Categories
French reviews Southern California

Ludo Bites at BreadBar

Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s pop-up restaurant experience known as Ludo Bites ends its run at BreadBar tonight. If it weren’t for some prior obligations, we would have been in LA this weekend for one last meal. (We actually had reservations this weekend but had to cancel when I was reminded of a prior engagement.) We only went to Ludo Bites once, but the meal was so good that we became instant Ludo fans and can’t wait to see where he sets up shop again.

Menu

Ludo’s food may be rooted in French tradition, but everything on the menu is playful and inventive. Of course, this means you might not like every dish, but you still come away respecting what Ludo was trying to accomplish.

We started with a Porcini Veloute that featured porcini ice cream, egg, crispy sage, tobacco powder. My wife wanted this one because she loves mushrooms, while I’m just starting to get over my disdain for them. The combination of the veloute, ice cream and egg made for luscious and rich starter, but I still found it a little too mushroomy for me. My wife loved it and probably would have finished it, but she couldn’t get past the flavor of the tobacco powder.

Porcini VeloutePorcini Veloute

Next up was the Foie Gras Black Croque Monsieur, a play on a traditional croque monsieur that uses squid ink bread and adds a piece of foie gras to the mix. I’ll let the picture speak for itself. :)

Foie Gras Black Croque MonsieurFoie Gras Black Croque Monsieur

The Creamy Polenta and Oxtail might be one of my favorite dishes of the year. It’s such a simple dish and doesn’t look like much when it’s brought to the table, but after the first bite, we were hooked. The polenta, with Cantal cheese and bits of black truffle, was great on its own, but it’s the oxtail that brings the dish home. This isn’t the most appetizing picture, but it still makes me yearn for the dish.

Creamy Polenta and OxtailCreamy Polenta and Oxtail

Another one of the evening’s highlights was the Pork Belly with Frisee and Mustard Ice Cream. That’s right…mustard ice cream. Basically, the savory mustard ice cream was just a frozen dressing for the frisee, so while waiting for that to melt a bit, we worked on a perfect piece of glazed pork belly.

Pork Belly with Frisee and Mustard Ice CreamPork Belly with Frisee and Mustard Ice Cream

If you saw Fried Chicken in Duck Fat on menu, you would order it right? I knew you would. It was accompanied by some perfect roasted fingerling potatoes, tapenade and are really good red pepper ketchup.

Fried Chicken in Duck FatFried Chicken in Duck Fat

At this point, both of us were pretty full, but dessert was on the horizon, so we buckled down. Our first dessert was the Chocolate Cupcake, but this was no ordinary cupcake, featuring candied bacon-almonds, maple syrup, and a foie gras chantilly frosting. If foie gras frosting sounds intimidating, it is. We ate around it for the most part because it was way too rich and savory for our taste. The rest of the cupcake was really good.

Chocolate CupcakeChocolate Cupcake

Our second dessert was the Vanilla Panna Cotta, another challenging but ultimately successful dish. It was served on a pool of caramel and topped with caviar, which may seem odd, but when its briny saltiness was combined with the caramel and the panna cotta, it works perfectly.

Vanilla Panna CottaVanilla Panna Cotta

The last dessert, Strawberry Cream Pop Rocks, intrigued me when Ludo first mentioned it on Twitter (follow him @ChefLudo). It was simple concoction of with strawberries, whipped cream and that old childhood favorite, Pop Rocks. We were so full that we weren’t going to order it, but Ludo’s wife Krissy brought some out for us, since I had expressed so much interest in it already. It was the perfect way to close our meal.

Strawberry Cream Pop RocksStrawberry Cream Pop Rocks

Most of you probably know Ludo as the intense, cocky, foul-mouthed French chef on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters who lost to the show’s eventual winner Rick Bayless. But in person, Ludo is a really cool guy who loves cooking. We had a nice discussion about food and blogging, and I found out that Ludo loves Korean food when I told him about the Korean BBQ tacos I was making the next day. (It’s my next post…I swear).

Both Ludo and Krissy take the time to greet all of their guests and make sure they’re enjoying themselves, and overall, Ludo Bites was just a fun place to eat. Ludo told me that he worked in fine dining most of his career and after the Ludo Bites experience, he never wants to work in a fine dining environment again. I think this suits his personality, his food, and the City of Los Angeles, just fine, and I can’t wait to see where Ludo pops up next.

