There is no way that I can do justice to the many, many meals we had at Bastide with Ludo Lefebvre. It was a sorry day when he left Bastide and even more a bigger shame when he left Los Angeles to open a restaurant in Las Vegas. I loved our meals at Bastide. Ludo’s creativity was incredible, but it was not innovative cuisine just for shock value. Instead his food was all about the layering of flavors and textures. I said after one of my meals at Bastide that Ludo’s food was very masculine. It was assertive; there was nothing prissy or overwrought about Ludo’s cuisine. Combine that with the brilliant wine pairings from Gregory Castells and this was an incredible fine dining experience.
As a tribute to Ludo, here is just a fraction of some of the dishes we were fortunate to experience at Bastide.
Deconstruction of a Bloody Mary – Frozen crystals of vodka, a tiny scoop of spicy tomato sorbet and celery mousse lined up like tiny snowballs on a tablespoon – a signature dish.
Foie gras lollipop with dragee (crushed almonds) and 24 year old balsamic vinegar, Mac and Cheese – cold spaghetti with Parmesan snow and chicken cromesqui with green apple and mayonnaise – another series of signature amuse.
Sashimi of Blue Fin Tuna, Sushi Rice Ice Cream, and Crystallized Seaweed – this is a Japanese “sushi” bar experience elevated to haute cuisine.
Toro Tartar with Red Cabbage Fluid Gel and Chinese Mustard Ice Cream. The Toro by itself was under seasoned, although there was a light sprinkling of Torarashi pepper. But if you ate a bite of toro with the mustard there was an explosion of flavor in your mouth. The red cabbage tamed the mustard so it was essential to eat each element together.
Sesame Cornet, Soft Shell Crab, Corona Beer Granite with Lime zest – The tuile was filled with soft shell crab and topped with spicy mayonnaise. It was delicious and it reminded me of a soft shell crab sushi roll with the tuile being the wrapper instead of nori.
Carpaccio of Day Boat Scallops with Champagne Caviar Cream, Frozen Grapes and Bacon – this was sensational with top quality ingredients.
Nantucket Baby Scallops with Lemon Butter and Roasted Garlic. This was a traditional and classical preparation. My husband hates scallops. He will often state that he is allergic to them so he won’t have to have them on a tasting menu. In fact, he said as much to Ludo later in the evening while declaring that these were the best scallops he had ever tasted. Ludo explained that many restaurants use frozen scallops, which will give you that mushy taste. These were delicious.
Chaud et Froid of Eggs and Truffles
Starting at the bottom, poached egg, then black truffle gelee, then cream mixed with 4 spices – nutmeg, ginger, white pepper and cloves and on top a reduction of port wine. I think the hot and cold refers to the warm egg and the cold gelee and cream. In any case, it was excellent.
Foie Gras terrine with figs and Serrano ham served with cream cheese chantilly, plums marinated in lychee black tea, quince gelee and fleur de sel. The ham and figs were a great take on the typical foie gras terrine. Additionally the quince gelee was almost as thick as honey and the cream cheese and plums mixed perfectly with the foie. The brioche had been purposely “well-done” (not pictured)
Seared Foie Gras, Buttered French Toast, Orange Compote, Maple Syrup Gelee, Brown Sugar Ice Cream – what an extravagant way to serve foie gras – the warm fattiness of the foie, the sweet cool of the ice cream, the tart orange, the gelee that hinted at gooey syrup and the plain deliciousness of the toast – all a perfect combination.
Foie Gras, Pear Water, Caramel Gelee, Bacon Confit – The contrast of hot and cold was an important feature of this dish – the hot seared foie, the cool pear water and the colder caramel gelee. Here, Ludo also used restraint and let the ingredients speak for themselves
Cherry Tomato and Fig Salad with Melons, Pistachio, Honey, Red Beet Emulsion and Brie Ice Cream. What made this dish was the Brie ice cream, served not frozen, but only slightly cold. It was so luxurious and rich and paired with the figs, tomatoes, melon and red beets just a marriage of wondrous flavors. The pistachios were on the bottom of the dish and added a wonderful crunchy texture.
Soft Shell Panini, Tomato Concassée, Capers Pickles, Mixed Field Greens
The sauce was composed of the pickles and capers or a very grown-up version of tartar sauce. This was delicious and fun to eat. I picked it up like a sandwich, dipped it into the tartar sauce and nibbled happily away.
Oyster, Nitro of Champagne with lime, Uni, Shallot Cream, caviar.
Ludo’s ability to marry flavors and temperatures elevates his cuisine to the extraordinary. Here you have the briny oyster, the frozen champagne/lime, the smooth silky uni and the rich shallot cream topped off with the “salt” of the caviar.
