Friday, April 30, 2010

Ludobites 4.0 Quickie

There probably isn't another restaurant that almost all of the LA bloggers repeated go back to other than Ludobites. Partly because of the temporariness of the pop-up, partly because of the constantly rotating menu, and partly just because we all love it.

Ludobites 4.0 is currently popping at Gram & Papa's in downtown LA (their venture "east" ... ish). While the space is small, which makes keeping afloat hard when 20 ppl who snagged multiple reservations decided on a no-show, the (although also small) open kitchen is nice. Now we can stare at Ludo and the sous chefs while they cook. And yes, Ludo can stare at you too when your courses come, so snap those photos fast.

With the blogger/twitterverse shooting praises for particular dishes, one visit is never enough, because you'd go online and say "I didn't get to try that one!"

What I did get to try:

Burgundy Escargots, Garlic Flan, Green Jus, Violet Flowers ($13)
Typically served with garlic and parsley butter, Ludo whips them up instead in garlic flan (which is still deliciously rich and butter). Crunchy chewy snails in creamy, garlicky goodness. My companion didn't really dig snails or garlic. All the better for me.

Scallop, Almond Puree, Pickled Grapes, Capers, Curry Oil & Cauliflower Ice Cream ($14)
Firm yet tender scallops, crisp cauliflowers and the juices of the pickled grapes bursting in your mouth.

Carrot Salad, Saffron Anglaise Cream, Pearl Onions, Blood Orange, Orange Powder ($10)
I was skeptical at first (because why would I order carrot salad?) but this was not only gorgeous looking but tasted really good. The thinly shaved carrots had so much flavor and a great texture. Combined with the citrus from the blood orange slices, this was one great salad.

Seared Foie Gras "Pina Colada" ($29)
There were a lot of great flavors going on here, but I did think the foie gras was seared too long. A good portion of the foie was seared to a crisp and while I usually enjoy that this was a little thick. I'd like to give this another try though.

Squid "Carbonara", Pancetta, Poached Egg (63'), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers ($18)
A unique and delicious take on the pasta carbonara, using slices of squid as the "pasta." This was one of the other bloggers' beloved dish and I can certainly see why. The creamy "pasta" dish is taken to a new level using the chewiness of the squid.

Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guiness ($12)
This "Parisian Ham Sandwich in a Bowl" as Krissy introduced it, was another much-lauded dish amongst the bloggers. The ham soup with bits of bread and swiss cheese floating about is two great comfort foods conjoined.

The fact that the last 2 dishes are by and large the favorites of the popular votes to me said something about the taste preferences of the current audience, though. Same as the popularity of bacon. Something rich and heavy over a wonderfully executed Poached Monkfish, Jardiniere de Legumes, Vadouvan ($24)
The monkfish itself was firm yet moist and sweet. It was served with peas and carrots, the spring vegetables that probably classically define the term "jardiniere." Vadouvan, Ludo's favorite spice, brings together each ingredient in the dish in spice and cumin-laden bond.

Two desserts were offered, so naturally we got both.
Rose macarons, Organic Strawberry & Lychee ($12)
This dense and chewy macaron had a nicely sweet fragrance and was complemented well by the crisp fresh strawberries. The lychee essence was somewhat lost among the other flavors.

Dark chocolate soufflé, vanilla whisky ice cream, hot chocolate cream ($13)
I don't know why it's so hard to find a real soufflé in this city (stop serving me chocolate molten cake when your menu says soufflé!), but Ludo's is certainly a bonafide soufflé.
The soufflé: a gorgeous "rise", fluffy, soft and moist.
To top it all off: whisky in your ice cream for a kick.

If I wanted to be done with Ludobites I will have to quit reading blogs and twitter.
In the meantime, I still have a long list of dishes to try: poached jidori chicken, egg & potato mousseline w lobster, etc, etc ...

LudoBites @ Gram & Papa's
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 624-7272
LudoBites @ Gram & Papa's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Weekly Wine & Corkage Deals - Los Angeles

This is a hopefully growing list. If you know of a deal, let me know!
Note: I haven't personally checked out these deals, so call first and confirm before you go.


