Archive for January, 2012

Ludo Bites 8.0

Ludo Lefebvre is one of the best chefs not only in Los Angeles, but the country. I have known Ludo for years and have had the pleasure of eating many, many meals with him when he was at Bastide. See below for a retrospective of just some of his best dishes when he was at Bastide.

I think Ludo Bites 8.0 at Lemon Moon is one of the best of the pop-ups. We had plans to eat the entire menu as splits, but got full, missing 3 dishes I really wanted to try – the John Dory, the Jidori Half Chicken and the Duck.

BYO Champagne – even though we brought our own wine, Whitney from Domaine LA handled the wine service with graciousness and aplomb.

“Brioche Seaweed Yuzu Butter” – A thick perfectly executed Brioche, lightly toasted and spread with a luscious seaweed yuzu butter

“Chicken Tandoori Crackling” – This was chicken liver mousse that had been made with Tandoori spices with a light sprinkling of salt on top sitting on crispy chicken skin “crackling” – this was just an oh my dish –  inventive, creative and in a word delicious.

BYO White Wine

Sweet Shrimp, Miso Cream, Beans, Smoked Salmon – The shrimp itself was the freshest sweetest shrimp imaginable – talk about ingredient quality! It sat on a bed of miso cream “sauce” and cannellini beans mixed with chorizo oil. Slices of smoked salmon were draped around the plate  and the whole was sprinkled with dried crumbled Chorizo – another absolute winner.

“Big Eye Tuna, Somen Noodles, 7 flavor Vinaigrette” – Jeff, our wonderful server explained that Ludo took the whole tuna and let it sit under a heat lamp most of the afternoon slathering it with olive oil so that the skin becomes crispy but the tuna is still raw inside. The 7 flavor vinaigrette contained shallots, Meyer lemon, capers, cumin, 5 spice, balsamic. The noodles had been cooked in charcoal water. My notes say absolutely amazing and the noodles were to die for – probably the best I have ever tasted.

“Uni, Creme Brulee, Coffee” – The menu doesn’t begin to explain how complex and elaborate these preparations are. The wonderful staff is more than willing to explain each dish in detail.

On the bottom was the uni creme brulee, then a layer of salmon eggs topped by coffee flavored foam – the whole excelled the sum of the parts.

“Day Boat Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffles” – The scallops had been delivered alive in huge shells – think labor intensive kitchen prep here. The scallops were sliced thin and served raw. The leek and potato resembled a vichyssoise type of saucing. The dots of green on the plate were the green parts of the leek that had been pureed with agar agar – A+

BYO Red Wine

“Raw Beef, Radish, Beets, Eel  – American Wagyu Beef from Nebraska served as tartar with bits of eel sitting on a bed of horseradish mayo topped off with shaved radishes and beets served with toast points on the side – Ludo’s creations are unusual, but make extraordinary culinary sense reminding me of Pierre Gagnaire in Paris when he is at his best.

“Foie Gras, Tamarin, Turnips, Daikon” – Lobes of foie gras in a tamarin, daikon lemon grass broth with turnips. You let the foie sit for about 2 minutes before eating the dish so that the foie “marries” with the broth. This reminded me of the Shabu Shabu dish served at Urasawa – decadent and rich.

“Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds” – A large piece of monkfish sat on spinach puree surrounded by Japanese cucumbers, hot house cucumbers, cornichons and mustard seeds – we were getting quite full but managed to eat every bite.

As I said above I hated to miss the John Dory, the Jidori chicken and the duck but we were very full! Ludo’s dishes are very rich and I would rather enjoy each one to its fullest rather than just have a bite of everything on the menu.

Krissy insisted we try one dessert – “Lemon Meringue, Poppy Seed Crumble, Extra Virgin Olive Oil”

All in all Ludo Bites 8.0 is not be missed – a wonderful culinary journey.


Villetta – Santa Monica

Now Closed


We are treated like family at Villetta. Antonio De Cicco co-owner and GM couldn’t be more charming and accommodating. The servers are equally gracious and quick to please. Unfortunately without Pippa as the executive chef the food just isn’t as top notch; it is good, but not extraordinary. The pizza chef is still there and you can’t go wrong if you order pizza as a starter to share.

White wine from their list

Pizza- burrata, artichokes, cherry tomatoes, olives and basil – as good as always

Grilled wild langoustines with warm cherry tomatoes, cannellini beans and arugula- this was good, but just not  the equal of Pippa’s Santa Barbara spot prawns. I know it is unfair to compare langoustines to Santa Barbara spot prawns, but Pippa prided herself on pristine ingredients and it showed. The beans in this version didn’t have the lusciousness of Pippa’s white bean preparation.

Pippa’s Santa Barbara spot prawns a la plancha with garlic, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, caviar served on a bed of white beans

Notice the “juice” from Pippa’s prawns – I used bread to mop up every bit of the “juice” – these were without a doubt unbelievably “just plucked from the ocean” tasting prawns cooked to perfection.