Categories
Korean reviews Southern California street food

Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go: The Twitter Chronicles

Kogi BBQ‘s now-famous Korean taco trucks have eluded me on my last three trips home to SoCal, but this weekend, I was determined to hunt one down. Kogi has two trucks, Roja and Verde, and I met up with Roja yesterday at 9th and Hope in Downtown LA.

Let me just say upfront that I think Kogi’s food is great. We really liked everything we had, especially the Kogi Sliders and the Kogi Dog. But our first Kogi experience was a logistical disaster. It took two hours from the time we got in line to the time we got our food and left and they ran out of kalbi right before my order was fulfilled, so we missed out on their signature meat.

Since Kogi relies on their twitter account (@kogibbq) to keep their devoted followers updated about their whereabouts, it’s appropriate that this review contain my tweets about my first Kogi experience (follow me @inuyaki).

Watch how things progress by checking the timestamps of each tweet. (Timestamps from the Tweetie iPhone app.)

12:15pm Line for @kogibbq isn’t too bad right now (9th and Hope in Downtown LA) http://twitpic.com/4cnnw

kogi1.jpg

12:17pm mic_dee @inuyaki d00d! aare they quick to serve at least?
12:18pm 3ND14P3 @inuyaki O_O that line “isn’t too bad?” ?? LOL Wow. I hope it’s moving quickly
12:20pm The @kogibbq line isn’t moving yet because they haven’t started serving. Will see how fast it goes when they start.

A few minutes after this tweet they started taking orders.

12:43pm LadyDucayne @inuyaki is the kogi anticipation still going strong? What’s ur place in line? red or green?
12:52pm @LadyDucayne I think it’s roja. Line is moving slow but steady. I’m actually hungry right now. :)
12:55pm @LadyDucayne I think we’re about 25 people back.

1:18pm The @kogibbq line is moving so slow. I wasn’t hungry when i got here but now I’m starving

1:28pm The people that wait 4 @kogibbq at night are either dedicated or crazy. Don’t know if I would do this again unless I was near the front.
1:31pm LadyDucayne @inuyaki both times I have been first in line. I like kogi, but not enough to wait in line for more than ten minutes…
1:36pm 90 minutes later…Finally near the front :) http://twitpic.com/4cu8t

kogi2.jpg

1:50pm A tow truck just showed up. Minor panic. Dudes just wanted food. http://twitpic.com/4cvfi

kogi3.jpg

1:51pm hsiawen @inuyaki bastards better not have gotten cutsies

A couple minutes later we placed our order: 1 kalbi burrito, 2 kalbi tacos, 1 spicy pork taco, 1 chicken taco, 1 tofu taco, 1 order Kogi Sliders, 1 Kogi Dog, 1 brownie with Chinese spiced nuts. I ordered the Kogi Dog because they said they didn’t have enough kimchi to make the Kogi Kimchi Quesadilla. I should have known we were in trouble then.

1:59pm They just ran out of short ribs…for my order and beyond. Not very happy now, just give me my food please! @kogibbq

They also announced that they were putting a limit of one burrito or three tacos per customer. There were probably a hundred people behind me at that point.

2:03pm So @kogibbq was expecting a regular lunch crowd and weren’t prepared for all the people that showed up, which led to logistical failure

I think the people at the front of the line were buying lunch for their respective offices and depleted Kogi’s supplies right off the bat. My wife said she saw people leaving with bags of food. If this is true, it explains why the line moved so slowly and why they ran out of kalbi.

At this point, I stopped tweeting because I was focused on getting my order completed. We were supposed to be at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles at 2:30pm to donate blood platelets for my friend’s daughter, and I was getting annoyed because I didn’t want to be late. Donating platelets is by appointment only because the process takes a couple of hours, but apparently, so does Kogi.

They called me to the window to ask what other meat I wanted since they were out of short ribs. I got the spicy pork instead and changed the burrito order to a second brownie. I thought that I might as well get another dessert out of this. I told the guy expediting orders that I needed go to the doctors and that I needed to leave ASAP.

The tow truck guys were seen leaving with food five minutes after they arrived.

2:06pm @hsiawen they did get cutsies
2:08pm hsiawen @inuyaki that’s BS that means they got your ribs!!!

Actually, the guy in front of me, who almost got out of line because it was taking too long, got the last of it. He only had to substitute spicy pork for part of his order.

But were the tow truck guys the reason I didn’t get short ribs? We’ll never know. Damn you, tow truck guys!

