which yes will make it unfortunately hard for those of us who live in LA to get to - but that dangles the promise of possibility of things to come: foie outside the boundaries of the tyrant state and its foie-banning legislation. And Urbanspoon is running a sweepstakes with them for a trip to Hawaii for two to experience LudoBites 9 - which will be held at the Four Seasons Resort: Hualalai starting March 6th. All you have to do is "like" Urbanspoon on Facebook AND make a free reservation at participating restaurants in either LA, Seattle or San Francisco for a chance to win. See details and official rules here. 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 8 at Lemon Moon
12200 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064