BYO Red Wine

Butternut Squash Ravioli with lemon sage butter and crushed hazelnuts – very good

Villetta still has Brigette Contreras as their pastry chef and she insisted that we have dessert.

Vanilla bean panna cotta topped with lemon gelato and assorted grapefruit on the side – absolutely delicious


Villetta is good for a neighborhood spot, but not what I would qualify as a destination restaurant or a not-to-be missed meal.

Bouchon – Beverly Hills

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken night at Bouchon is not to be missed. It was an occasional event but they are considering making it a monthly affair. If they do, just go.

John had a Chopin dirty martini with blue cheese stuffed olives

I had a glass of white wine

Oysters – Kumamoto, Hama Hama, Beausoleil, and Fancy Sweet

BYO Red Wine

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken with Biscuits and Gravy – The chicken was delicious with crispy skin and tender, juicy meat. The biscuits with the gravy was over-the-top Southern “goodness.”  Portion size was huge!

Leftovers for tonight’s dinner

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

N.Y. Cheddar Grits – this is based on Chef Katie Hagan Whelchel’s grandmother’s recipe.  This was sensational. Not only did we eat every bite, but we could have had a seconds! In fact, I did ask for another portion to go with tonight’s leftovers and they graciously acknowledged my request. Customer service is not an afterthought at Bouchon – they go out of their way to please you.

A word about Chef Whelchel. She is terrific and her cuisine is innovative as well as perfectly executed and just delicious. Her dishes at Bar Bouchon are well worth a visit. My favorite is Egg with lentils – ragout of duck confit, French green lentils, poached hen egg and brioche crouton. In fact we had this just 2 days prior to our Ad Hoc fried chicken dinner.

Eggs with lentils

lovely runny yolk

Both Bouchon and Bar Bouchon is well worth a visit repeatedly and obviously we do so all the time.

Bar Pintxo – Santa Monica

We haven’t been back to Bar Pintxo in quite some time so being in the neighborhood around 4 we couldn’t pass up the Happy Hour deal of 6 tapas for $6.00. The high tables have been replaced by low tables with chairs – much more comfortable and more conducive to dining rather than just snacking.

You can sit at the bar, or tables in the rear or outside on the patio.

The open kitchen

This is Joe Miller’s restaurant and he happened to be there. It was terrific to get reacquainted with Joe as we have known him for over 30 years when he was the chef at Brentwood Bar and Grill.

David Plonowski is the executive chef. We had a chance to chat and his philosophy of cuisine exactly mirrors mine – superior ingredients using precise technique and skill with a keep it simple approach – in other words let the ingredients shine.

Beer for John plus delicious olives

Wine for me

6 Pintxos for $6 – each one was delicious

Tuna Concerve, Anchovie, Cornichon

Mejillones Escabeche

Serrano Jamon, Manchego Cheese, Fresh Tomato

Huevos Rellenos con Vinagretta Vasca

Mushroom Escabeche

Chorizo y Tomate

Calamar a la Plancha – seared calamari with garlic, lemon, parsley, olive oil – the calamari was cooked perfectly and the sauce was perfect for bread dipping

I overheard Chef Plonowski have his sous chef taste a paprika sauce he was working on. Not being exactly shy, I asked for a taste. It was delicious and as a special treat the chef made the above dish. On bread from Spain, chickpea puree, smoked paprika sauce, red wine braised octopus, Pedro Jimenez reduction – what a treat.

Chorizo with crispy potatoes

We won’t wait so long to return to Bar Pintxo – it is definitely worth a return visit.

Farm Shop – Brentwood

Lunch at Farm Shop is very pleasant with good service and food that is exceptional due to ingredient quality. Portion size is huge so a half sandwich at lunch and then a couple of hours later a half sandwich for dinner gives you 2 meals for the price of one.

Avocado Hummus – Schaner Farm avocado, pomegranate served with

Poppy seed and whole grain lavash

Steak Sandwich – Prime Snake River Farm’s tri-tip, marinated cucumbers, horseradish cream and fried potatoes

Pastrami – Spring Hill Cheddar, Braised  Kale and coleslaw on artisan rye bread

The market is now open.

Eggs bought from Farm Shop

Zoe’s bacon bought from Farm Shop

Tonight’s dinner – Scrambled eggs and bacon.

See here for the best scrambled egg recipe: Continue reading ‘Farm Shop – Brentwood’

Vin Bar

What an incredible restaurant – the best Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. There is a reason that Valentino will be celebrating 40 years in the restaurant business this year – nobody does it better. As I have stated numerous times we never look at a menu or a wine list – we just let Piero and Chef Nico orchestrate everything from beginning to the end.

“The vineyards of Batasiolo lie nestled in rural northern Italy in the heart of Piedmont, famed home of Barolo wines. The original nine vineyards encircle the winery like an amphitheater: the complete estate comprises nearly 250 acres, making it one of the leading farms in Piedmont. Batasiolo, with its estate and rigorous focus on single-vineyard Barolos, strives to reflect the age old truth: wine is made with skillful, loving care in the winery, but it is created in the vineyard.”