  • Free corkage. Cafe Pinot, Downtown.
  • Free corkage (limit 1 bottle/2 diners). Il Forno, Santa Monica.
  • Free corkage. Josie Restaurant, Santa Monica.
  • Free corkage. Providence, Hollywood.
  • Free corkage. Ray's and Stark Bar, Mid City.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Bar and Kitchen (at the O Hotel, downtown), Los Angeles.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. La Cachette Bistro, Santa Monica.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Lazy Ox Canteen, (downtown) Los Angeles.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Momed, Beverly Hills.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. RivaBella, West Hollywood
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine under $90. Taste on Melrose, West Hollywood.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Wilshire Restaurant, Santa Monica.
  • $25 for any bottle of wine. Whist at the Viceroy, Santa Monica.

  • Free corkage. Cafe Pinot, Downtown.
  • Free corkage. Daily Grill, multiple locations.
  • Free corkage (limit 1 bottle/2 diners). Il Forno, Santa Monica.
  • Free corkage. Josie Restaurant, Santa Monica.
  • Free Corkage. Osteria Mamma, West Hollywood.
  • Free corkage. Ray's and Stark Bar, Mid City.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Chaya Venice, Venice.
  • 1/2 off select bottles of wine. The Churchill, West Hollywood.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. The Hungry Cat, Hollywood.
  • 1/2 off most bottles of wine (some bottles excluded, ask server). Meet French Bistro, Culver City.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. The Raymond, Pasadena.
  • 1/2 off bottles of wine. Rush Street, Culver City.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Bar and Kitchen (at the O Hotel, downtown), Los Angeles. 
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Coupa Cafe, Beverly Hills.
  • 1/2 off select bottles of wine. Sadie Kitchen and Lounge, Hollywood
  • Free corkage. Cafe Pinot, Downtown.
  • Free corkage (limit 1 bottle/2 diners). Il Forno, Santa Monica.
  • Free corkage. Ray's and Stark Bar, Mid City.
  • Free Corkage. The Raymond, Pasadena.
  • Free Corkage. The Royce at The Langham, Pasadena.
  • Free Corkage. Colorado Wine Company, Eagle Rock.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. AKASHA, Culver City.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine from the Garden Courtyard list. Buffalo Club, Santa Monica.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. The Edison, Downtown.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. La Grande Orange, Pasadena
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. The Hudson, West Hollywood
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Tam O'Shanter, Atwater Village
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Wolfgang's Steakhouse, Beverly Hills.
  • Free corkage. Cafe Pinot, Downtown.
  • Free corkage (limit two). Meet French Bistro, Culver City.
  • Free corkage. Ray's and Stark Bar, Mid City.
  • 1/3 off all bottles of wine. POP Champagne & Dessert Bar, Pasadena.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. The Edison, Downtown.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Saddle Peak Lodge, Calabasas.

  • Free corkage. Cafe Pinot, Downtown.
  • Free corkage. Ray's and Stark Bar, Mid City.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Saddle Peak Lodge, Calabasas.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Il Buco Ristorante, Beverly Hills.


  • Free corkage. Cafe Pinot, Downtown.
  • Free corkage from 12-5PM. K-ZO, Culver City.
  • Free corkage. Ray's and Stark Bar, Mid City.

  • Free corkage. AKASHA, Culver City.
  • Free corkage. Cafe Pinot, Downtown.
  • Free corkage. Celestino, Pasadena.
  • Free corkage and 1/2 off select bottles of wine. Chaya Brasserie, Beverly Hills.
  • Free corkage. Ray's and Stark Bar, Mid City.
  • Free corkage (if not on their wine list). Craft, Century City.
  • Free corkage (limit 1 bottle per 2 diners). Culina, Beverly Hills
  • $1 corkage. La Cachette Bistro, Santa Monica.
  • 1/2 off all bottles of wine. BOA Steakhouse, West Hollywood.
  • 1/2 off select bottles of wine. Chaya Downtown.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sneak Preview: Mendocino Farms (Marina del Rey)!

With their DTLA locations getting rave reviews, I've been curious about the Mendocino Farms sandwiches. Their newest location in Marina del Rey is slated to open on Thursday. Luckily, I was invited to their pre-opening tasting preview last night.

When you enter Mendocino Farms, you'll be given a paper menu on which you'll place your order, line up to pay, get your food and find a seat. Casual is the name of the game.
A bonus for the MDR locals over the DTLA locations: beer/wine license is coming in a few months!

The future keg spot:

The future Enomatic wine system spot:
With beer/wine and these great sandwiches, this may soon be the MDR hangout! Plus, the braised lamb sandwich and the pork belly banh mi would go quite well with a glass of red.

