Tacolandia (2014)

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Obviously, I ate for free

Tacolandia 2014 @ El Pueblo de Los Angeles
6/28/14 – 3-7pm
125 Paseo De La Plz
Los Angeles, CA 90012
http://microapp.laweekly.com/tacolandia/2014/

I think it’s safe to say that last year’s inaugural Tacolandia was proclaimed a success. For a first-time event that focused on just one dish, albeit one that is synonymous with the city’s culture and identity, things ran very smoothly. Lines (both getting in and per vendor) were manageable, most vendors had plenty to serve from a wide variety of tacos, and the event itself was downright highway robbery for its attendees at $20/person.

This year, prices skyrocketed to the tune of…$25/person. Let’s just say that the even remains a STRONG BUY (although that can be somewhat argued for the premium tickets at $45 a pop in comparison – see The Offalo’s report on the issues regarding that). The event was moved from the parking lot of the Hollywood Paladium to a blocked off section of Olvera Street to accommodate a bigger crowd – no easy feat, as regulations were up the ass left and right (which partially contributed to the drinks issue everyone had). Bill Esparza, one who needs no introduction, told us there were approximately 1000 more attendees this year. No room for walk-up purchases, that’s for sure.

At least with the bigger venue to accommodate more attendees meant more vendors – I believe there were around 40 just for food (which meant that there was no realistic shot of me sampling every taco/tostada this year, though not for a lack of trying). I originally had a gameplan to survey the playing field first via scout run (a la my buffet strategy), but standing in line for 40 minutes to get in, plus the initial shock of seeing the lines at each vendor, had me on tilt.

But after 36 tacos of 30 varieties, I have no more regrets in life. After the event last year, I mentioned that I was 5 pounds heavier and had a hard time breathing. Well, for those who were there to witness, I could barely stand by the end of the day. To be perfectly honest, I should’ve just brought a wheelbarrow, and just had someone push my fat ass around throughout the day. Below are the 25 varieties of tacos/tostada I managed to take a quick photo of before devouring:

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Amor y Tacos – braised short rib taco

The restaurant from Cerritos executed a braised short rib taco w/ caramelized onions, cotija cheese, pickled radishes, and a raspberry salsa that actually worked pretty well. However, the handmade tortilla really fell short – it was thick and undercooked, resulting in a too-chewy texture. Still, this won’t deter me from trying the restaurant someday.

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Bistro LQ x C-V-CHE – guinea fowl teriyaki leg taco

A collaboration between a French and Peruvian chef that produced a taco that was neither French or Peruvian, this one had fusion written all over it. Solid taco, but could’ve actually used more seasoning IMO.

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Carnitas El Momo – sortido taco

I’ve tried an incomplete version of this taco, with carnitas and buche. But the official sortido taco from Carnitas El Momo contains the right amounts of juicy carnitas and fatty pig skin, and by the right amounts I mean plenty of each. Hands down, the current undisputed carnitas champ in town.

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Chef Katsuji Tanabe – fried clam taco

The chef of MexiKosher offered a definitely-not-kosher taco consisting of fried clams, after running out of fried smelt (surprisingly, more than one restaurant served a fried smelt taco). From what I can tell, the preparations for this fried clam taco was the same as the initial smelt one, and it was…kind of weird. The beets were a bit overwhelming, and the sprinkles were…just weird. Pass. Also, can smelt be kosher?

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Chef Timothy Hollingsworth – “Cochinita Pibil”

The former Chef de Cuisine of 3-star Michelin restaurant The French Laundry was definitely the most acclaimed chef at the event. He has relocated to LA, and plans to open a more casual concept in Downtown, one that’ll feature more of the Mexican flavors he has fallen in love with. If this taco was a precursor, then the chef is on the right track. This “cochinita pibil” was by far the most delicate version I’ve seen/eaten. Subtle flavor profiles and combinations of texture, and elegant “plating” (w/ tweezers, because of course).

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Chichen Itza – cochinita pibil

The Yucatan specialist stuck to its guns, and served their trademark cochinita pibil. As excellent as ever. Sorry for the poor(er) photo here.

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Colonia Taco Lounge – beef cheek taco

By now, every taco enthusiast should be familiar with Ricardo Diaz’s name. He was the chef and co-owner of Guisados, before striking it out on his own with Bizarra Capital (which was part of the festival last year), and now Colonia Taco Lounge. This was a solid taco, but I wished we could’ve seen them flex some muscles here.

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Coni’Seafood – marlin taco

Same as last year, as good as last year. I really need to try this place.

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Corazon y Miel – fried smelt taco

I’m a big fan of Corazon y Miel, a restaurant I consider one of the most underrated in LA. The restaurant served a fried smelt taco that had avocado, corn, heirloom tomatoes, and a nice hint of poblano. SOLID.

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Eggslut – braised/fried Nueske’s bacon taco

My boy Johnny and the Eggslut crew served a taco that was fitting of both the festival and what the restaurant’s all about, and that is breakfast and eggs on the regs. The fried quail egg was a nice touch. Can’t wait see what they do next year.

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FIG – braised lengua taco

Perfectly-cooked tongue, from a chef that knows his way around meat. This was an elevated version of the tongue taco Guerrilla Tacos served last year, and that one was quite good.

