Unsurprisingly, when we arrived at Royal/T that night all the tables were full (the people who had our table hadn't left yet), so Krissy, our darling hostess and Ludo's other half, set up a special table for us between the exhibits. Bright lights and intriguing art surrounded us as we decided to run the gamut and order all the
The first of our nine savory dishes were the Scallops ($12). Slightly cooked in brown butter, the soft scallops were complemented by small chucks of pineapple and a mysterious black powder that turned out to be squid ink. The pineapple added both a tangy and sweet flavor to the scallops. A complex and pleasing dish.
Before getting to the squid dish, we had some tasty Caramelized Peanuts ($5) kicked with curry.
The seared Monterey Squid ($12) featured chorizo oil, red onions, and a Korean twist of Kimchi Puree. Our very own Choisauce actually taught Ludo the makings behind kimchi. With this and the upcoming udon dish, it's quite obvious that Ludo is no stranger to Asian flavors, and he shows it through the subtle incorporation of Asian ingredients.
A warm bowl of Bread Soup ($9). The white poached egg and gruyere popped up beautifully amongst the bread soup.
Ludo's lobster udon was voted LA Weekly's Top 10 Dishes of 2007, a feat probably unexpected since Ludo is a French cook. But, again, there's no denying that Ludo knows his Asian flavors and how to incorporate it in his French style dishes. This was reflected in Evelina's favorite dish of the menu, the Veal Udon ($13). The broth, made of Kombu Dashi and sesame seed miso, is so savory and hearty, especially with the mushrooms, scallions, lemon grass, tender pulled veal, and of course the soft udon. Our mouths are watering as we write about it.
The Foie Gras Beignet ($16) was a very popular dish amongst our group of 7. We ordered three initially and then at the end ordered TWO more! Hidden inside the brown butter glazed beignet are two ounces of scrumptious, rich foie gras. A yellow celery root remoulade seasoned with tumeric also accompanied the dish.
The Confit Pork Belly ($12) atop a soft and crunchy baguette reminded us of a Vietnamese sandwich with its addition of cucumber and frisee. Fitting because the menu actually identified it as a mustard pickle tartine, which is a French open-faced sandwich. The pork belly was moist and crunchy, but we have to agree with Ryan, who we shared the dish with, that the bread was a little over charred.
Fish can so easily be over cooked, but Ludo's Striped Sea Bass ($18) shows us how delicately flavorful fish can be when cooked correctly. The bass, which had a slightly firm center and crispy skin, also came with an yuzu aioli and a very popular garden salad of brussel sprouts and cauliflower.
It's rare to find hanger steak on a menu and it's even rarer to find it well cooked. Ludo's Marinated Hanger Steak ($22) was cooked medium rare with a gorgeous char. The fried escargot added a nice contrast to the soft steak. The dish also came with a mole sauce, which Ludo actually learned to make from Gluster's mother (check out Gluster's extremely entertaining and interesting documentation of the lesson). A baby corn, which we wish was sweeter, also came with the dish.
We almost thought the Fourme d' Ambert Tourte ($10) was dessert when it arrived. The tourte, French for tart, was layered with Fourme d' Ambert, a French blue cheese. Some people at the table thought the tart itself was a bit overwhelming but we thought the poached pear in beet juice balanced the flavors.
After the 9 courses of savory dishes came our two desserts. First we had the fudge-like, rich Chocolate Cake, Coconut Sorbet Soup, Pink Pepper Meringue ($12).
The second dessert was the Pistachio Rice Milk with Pound Cake ($10) topped with what we think was a horseradish or wasabi whipped. While Wes thought the horseradish was overwhelming, Evelina thought the whip gave it the kick the pudding needed. Unfortunately, we didn't even notice the pound cake until we finished half of the dish (probably because we were so awed by the whip).
Signing a copy of his cook book, Crave, for the Two Hungry Pandas
Phew, that was a long write up, but well worth it since we're backing up some delicious food. We love that Chef Ludo incorporates other cuisines into his dishes because it adds a much-appreciated familiarity to his food. Raised in the San Gabriel Valley, we don't see a lot of French joints around town. French flavors are not what we grew up learning to appreciate and understand. So when the kimchi appeared in the Monterey Squid or when the udon was served, a sense of comfort came in flavors. We understood the dish and had a big appreciation for its uniqueness. Thanks Ludo for that experience.