On the third night of Ludo Bites, the restaurant ran out of food. And I don’t mean it sold out of a dish or two, or that it closed a bit early — it ran out of pretty much everything, so that when we dropped by (with reservations) after the end of the Lakers game, almost nothing on the $39 prix-fixe menu was actually available, and I’m sure that at least some of what we ended up eating was supposed to go to the staff meal or on sandwiches the next day. You’ve got to give it to Ludovic Lefebvre, the Pierre Gagnaire protégé, once the chef at l’Orangerie and Bastide, who has returned from Las Vegas to run Ludo Bites for a limited three-month stretch at Breadbar. He still managed to scrounge up one of the best meals I’ve had so far this year.
There were poached eggs on olive toast, blanketed in a warm, freshly made mayonnaise, and scoops of chicken-liver mousse sprinkled with chopped bacon. Cubes of raw tuna were arranged with cubed beets, shredded raw beets, thin squares of watermelon and BB-sized boba that had soaked in balsamic vinegar. A bowl of miso soup was studded with all manner of pungent raw turnips, as well as ovals of fresh foie gras that melted into and enriched the soup: a tour de force. And from somewhere in the kitchen, Lefebvre conjured up a sort of Basque chicken, profoundly flavored with fresh herbs and pan-fried crisp in duck fat, which could have made a New Orleans grandmother weep with happiness.
The first Ludo Bites, a guerrilla café Lefebvre operated in this space about 18 months ago, was delightfully jerry-rigged, as if the chef were making up the very idea of a restaurant as he went along. And the current model is even wilder — by the time you read this, it will definitely be different from its first week. It was the fried chicken that made me realize what is missing in so many of the grand new restaurants that opened in Los Angeles this year: the joy.
Ludo Bites: Tues.-Sat. nights at Breadbar, 8718 W. Third St., L.A. (310) 205-0124 or www.ludolefebvre.com.