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L.A. Restaurants

First Bite: There Will Always Be a Caramel Soufflé, or Ludobites 5.0 and Beyond

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Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 4:30 PM
click to enlarge Jonagold apple, portions removed - CHRISTIE BISHOP
  • Christie Bishop
  • Jonagold apple, portions removed

As the months turn, stone fruit ripens, and the Dodgers suffer another round of midsummer blues, so too does LudoBites return to Gram & Papa's, the garmento lunch counter that hosted the pop-up restaurant's greatest success. Krissy Lefebvre roams the modest diner with the seriousness of a proprietress guarding a third Michelin star; Ludovic Lefebvre might as well be behind the range at Gagnaire instead of behind a sandwich counter. Bottles of wine are fished from briefcases, opened and poured. (It's still BYOB.) The reservations for the entire run of 5.0 were snapped up in just a few hours -- check Krissy's Twitter feed @FrenchChefWife for possible cancellations -- and much of the talk in the restaurant is of versions 1.0 through 4.0. The most passionate customers call themselves LudoBitches and jostle for photographs with the chef. LudoBites is as much a performance as it is a restaurant, and the spectacle is superb.

But it can never be forgotten that it is also a restaurant. Lefebvre is an extremely accomplished modern French chef, and although there are the rough edges one might expect from a crew working at a diner instead of in a three-star kitchen, you will taste things you have never encountered before, even if you have been to all the other incarnations: cheesy cupcakes frosted with puréed chicken livers; or grilled octopus with pineapple aioli and a bit of jellied octopus broth; or a sous vide poached egg drizzled with a bit of chorizo fat and nestled beneath an airy potato mousseline. Is there caramel soufflé for dessert? There is always caramel soufflé for dessert.

LudoBites 5.0 runs until Labor Day weekend.

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