Cos, like, we would know ...
I have to thank Sue, one of the winners of the Tasting Event giveaway, for bringing this bottle of Petite Syrah! Made my braised lamb sandwich even better! (And hey it was a private event so we can bring wine ... )

I highly recommend the Pork Belly Banh Mi! We didn't get a whole sandwich during the event, but they did pass out the little pork belly crostinis for us to taste.
The sweet and rich caramelized kurobuta belly is offset by the jalapeno and the julienned vegetables. Unlike your normal banh mi, here they will serve it on top of a panini grilled ciabatta.

The Braised Lamb sandwich ($9.75) was also very good. This was on their seasonal menu and they said it'll go off menu (to make room for perhaps a Lobster Club 'wich and other sandwiches featuring heirloom tomato) in a month, so hurry and get it now.
This sandwich is for the game meat lovers only, because they're probably the same group of people who would equally enjoy the Cypress Grove goat cheese that's spread inside this sandwich. I didn't think the lamb was particularly gamey but the combination of lamb and goat cheese - which I thought gave a deliciously strong flavor - might not be for everyone.

The Fort "We Should" Bragg Melt ($8.25) w/ tuna and smoked gouda had good flavors and a nicely grilled bread, though I thought the tuna smelled a bit too fishy.

I tried the vegan sandwich "My Vegan Trip Through India" ($9.25) with chickpea and spinach patty. It was alright and well ... vegan. I'll have more lamb and pork belly, s'il vous plait.

Right before you reach the cashier, you'll be tempted with a case of the side deli items.

I'd recommend the curried orzo as it was the most flavorful.

You will also place your drink orders here at the cashier. Before the liquor license goes in full effect, specialty drinks like blood orange lemonade and lemongrass green tea are worth getting.
The blood orange lemonade is sweet while the lemongrass green tea is unsweetened but accented by a lovely lemongrass aroma.

Mendocino Farms caters, and when you order catering you can get a slew of desserts from Dolce Forno. If you eat in, you can grab one of MF's special recipe cookies!

I tried the hazelnut tart (available for catering orders), a decadent mini tart that's almost like chocolate-topped pecan tart, i.e. that's chocolate+caramel+nuts.
I tried their chocolate chip cookie also, and its bulging shape easily made it a combination of the crunchy and chewy cookie, depending where you're biting. Get one and indulge, it's definitely worth trying.

Marina del Rey workers rejoice, here's your new lunch spot.

Mendocino Farms
4724 Admiralty Way
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 822-2300
Mendocino Farms on Urbanspoon
Mendocino Farms in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Monday, April 26, 2010

SF: A Mini Degustation at Masa's

It was an unplanned visit to a one-Michelin-star, James Beard award-winning restaurant.
Road tripping to SF to run experiments, I didn't plan on doing any fine dining and was only armed with jeans and tennis shoes. But scrambling to a "really good place to eat" that's kinda nearby and is vegetarian friendly somehow led us to Masa's Restaurant's website.

It looked good.
I mean, it looked really good.

And then my friend said she doesn't mind the $$$ splurge. Oh man. So in a sweater, jeans, and beat-up tennis shoes I went (she was more dressed up than me). The only thing I had going for me was my purse I think. Oh and we had no reservation.

We went by Muni to a JBF-winning restaurant and walked in at 7 PM on a Saturday night. The restaurant was about 70% full. Can you take 2 for dinner?

No fuss about my tennis shoes in a white tablecloth place either.

Executive chef Greg Short trained for a long time under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, and he even sent him to stage at Taillevant.

While the menu listed a 5 course menu and a 9-course tasting menu, it also stated that they can do just 3 courses upon request.
I already knew I'd be late for another friend's party so we asked for the 3 course menu.

To start off, warm gougeres with 6-month-aged cheese.

For the bread I asked for a cheese-coated focaccia.

Canape: Grilled aji, cucumber, paprika.

For my friend they prepared a vegetarian Canape: Potato blinis, banana

Asparagus- Green-Purple
easter egg radishes, pea sprouts, perigord truffles, asparagus jus
Texturally the crisp radishes stood out, but what I was inhaling was the delightfully strong aroma of the Perigord truffles. The earthiness was not something I would think about combining with the clean and crispness of this vegetable-based dish but it turned out to be quite lovely.