A couple minutes later, we had half our order and were waiting on Kogi Sliders and a Kogi Dog. The guy in the party that ordered after me got his complete order, which included a Kogi Dog and Kogi Sliders, before I did, which was really annoying. I reminded the expediter that I had an appointment.

At around 2:15 were in the car and on our way to CHLA, two hours after we arrived. I snapped a couple quick pics of the food before leaving the area, and we ate our food while driving over to CHLA. The Kogi Dog was especially challenging to consume…good thing I don’t drive stick.

Kogi DogKogi Dog
Kogi SlidersKogi Sliders

We got to the CHLA blood donation center about 10 minutes late. The last three tweets are from when I was in the chair giving blood.

3:01pm While I’m a little bitter about my @kogibbq experience, the food was really good. Had to sub kalbi with spicy pork
3:05pm kogibbq @inuyaki – hopefuLLy the experience was both bitter and sweet. or at the very least, meat. MEATY…! ::drools::
3:22pm @kogibbq kogi dog was great and i liked the spicy pork. brownie with spiced nuts were nice. just sad you guys ran out of kalbi.

If you’re still reading, I commend you for sticking with this epic ordeal. :) Like I said, I think Kogi’s food is great, but I feel like the experience is incomplete because I didn’t get to try the kalbi. I’m also sure they’ll learn from these logistical snafus as they and their fanbase continues to grow. Some people might not give Kogi another shot if they endured a similar experience, but I think what Kogi is doing is worthy of a return visit. It all comes down to planning and understanding, a responsibility that belongs to both Kogi and their customers.

Personally, I won’t wait more than 30 minutes for Kogi again, so I’ll have to do my homework and be more diligent the next time I seek them out. I hope Kogi does the same so that they’re prepared to get bumrushed every time their trucks open for business.

INFORMATION
Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go
Web Site
Twitter

Categories
burgers reviews Southern California

Father’s Office – Culver City, CA

There’s a lot of buzz about Father’s Office (F.O.) having the best burgers in LA, but the more I think about how we qualify food, the more I think the word “best” is played out.


Father's Office

That said, the F.O. burger is really good. It’s big enough to split between two people and is served on a French roll, which makes burger purists cringe. I loved the caramelized onions and applewood bacon compote. The cheese is a combination of gruyere and bleu cheese, and arugula is an interesting choice of greens, but it helps balance out the other flavors and textures.

Office Burger

You can’t “have it your way” at F.O. because of a strict “no substitutions, additions or deletions” policy. The only choice you have is how the burger is cooked. If you are a burger purist, like options or a picky eater, then the F.O. burger is not for you. In certain scenarios, I think diners should just trust the chef and eat the food…and this is one of them.

Categories
fried chicken reviews soul food Southern California

Steady Grubbin’ at M&M Soul Food – Los Angeles, CA

Last time we were in LA, we met up with our friends Don and Cristy for dinner. When I asked Don where we should meet up, he said, “How about M&M’s?” I thought I hadn’t heard of M&M’s, but when Don told me it was the soul food place that was immortalized in the Ice Cube song “Steady Mobbin’,” the lyrics instantly popped in my head:

Since one time’s so hot
Got me stash spot in the hooptie for the glock
And I’m rollin’ on rims
Eating soul food, neckbones from M&M’s

Now we didn’t order any neckbones, and honestly, I don’t remember seeing them on the menu, but if I can say one thing about M&M’s, if it’s smothered in gravy, it’s probably good.

They were out of short ribs by the time we got there, so I got the smothered oxtails instead. The oxtails were almost falling off the bone and as you can see, portions at M&M’s are generous.

Smothered OxtailsSmothered Oxtails
Categories
reviews seafood Southern California steak TV

Providence – Los Angeles, CA

My parents’ wedding anniversary is two days after Christmas, and in the last few years, we’ve started taking them to restaurants that normally aren’t on their radar. Last year, we took them to Osteria Mozza, and this year, after reading my French Laundry post, my mom said she wanted to experience something like that. Granted, it’s impossible to find something comparable to The French Laundry in Southern California, but L.A. is no slouch when it comes to great restaurants. I ended up choosing Providence because of its seafood-centric menu and more affordable five-course tasting option, but two Michelin stars didn’t hurt either.

ProvidenceTwo Michelin Stars in Los Angeles.

My first exposure to Providence and Chef Michael Cimarusti was on the second season of After Hours with Daniel Boulud, the MOJO HD show where Boulud throws after hours dinners at prominent restaurants. Season two was set in LA, and admittedly, it was hard to keep track of which one-word restaurant was which. As I rewatched the episode on Hulu.com, I instantly remembered Providence while watching the episode where a lobster attacks a piece of Kobe beef. You can watch the episode in its entirety at Hulu.com.

