Lemon Moon, West Los Angeles
Ludo’s famed series of popup kitchen operations around the Los Angeles area has now reached it’s 8th incarnation. Setting up shop in the popular westside lunch place, Lemon Moon, which ironically was mere minutes from my old place before I moved across town. Still it was worth making the trips out to check out the interesting creations on Ludo’s new menu.
Counter seating @ Lemon Moon
Following the same format as his previous operations, Ludobites 8.0 ran for a limited 6 week period, evenings only Mon-Fri and constantly made changes/additions to the menu, always consisting of an interesting fusion of french with other ethnic flavors. Due to the heightened awareness of chef Ludo’s increasingly popular presence in the LA dining scene, reservations have grown more difficult to obtain. And following in the footsteps of other increasingly popular, overbooked events; Comic Con, Coachella, and others, for the first time, reservations were given thru an electronic lottery system only, with the majority of people understanding they would not be able to book a table. When half of LA’s dining scene is trying to score seats in a small lunch place during a narrow window of time, this only makes sense to me.
The wine & beer list
I was one of those unsuccessful in scoring online reservations, but thanks to a hot tip by Darin Dines, I knew walk in seats were available on a first come, first serve basis. Thanks to this, I was able to try out the menu a couple nights and this writeup is a compilation of those experiences.
As usual, Ludo’s team of chefs and servers are collected from various restaurants across the LA area, as my waiter also works at Sotto and 2 other restaurants during his normal hours. Service was great and unlike some previous Ludobites incarnations, seemed less rushed and frenetic, making for a fun and relaxing dining experience. Perhaps the open air atmosphere and space of the venue helped with this.
Ludo plating his lobster salad for hungry diners
Burgundy Gougeres $5 – These light puff pastries are the definition of simplicity, free of filling, excess flavoring. They took about 15-20 min to bake fresh and their soft, flakiness made them perfect for dipping and soaking up the sauces of the other dishes we would try later.
Chicken Tandoori Crackling $5 – One of my favorites of the menu, so good I had to order it each time I came. A dollop of lightly whipped chicken live pate is served atop a bed of fried crispy chicken skin. While different in character from fattened goose or duck liver, the crackling still had that rich, unctuous texture that brings that phrase ‘party in my mouth’ to mind. A single taste and I had that blank, glazed look in my eyes, imagining eating a whole tub of this.
Lobster Salad, Yuzu, Honey $16 – A delicate trio of lobster tail pieces was dressed in sashimi atop of bed of yuzu & honey flavored dressing. While I normally like my lobster tail large and in charge, this was a nice counter to the stronger flavors of the of the chicken liver, providing a good mix of sweet & sour.
Gougieres puff pastries
Chicken tandoori crackling
Lobster salad, yuzu, honey
Sweet shrimp miso cream white beans smoked salmon $16 – I love sweet shrimp, aka ama ebi to sushi lovers. Freshly killed shrimp tails were served on a bed of miso cream, garnished with smoked salmon and beans on the side. While the shrimp quality was great, I was hoping for the cream to have a stronger miso taste. The smoked salmon provided some of the contrast I was looking for, but the white beans, I felt was there more for visual and texture differences than taste. Still an odd addition to me.
Truffle scrambled eggs $35 – I really wanted to like this. In fact the first time I came I was tempted to pull the trigger but at that price, really wanted to share it and tried it the next time I came. Both my friend and I felt the same thing; the truffle presence wasn’t what we hoped and while I liked the texture and tastes, it felt a little underwhelming, especially for the price.
Uni creme brulee $24 – Forunately, this second favorite dish of mine made up for the shortcomings of the truffle eggs. Break thru the glazed crust on top, and once again, Ludo shows off his brilliance taking the challenging taste of uni and making it accessible to the most seafood-averse of palettes.
Team member giving the uni creme brulee a searing
Sweet shrimp, miso cream, white beans & smoked salmon
Truffle scrambled eggs
Uni creme brulee
Veal w/ black olive tapenade crust & orange caramelized endive w/ buerre blanc $28 – This was a bold presentation, taking one of the most juicy, succelent cuts of veal this non-animal-cruelty-conscious diner has ever tasted, and giving it a faux-charred cover consisting of the aforementioned black olive crust. While I loved the veal and appreciated the simulated char as a work of culinary art, I felt the black olive crust was a bit too overpowering and if anything, covered up the natural taste of the veal. The orange citrus overtones further added to this confusion in my mouth. I wouldn’t say it was a bad preparation of veal, just not to my taste.
Hanger steak w/ beets $28 – Probably one of the prettiest dishes of the night, the hanger steak was also one of the few dishes that tasted exactly as I expected, with little surprise or twist. This however is a good thing in this case, with the shallots & goat cheese making a nice addition to the beef.
Veal w/ black olive tapenade crust
Hanger steak w/ beets, shallots, goat cheese
Brown butter almond cake, apples, salted caramel, orange creamsicle $13 – Presented as a deconstruction with the various components arranged on the periphery of the plate, the almond cake was a nice, solid, simple dessert that went well with the other ingredients. I think it’s best enjoyed if you take a piece of cake and add only one of the following flavors, either the applesauce, or caramel, or creamsicle ice cream, and not mix them together.
Lemon meringue $13 – Once again, I’m reminded why true meringue is a fantastic dessert and nothing close to the styrofoam, pre-processed horrors found in supermarket bakeries traumatizing many a childhood. Delicate, airy, yet creamy, compared to the simple earthiness of the brown butter cake, the meringue was sophisticated elegance. I would take this deconstruction over the classic pie format any day.
Brown butter almond cake, apple, caramel, orange creamsicle
What did I think of Ludobites latest venture compared to meals past? I wish I could have returned one more time to give a few other promising looking dishes (judging by the happy looks of the diners sitting next to me) to give a comprehensive opinion, but overall I was pleased with the latest effort, especially with a couple of the starter dishes. I think this ranks above Ludo 4.0 and 6.0 for sure, but some of the highlights of 007 still stay in my mind to this day and are difficult to top. I still enjoy all the creativity put forth in the menu wether they align with my tastes or not.
12200 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064