For my vegetarian friend:
Composition of Early Spring Vegetables
roasted purple and white cauliflower, fava beans, brussels sprouts, baby spring leeks, rapini, maitake mushroom "cream", pine nut "dust"

My main entree:
Pan Roasted Paine Farms Squab Breast
braised swiss chard, pickled field rhubarb, "confit" leg, grenadine gastrique
Discounting my Alinea meal (since Masa's actually happened before), this stood out to me as one of the best squab dishes I've had in a while. The breast is very tender and full of flavor. The meat is a little gamey and just overall amazing. The leg confit had a nice crispy skin but the breast is the star here.

The main entree for my vegetarian friend:
Baby Artichokes
russet potato gnocchi, fermented black garlic, roasted vegetable stock, reggiano parmesan

For desserts we just got the two that our server suggested:
Strawberry Hazelnut Shortcake
Chantilly, black pepper ice cream.
This was a nice and light dessert with a soft and crumbly shortcake. The black pepper ice cream worked quite nicely here, adding depth to the sweetness of the strawberries and the chantilly. A delicious pacer before I hit our second dessert:
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart
Cafe au lait ice cream.

We're not done of course. Upon entering the restaurant I had already noticed the mignardise cart sitting on the side.
I didn't want to seem greedy so we only got lychee pate de fruit, fleur de sel caramel truffle, chocolate covered canele, etc.
It was a leisurely meal and of course I was late to my friend's party, but I had a great dinner with great food and gracious service, so no complaints or regrets on my part. The three courses were enough food, but I also can't wait to come back and do a more extensive tasting, hoping that most of his dishes would be as strong as what I had this night.
My friend also really enjoyed her vegetarian menu (fyi: non-meat-eaters).

Oh, we left by taxi instead of Muni. That's classier, right?

Masa's Restaurant
648 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 989-7154
Masa's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gonpachi - Torrance and the Miyako Hybrid Hotel

Upon pulling into the Miyako Hybrid Hotel parking lot I already loved the place: they have special parking spaces for Fuel Efficient Vehicles. Go Prius!

We were invited for a tasting of the Gonpachi Restaurant that opened as part of the Miyako Hybrid hotel. I remembered going to the Beverly Hills Gonpachi but that was so long ago before they changed their menu.

Unlike the very traditional decor at the Gonpachi Beverly Hills, the Gonpachi Torrance went for a more modern and "hip" look.

While waiting for the others to finish their hotel tour (coming from Pasadena, we couldn't make it to Torrance on time), I had a shoju-based cocktail at the bar.
We started with some Zensai (appetizers): tofu, shrimp shinjo, kinpira
The shrimp shinjo was paired with a sweet & sour fish sauce. The tofu seemed to be homemade and had a nicely rich texture.

Our meals were paired with the following sakes: Hakkaisan, Aiyama Nanbu-bijin (a floral sake), and Onikoroshi Daiginjo

Kobe Beef Carpaccio with ponzu and spicy miso sauce.
The kobe carpaccio had a seared edge and a smoky smell.

The most impressive item that night was definitely the Sashimi platter.
Abalone, salmon, squid, tuna, orange surf clams and more.

Here they serve Hokkaido "Bafun" uni, not your usual Santa Barbara, and it actually has a stronger, sweeter and more concentrated flavor, although it's actually not as creamy.

The sashimi was followed by Gindara (grilled miso marinated black cod)
Very tender, flaky and sweet. It pairs well with the onikoroshi. It's served atop rice with edamame and seaweed.

Sushi plate
I found that the fish, and especially the toro, to be of very good quality, but the rice was too dense.

Just like their Beverly Hills counterpart did, Gonpachi handmakes their soba in-house.
They do this in a small room with glass windows so patrons can actually watch it being made as you walk into the entrance.
We had the Zaru soba to semi-end the meal before the dessert.
The soba here is certainly better than store-bought dried soba (although it's no Ichimiann). Soba-yu is also served with it.

After cleansing with a cup of hojicha that had a lovely roasted aroma, for dessert we had the Pumpkin Zenzai (sweet red beans, mochi balls, vanilla ice cream in pumpkin soup, topped with almonds).
I've had this dessert before and have always enjoyed it very much. I'm happy to see it is served here also.

Torrance is a mecca of Japanese food in this area, but the "fine dining" and sushi restaurants are still lacking. With its ambiance and setting in this new LEED silver-certified hotel, Gonpachi is poised to fill this gap for the locals. After all, as much as we love Ichimiann and Otafuku, we can't very well hold a business meeting there.

Gonpachi - Torrance
21381 South Western Avenue
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 320-6700
Gonpachi - Torrance on Urbanspoon
Gonpachi - Torrance in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

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