One of the first things we noticed about the tasting menu was that the dessert course featured a kalamansi gelée. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that kalamansi is the citrus of choice in the Philippines, especially in one of my favorite dishes, bistek tagalog. My parents were especially excited to see this versatile Filipino citrus featured in a fine-dining setting. For us, it was the second time in a month we’ve seen Filipino ingredients on a high-end tasting menu. (The first was the Ilocano salt and Pili nuts at The French Laundry.) So while the rest of the tasting menu looked fabulous on paper, we already had our eyes on dessert.

Categories
dessert reviews sandwiches Southern California

Afternoon Tea at Gordon Ramsay at The London

We’re currently in Southern California visiting my parents, and as I was researching places to eat, I found a Chowhound post detailing afternoon tea at Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood. Having afternoon tea had never really been on my radar but I knew my wife would be interested, and it seemed like a great way to see what Ramsay had to offer, especially after it was awarded a star in the 2009 Michelin guide.

The main dining room at Gordon Ramsay is a really beautiful space. In the daytime, it’s bright and has a decent view considering its located in the middle of West Hollywood. In relation to the picture below, we were seated at the farthest table in the blue booth where the window meets the wall.

Categories
dessert fried chicken fried rice Peruvian reviews Southern California

Mario’s and MILK

We just spent another long weekend in SoCal, where we amazingly escaped the oppressive 100+ heat of the Bay Area for much more manageable high 80s/low 90s temperatures (and 70s overnight). My wife had to work Thursday and Friday, so we didn’t get to visit a couple places that were on our list, but we did get to revisit some old favorites.

On Thursday, we went back to Mario’s Peruvian and Seafood Restaurant in Hollywood and fell in love with the place again. I tried the Arroz Chaufa, a simple Peruvian fried rice with beef, green onions, and scrambled eggs that didn’t look like much on the plate, but when you eat it, the flavors really jump out at you. It’s probably because the dish also included MSG, which I’ve got no issues with since it makes everything taste better. Thank you, Ajinomoto, for your umami-enhancing seasoning.


Arroz Chaufa

After Mario’s, I was set on going to Pinkberry for dessert, but I seemed to be the only one. My friend Alfie suggested that we go to MILK. Alfie lives nearby, and she’s become such a regular that MILK chef/owner Bret Thompson greets her whenever she drops by. We got to meet him when we were there, and he’s a really cool, laid-back guy.

I wasn’t able to order for myself since I was trying to find parking (probably MILK’s only drawback), but my wife made some great choices. She picked up a Grasshopper, an amazing ice cream sandwich featuring mint chip ice cream between two huge mint-flavored macarons and dipped in chocolate.


Grasshopper

She also got the Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Bar, a vanilla ice cream bar on a stick that’s dipped and coated in chocolate and Oreos.

Cookies and Cream Bar

It’s hard not to come down to LA and spend all of our limited eating time at either Mario’s or MILK, but both places are so good that they demand repeat visits. But this was just day one of our trip, and we were still planning a trip back to The Oinkster.
 

Categories
barbecue dessert drinks Filipino pork reviews sandwiches Southern California

The Oinkster

The OinksterWhen I’m home in SoCal, heading out to Eagle Rock isn’t normally on the agenda, especially for food. But when some friends told me about The Oinkster’s house-cured pastrami sandwiches and ube milk shakes, Eagle Rock started sounding mighty nice.

The Oinkster is the brainchild of Andre Guerrero, a Filipino American chef who’s a veteran of the Southern California restaurant scene. His other restaurant, Max in Sherman Oaks, offers contemporary Pan-Asian fine dining that’s a stark contrast to The Oinkster’s laid-back, order-at-the-counter vibe. (We also took my parents to Max for a Mother’s/Father’s Day dinner, so basically it was an Andre Guerrero weekend.) We ended up going to Oinkster twice in four days and were able to try a good cross section of the menu.

The Oinkster Pastrami sandwich is a thing of beauty—pastrami with Gruyere and a red cabbage slaw. The pastrami is cured for two weeks (the old-fashioned way) according to a recipe Guerrero developed over a period of two years. It’s not a melt-in-your-mouth pastrami like they have at Katz’s in New York, but it’s definitely the some of best pastrami I’ve had on the West Coast.


