Monday, August 08, 2011

Ludo Bites America, and We Bite Ludo

LudoBites

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, as I immediately went from Comic-Con to the Television Critics Association Summer press tour, held for a little more than two weeks at the Beverly Hilton.

The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman calls it the "Death March with Cocktails." The press tour is a weird mix of back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back press conferences, held inside a dark, cavernous ballroom where the temperature ranges from 50 degrees to 90 degrees, depending on the moment. Then it's capped off by an evening event -- a chance to chat and interview executives and stars in a more casual environment.

The cable networks, in particular, like to make some noise by putting together unique events. In January, we took an L.A. noir bus tour with James Ellroy (read about that adventure here).

This time, the highlights included a special Ludo Bites dinner from Sundance Channel, which is the home of Chef Ludo Lefebvre's new TV show, "Ludo Bites America."

I'm sure you've heard of Chef Ludo, the king of the pop-up restaurant idea. "LudoBites is a restaurant by Chef Ludo Lefebvre that has no permanent address and no phone number. We like to say that the restaurant is limited only by Ludo’s imagination," says the restaurant's website. "Many, including ourselves, have called it a “pop-up” restaurant and that may have been true for a while, but to truly characterize our business model as it exists today, we are a “touring” restaurant."

For the "Ludo Bites America" dinner, Chef Ludo and Sundance took over the Mel's Drive-In location on Sunset for an evening. Here's what he cooked up:

LudoBites

AMUSE BOUCHE: Grilled Carpaccio of Lamb; Green Tomato Chutney, Feta and Socca Cake. (I was pleasantly surprised by the mellowness of the feta, a cheese I normally don't enjoy. The lamb was simple and nice.)

Honey Grilled Summer Fig; Blue Cheese Mousse and Hazelnut Croustade. (This was just a bit too sweet for me and the others at my table.)

LudoBites

FIRST COURSE: Ceviche, Cucumber Water & Purslane. (Not a lot of flavor here, may have needed salt or other seasoning.)

LudoBites

SECOND COURSE: Red Beet Gazpacho, Goat Cheese Sorbet. (This was good, but perhaps too rich. Others noted the vinegary, mustard-like flavor.)

LudoBites

ENTREE: Marinated Hanger Steak, Shallots, Kale, Red Chile Kimchi Butter. (Amazing. The dish of the night. Perfect crust on the outer core.)

LudoBites

DESSERT: Smoked Vanilla Bean Bacon Creme Brulee and Lavender Bloom. (Great flavor. But the strong lavender presence maybe too strong and covering up the bacon taste.)

In the end: The dinner started a little so-so, but ended with a bang with that entree and dessert. I've heard that Ludo Bites dishes can be hit or miss, and we got both. Still, a great meal, and I'm glad I got the opportunity to try.

"Ludo Bites America" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Sundance Channel. Tomorrow night's episode features Ludo in Denver, "where he hunts and kills a buffalo. Out of respect for the animal, he eats the heart in the field, and uses every part of the animal in dishes for his Denver restaurant menu." The Aug. 16 episode takes place in Raleigh, N.C., while the season finale, on Aug. 23, returns to Southern California as Ludo puts his own spin on Tex Mex cuisine in Redondo Beach.

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