LudoBites: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011

A pop-up, you think. How ... 2008. Because here we are again, walking through an industrial district with a bottle of Arbois in each hand, a reservation that was harder to get than a spot in the freshman class at Brown, and no actual idea of what you are about to eat — the chef is a guy who distilled his Christmas tree into vivid oil and used it to flavor poached eggs. There is a vague sense that the center of the food world is somewhere else at the moment, maybe at that place in northern Sweden, where the chef refuses to serve anything he didn't kill or grow himself, but it is Ludovic Lefebvre who established the pop-up as an economic model, scuttling like a hermit crab between lunch counters and art spaces, and you know that you will taste things you have not tasted before — that you have not imagined — and you spend the next few months telling anybody who will listen about this crazy Frenchman.

LudoBites will be on version 8.0 when its next run begins. There has been an extended national swing and a reality series, and Lefebvre's glowering good looks and Ricky-and-Lucy banter with wife Krissy are known by hundreds of thousands of people who have never tasted his food. The last version of the pop-up felt a little like a band's fourth world tour in support of a mega-platinum record — great, yes, but maybe time to go back into the studio.

But it's easy to become too meta about this, because there is always that moment in the evening when you realize: Damn, this guy can cook. Because Lefebvre, who would probably be running a two- or three-star restaurant in Burgundy if the dice had bounced a little differently, can channel his mentors Pierre Gagnaire or Marc Meneau as effortlessly as Emeril says "Bam!'' No address or phone. Follow Krissy Lefebvre on Twitter at @French ChefWife for details of the next run.

99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:

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