Oinkster Pastrami

Aside from the sandwiches, the pastrami also tops the Royale burger, and it’s also featured in their excellent chili. If you’re from Southern California, you’ve likely had a chiliburger at one of the many Original Tommy’s hamburger stands that are down here. Tommy’s chili is legendary in L.A., so it may be blasphemous of me to say this, but…The Oink’s chili is so much better. In fact, I don’t know what I really saw in Tommy’s chili other than the novelty of it. I went back to Tommy’s with my wife a few months ago, and on its own, the chili reminded me of dog food. It really needs to be paired with fries or a burger. The Oink’s chili can definitely stand on it’s own, and it has a freshness that you’ll never get from Tommy’s chili.

Categories
Mexican musings Southern California street food

L.A. Adds Taco Trucks to War against Street Food

Save the Taco TrucksPicture from lataco.com

First, the bacon hot dog carts, and now taco trucks? What the hell is going on in L.A.?

Chowhound’s C. Thi Nguyen had an Op-Ed piece published in the L.A. Times a couple weeks ago detailing the new regulations passed by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors that would basically put taco trucks in unincorporated parts of L.A. County out of business.

From the article:

On Wednesday, the supervisors passed a harsh set of regulations for unincorporated county areas. Parking a taco truck in one spot for longer than an hour is now punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, or six months in jail, or both. Developers and restaurant owners, particularly in East L.A., are pushing for tougher enforcement too. These changes, say some truck owners, will probably put them out of business.

$1,000 or six months in jail? Not surprising when Downtown L.A. food cart owner Elizabeth Palacios spend 45 days in jail for selling a bacon hot dog.

Nguyen says:

This is a cultural disaster. Forget the Getty — it’s the taco trucks, and their crowds, that are the true culture of L.A. Attacking the trucks is like New York going after its hot dog stands or Memphis banning barbecue pits.

What’s the motivation for these new rules? Competition.

Ron Mukai, an East L.A. developer, says the trucks are unfair competition, edging out the “legitimate brick-and-mortar businesses.” But the county’s 14,000 registered catering trucks seem just as legitimate as restaurants — they’re just providing a different service. Restaurants provide meals, and a table to eat them at, and walls to eat them within. Taco trucks provide food, pure and simple. They charge less because they’re selling less.

If I’m looking for food on the run, I’m not looking for a sit-down restaurant. I want something good, fast, and cheap, and if that happens to be the neighborhood taco truck, I’ll be first in line. It’s a lot better option than fast food.

But class is also at the heart of this issue. Nguyen puts it best:

…these new regulations don’t just attack taco trucks, they hurt eaters, especially poor eaters. In a lot of places in town, it’s the only meal you can get for three or four bucks. And in some places, it’s a great meal for three or four bucks.

I’m not really sold on the effectiveness of online petitions, but if you want to sign one or are interested in more information about this fight, go to www.saveourtacotrucks.org.

Let this Cinco de Mayo be about FREEDOM!

Categories
Peruvian reviews Southern California

Mario’s Peruvian & Seafood Restaurant

After trying and loving San Francisco’s Mi Lindo Peru, I thought I’d give Peruvian food another shot on a trip back home for the holidays at Mario’s in Hollywood. If you had to judge a restaurant on price/performance ratios, Mario’s would be one of the leaders. The food is cheap, hearty and filling, and more importantly, it’s delicious.

It’s no secret that I like fried eggs. I like it on my fried rice, it’s essential for loco moco, it’s great on a hamburger, and it was also one the stars of my wife’s latest concoctions, the B.E.P. Fried eggs also take a classic dish like Lomo Saltado (marinated steak grilled with tomatoes and onions and topped with french fries) and makes it even better.


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157604655799926″]

It’s not on the menu, but when I asked for eggs on my Lomo Saltado, the waitress said, “Oh, you want Lomo Montado.” It’s a simple modification and they were happy to make me a plate…with egg yolks oozing all over the rice, french fries and strips of grilled steak, tomatoes and onions.

The other dishes we ordered, my wife’s fried Pescado a la Chorillana and a friend’s Saltado de Mariscos, were also excellent, but obviously, I was preoccupied with my order. I washed it all down with an Inka Cola, a popular Peruvian soda that looks like liquid gold and tastes like bubble gum.

So next time you’re eating Peruvian Food, remember this formula:


Lomo Saltado + Fried Eggs = Lomo Montado

therefore,

Lomo Montado = happiness.

INFORMATION
Mario’s Peruvian & Seafood Restaurant
5786 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038 map
323.466.4181