You have to love the name: LudoBites -- small plates from French chef Ludovic (“Ludo”) Lefebvre, which he dishes out Wednesday through Friday nights at the tiny Breadbar in L.A. It’s a limited engagement for the former chef of L’Orangerie and Bastide, so get there before Ludo closes up shop on Dec. 21 if you’d like to do some culinary exploring with the ever-curious chef.
Bring a lot of money, too, because the tab for those little dishes adds up. Fortunately, it’s a BYOB affair, since Breadbar isn’t normally open for dinner. The whole thing has an impromptu, clandestine feeling and the young staff is stoked. They’ve been tasting dishes that, well, only Ludo could have dreamed up. And like his cooking at Bastide, some are downright delicious. Others miss the mark. But he’s sure to surprise you. And intrigue you.
He writes the menu every day, which features a couple dozen little dishes in categories starting with “open your appetite,” to “two bites” and “bites for more than one.” There’s one more substantial dish of the day, too. And cheese -- wonderful cheeses from Norbert Wabnig of the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. That’s reason alone for coming.
Heirloom tomato salad crowned with a feather-light feta mousse is built with red and green, absolutely delicious tomatoes. The ingenious feta mousse ratchets down the saltiness of the cheese, a perfect bite with the tomatoes. Silky chicken liver mousse on rustic country bread lights up when you add the shimmering green apple gelee. Crispy garbanzo pancake is a disappointment, though -- sort of like garbanzo chips with green onions on top, and awfully mingy for $7. And the toasted almonds with the olives are stale.
Ludo rallies with a bowl of green steel-cut oatmeal topped with sauteed escargots (that’s snails, ladies and gentlemen) and a gossamer Parmesan foam. The oatmeal, with its chewy texture, acts something like risotto. Spring roll beef tartare, though, turns out to be a single roll, albeit filled with hand-cut beef tartare and peanuts, and awfully small for $11. We cut it into four bites.
His menu is sometimes too ambitious for the small kitchen. Udon with spiny lobster yields a beautiful piece of perfectly cooked lobster, but the udon noodles are overcooked and the broth isn’t hot by the time we get our $22 bowl of soup. And if you’re counting on the dish of the day -- braised beef with carrots -- think again. OK, for one person it might work, but as a dish to share, you get a couple of bites of the braised beef and one carrot with such depth of flavor it takes your breath away.
Desserts? Mais, oui. Try his signature chocolate mousse -- just what you’d expect, except for that trail of jalapeno heat on your palate.
It’s fun. It’s BYOB -- and make it a good one, something that can follow in any direction Ludo’s imagination takes him. I promise, you won’t be bored.
WHERE: Breadbar, 8718 W. 3rd St., L.A.
WHEN: 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Wed.-Fri. Through Dec. 21. BYOB. Valet parking.
PRICE: Bread basket with Echire butter, $5; appetizers, $7 to $9; “two bites,” $11; “bites for more than one,” $15; dish of the day, $22; cheese, $7 per selection, or $30 for large cheese plate with condiments; dessert, $7; LudoBites omakase (chef’s tasting menu), $85 per person.
INFO: (310) 205-0124