Tuna quenelle, langoustine bisque, paddlefish caviar, Jamon iberico de bellota (the finest ham from Spain) – what a perfect combination. What impresses me most about Chef Nico’s cuisine is that there are no shortcuts – this is labor intensive cuisine done with great skill.

Chestnut flan with 4 cheese sauce- Gorgonzola, Parmesan, Mozzarella and Pecorino with shaved black truffle on top – this was superb!

Piero stated this is one of his favorite wines – no oak with good acidity. “This blend of 70% Grillo and 30% Inzolia is grown at a 19th century estate in Sicilia. The winemaker, Gaetana Jacono, is a 6th generation winemaker. The estate also grows a huge amount of blood oranges in addtion to grape vines. Jacono is famous for revitalizing viticultural efforts by substantive replanting of native Sicilian varietals. Most of them are organically grown in the Milaro soil.”

Roasted quail, polenta, porcini mushrooms on top, porcini mushroom sauce and port sauce – another absolute winner

Tortino of zucchini, squash, farro sitting on tomato sauce with fava beans, braised red onions and fried pancetta strips – how many ways can I say delcious?

Second White Wine

Chef Fabio made and presented this dish. Traditional Paella – sausage, veal, mussels, clams, calamari, scallops, peas and saffron rice baked in the oven – Who needs to go to Spain when you have Chef Fabio?

Piero described this wine as Cherry nectar.

“Today, the wine estate is run by Gaetana Jacono, representing the sixth generation. With the same love that tied her ancestors to the vines, along with marked entrepreneurial insight, Gaetana has devoted herself to the production of Sicilian DOC and IGT wines – a production that has earned great recognition, even on the international scene.”

“The estate covers over 100 hectares and a large part of it, from 2001 to today, has been replanted with the area’s top varieties and with international varieties. Here, the soil – locally known as “Milaro” – is characterized by a particular substrate of calcareous sandstone, inter¬leaved with packets of clay that allow the vines to produce high quality grapes.”

“Thanks to the nature of the place, the use of technologically advanced systems and the support of a century of experience, Valle dell’Acate is able to produce a range of prized, modern and radiant wines: the celebrated Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOC.”

Mezzuluna (half-moon shape) filled with osso bucco, butter and sage saucing, cherry tomato, parsley – what a lovely pasta course made with a deft hand.

Pork belly with a parmesan crisp filled with celery, carrots and fennel – the pork belly was succulent, rich and moist with crispy skin – just delicious.

Cheese Course – Pecorino, Gorgonzola, candied walnuts, fig salami, mixed berry and tomato compote, truffle honey

What a sensational meal! The one thing about Vin Bar/Valentino is that it is consistently superlative from one visit to the next – there is never a misstep.


Roving Reporter treated himself and a friend to a long leisurely lunch at Providence. What an incredible luncheon it was! Providence only serves lunch on Fridays and Chef Michael does all the cooking.  If you have 3+ hours to invest in a fabulous experience, make a reservation and prepare yourself for a great treat. (All comments are from the Roving Reporter himself.)

Champagne to start from the Providence by the glass menu.

Duo of foie gras terrine: black truffle, candied walnuts and heart of palm, quince, pickled ginger, borridge flower…of course a few comments were made about the fact that we won’t be having foie much longer…what a dumb law…

Josephine’s clam fritter, yuzu koshu mayonnaise.  The Providence team of Michael and Donato are opening soon in W.LA with a “clam shack”…that will be a real treat.  This will surely be on the menu.

BYO White Wine.   The LeMoine wines are really special.  The bottles are the heaviest in the world with the deepest punt ever.

Pan fried Monterey abalone, yuzu juice…you don’t get abalone very often.  Michael loves serving really special ingredients.

Live New Bedford Scallop, Oscietra caviar, creme fraiche…wow, totally special…really wished the dish was bigger. I almost asked for an encore.

Wild Japanese sardine, artichoke, tomato, angel spice, chive…absolutely spectacular, every bite.

BYO Red Wine…my friend, a retired major wine merchant had visited the Grivot family many times.  He told some wonderful stories.

Charcoal grilled Maine lobster perigord truffle sauce… again absolutely delicious.  I’m not a lobster lover, but this was special and the sauce was off the charts spectacular.

Dover sole, Tahitian squash, sauce of vermouth and foie gras.. a dish like this demonstrates the chef’s skills as a buyer and as a preparer.  There aren’t two chefs in LA who could handle this sole this way.

Wild mesquite smoked striped bass, chanterelles, young broccoli, parmesan.  Once again a dish that showed total command, plus perfection and a chef who executes with precision and finesse.

Market cheese selection…a nice assortment and generous portion. Providence doesn’t stint on anything.

Creme fraiche, sable breton, financier, chestnut jam, vanilla mousse…a sweet, enjoyable ending.