If star DJs can jet from city to city, rocking essentially the same house in cities from Berlin to Dubai to Los Angeles, there is no reason why chefs, crates filled with fish and knives, can’t do the same. Breadbar, the high-end bakery/sandwich shop near the Beverly Center, had a huge success with Ludobar last fall, a limited run featuring the cuisine of ex-Bastide chef Ludovic Lefebvre. This month, the bigger, slicker Century City Breadbar, under the movie theaters in the Westfield mall, broke out two weeks of Crudobar, a small-plates extravaganza, mostly at $14-$15 apiece, of fishy, Japanese-influenced fusion helmed by Noriyuki Sugie, who was chef for several years at Tetsuya, often considered the best restaurant in Sydney, and at Asiate, a fairly spectacular restaurant overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.
But where Ludobar was crowded with cognoscenti eager to taste Lefebvre’s refined cooking at popular prices, Crudobar — which runs only through May 15; hurry — is crowded with … the same post-movie clientele this Breadbar has always drawn, contemplating the special menu for a second and then going onto the Provençal salads, club sandwiches and Angusburgers they were planning on getting to begin with.
Sugie’s brand of fusion is subtle and sophisticated, from an aesthetic probably more influenced by French dudes like Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon than by the big flavors of local hero Nobu Matsuhisa. In a dish of raw scallops, bits of black seaweed provide the appearance, cauliflower crumbs the texture and truffle salt the flavor of fresh black truffles — an amazing feat of culinary trompe l’oeil. Raw sweet shrimp appear in a bowl of dashi manipulated to resemble a classic trembly-soft gelee. Crunchy slivers of the clam called mirugai bob with cucumber, boba pearls and shreds of baby coconut, textures rhyming, in a mildly citric broth; medallions from a torchon of foie gras are cleverly served next to identical coins of monkfish liver, often called the foie gras of the sea. In a crab guacamole with puffed shards of wild rice and puréed lemon, it is hard to tell where the sweetness of the crab ends and that of the avocado begins. Indifferent cooked dishes aside — octopus salad, fried black cod sliders, quinoa-dusted fried scallops — it is a spectacular meal, complete with sake and wine pairings if you like, culminating in a delicious sake-flavored panna cotta. And the French fry munchers at the tables around you, who are lubricating their salads and panini with iced tea, will regard you as a monkfish-liver-inhaling madman. 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City, (310) 277-3770.