Nitrogene Horseradish Meringue Oyster. The server wheels a large cart to the table with a canister of “smoking” liquid nitrrogen. He forms a quenelle of the horseradish meringue and places it in the canister to become frozen and solid. This is placed on top of a small bowl containing a Fanny Bay oyster. You eat the meringue first and then slurp the oyster in one bite. Another winner.
A spoon of apricot gelee and Foie Gras Panini. What is interesting about this dish is that there was no knife and fork presented – Ludo wants you to eat the panini as a sandwich. The panini was filled with mozzarella, apricots and foie – half of which was a terrine and half was sautéed. The panini sat in a coulis of pistachio. Another winning combination and fun, witty, but delicious.
Santa Barbara Shrimp “Barbecue”, Orange Saffron Gelee – Santa Barbara Barbecue, Orange Saffron Gelee
The shrimp was cooked slowly and sat on a rich “sauce/broth” that included squid. It was delicious and had a decidedly Spanish feel to it. On top was sardine butter. Absolutely delicious.
Poached Copper River Salmon, Caramel Melon Broth, Shaved Fennel and Kumquats – The salmon was so tender that I asked if it had been cooked sous-vide. No, it was poached and just melted in your mouth. The surprise element was the caramel broth that added a hint of sweetness that paired well with the fruitiness of the kumquats
Lobster Dynamite – on a bed of crushed saltine cracker sat the lobster, passion fruit puree with green tea/sake butter. The top was encrusted with the “dynamite” mixture the base of which was mayo. The whole is then baked briefly to “encrust” the top. This was definitely an A dish.
Maine Lobster, “Ramoneur” Vadouvan Spice, Udon with Orange & Sake
There is no way I am going to do this dish justice. It was just off the charts and one of the best lobster preparations I have ever had anywhere. For the life of me, I don’t understand the reference to Ramoneur, which in French means chimney sweep. Ludo, Gregory and our captain were on hand to present and “prepare” the dish. Ludo explained that toward the end of cooking the lobster, a straw is inserted “periscope” style. Butter is poured into the straw so that the lobster is basted with the butter. From what I gathered, this is a technique that he learned from Passard. Anyway back to the dish. A large copper pan is presented with the whole Maine Lobster “swimming” in a rich lobster stock. Gregory then “carves” the lobster and adds it back to the pan juices. Meanwhile Ludo is “preparing” the other components of the dish, which included udon, enoki mushrooms, the orange and sake base plus the vadouvan – his Indian spice mix, which includes curry leaves, fenugreek, mustard seeds and garlic. The lobster slices are placed on top, covered with a cloche and then presented to the diner. OH MY!
Crispy Sweetbreads, Black Truffles, Veloute of Risotto, Crumble of Brioche, Parmesan Foam, White Truffles Shaved on top – The sweetbreads had been poached the day before in milk. The risotto was made with mascarpone. Tiny dice of black truffles and brioche crumbles were intermingled in the veloute and foam. We were in a small room at the chef’s table. When Gregory appeared with the whole white truffle, the entire room was perfumed with the aroma so you smelled the truffle as you ate the dish. There is no way to describe how good this dish was – a perfect A.
Beef Tenderloin with a Red Wine Reduction with Granny Smith Apple puree, Polenta Fries or Polenta stuffed with Parmesan Cream and a Reblochon Cheeseburger – brioche filled with Reblochon mousse, tomato concasse, wild mushroom and baby greens.
Veal, Imaginary Choucroute – cumin and mustard sauce, coleslaw gelee, braised red cabbage with lard, frankfurt sausage, braised bok choy, steamed fingerling potato –I loved the imagination, the taste and the conception of this dish. The veal chops are first presented on the bone and placed on a serving cart. The veal is then carved, then plated with the “choucroute” and enrobed with the sauce. Delicious
Seared-poached Veal Chop in Vadouvan Broth, Grilled Belgian Endive with Almond Milk, Spinach Marshmallow and a filo packet of an orange crunchy mixture of foie and dried fruit. This was another oh my dish. The foie gras packet was in a word delicious – as full as I was getting, I was tempted to ask for another. The spinach was fun – a take on the proverbial marshmallow dishes except with homemade marshmallow. The chop was perfect and the more I taste Vadouvan the more I like it.
Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta With Caramel Sauce and Sevruga Caviar – this was one of the best desserts I have ever had. It reminded me of the Fat Duck white chocolate and caviar “dish”, but much better. The salinity of the caviar with the panna cotta was sensational and the caramel added just enough sweetness to heighten the panna cotta.
Trust me this is just a glimpse of his genius. The bottom line, we miss Ludo.