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Finca Altozano – D#ickhead taco (beef cheek, tongue, pizzle)

I was unfortunately unable to try Chef Javier Plascencia’s offaly-bizarre taco last year, but he managed to shock and awe once again with what they called the “D#ickhead” taco. It was beef cheek, tongue, and pizzle (bull penis) cooked birria-style. The penis tasted like beef tendon – very interesting. And yes, I fully admit to wanting the D that day.

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Flor del Rio – goat birria taco

Birria specialist Flor del Rio brought back the goat birria taco again this year. As good as last year’s.

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George’s at the Cove – Los 3 Cochinitas taco (pig tail, crispy ear, cueritos)

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George’s at the Cove – El Pescado taco (achiote-cured red snapper)

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George’s at the Cove – La Piña tostada (pineapple, espuma de mezcal)

George’s at the Cove ain’t nothing to fuck with. Sorry for the profanity and the lame Wu-Tang reference, but they came rollin’ deep with their A-Team (including Chef Trey, CdC Jon, and Pastry Chef Lori), and managed to not only serve 3 offerings simultaneously(!!!) that were all highlights of the event, but to serve them up until the very end. Mad respect to the team from the La Jolla restaurant, one that was responsible for the single best meal of my year to date (post still in the works).

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Guerrilla Tacos – wild porcini mushroom tostada

As fans of Guerrilla Tacos know (and I know there are plenty of you, because all of you are in my way), Chef Wes has a way with vegetables. This porcini-truffle collabo seemed like a can’t-miss, and was indeed good, but I just wanted…a little more. The problem with having set such a high standard for me, I suppose.

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La Guerrerense – seafood tostada (bacalao, octopus, scallop, sea urchin)

I’ve only tried La Guerrerense twice, both times at Tacolandia, but I can safely say that I LOVE LA GUERRERENSE. I would be willing to be a drug mule for the Mexican cartels in exchange for a regular supply of LG’s food. And crazy thing is, I know that what they serve usually is even better and more expansive than what they offered at the events. Sra. Sabina, te amo.

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Loteria Grill – fried grasshopper tostada

A surprising offering from the local mini-chain. I thought this were pretty good actually. A few ladies had the look of disgust while I was eating this, but I’m not sure if that’s because I was eating grasshoppers, or because of my face.

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Mexicali Taco & Co. – lomo al carbon taco

The Mexicali guys always try to mix things up at events, and Tacolandia was no different. I remember Dommy (a Chowhound veteran and Mexican culinary scholar) telling me how legit they were last year with their offering, right down to the wood they were using for the grill. This year’s definitely had the look and taste of a churrasco prep – very good.

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Petty Cash Taqueria – pork belly carnitas taco

Despite it being a pork belly carnitas taco (pork courtesy of Cook Pigs Ranch), the flavors were very clean. A pleasant surprise.

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Revolutionario LA Food – chicken tagine taco

I believe Chef Zadi actually had to go all McGyver with chicken from fellow chefs at the event, because he said that he had ran out. I tried Revolutionario LA Food during their pop-up last month, and it was a very playful take on the taco incorporating North African flavors and ingredients. Looking forward to seeing what Chef has up his sleeve in the future.

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Tacos Kokopelli – Polvora tostada (smoked salmon, chiltepin, chilmole)

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Tacos Kokopelli – Kraken taco

Tacos Kokopelli came with a trio of offerings this year, two of which focused around smoked salmon, and the other being their famous kraken taco which they served last year.  The kraken one was better than last year’s – don’t think anything changed, but was just executed better this time. And the smoked salmon preparations were even better IMO. Sidenote: are they opening a Chicago branch? If so, why not LA?

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Tortas Ahogadas Ameca – ahogada taco

A sweet and wonderful family operation, serving a taco version of their famed torta ahogada. Arguably the heartiest taco of the day, and held its own against the sexier, chef-driven ones.

Not Pictured:

– Aqui es Texcoco
– La Flor de Yucatan
– Mariscos Jalisco
– Tacos Kokopelli (Summer Dash tostada)
– Tamales Elena

So yeah, that sums up all the tacos I ate at Tacolandia, sans the ones without photos. I missed out on a few big names, like Taco Maria and Picca, but there’s only so much Chris to go around. That just means I have to go in with a more strict game plan next year. Not counting repeats, below were the six that served my favorites of the day, a true accomplishment given how many good ones I ate throughout the event.

Chris Hei’s All-Tacolandia 1st Team:

FIG
Finca Altozano
George’s at the Cove (2x All-Tacolandia) – MVT
La Guerrerense (2x All-Tacolandia)
Tacos Kokopelli
Chef Timothy Hollingsworth

Thanks again to Bill, LA Weekly, and especially to all the chefs and vendors that made this event possible and a success. Looking forward to next year’s, and many more to come!

Tacolandia (2013)

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Tacolandia @ Hollywood Palladium Parking Lot
6/23/13 – 12-5pm
6215 W Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
http://microapp.laweekly.com/tacolandia/

I am currently 5 lbs. heavier and having trouble breathing while lying on the floor, and yet I regret nothing I’ve done (or eaten) today at LA Weekly’s 1st annual Tacolandia, a food festival focusing on tacos held at the Hollywood Palladium parking lot, and curated by Bill Esparza, Mr. Street Gourmet LA himself. 3 hours in and 30 things tried later, I can safely say that Tacolandia was a roaring success. For ONLY $20 (or even less if tickets were bought from Gilt City), a taco lover can grub on offerings by ~30 restaurants/food trucks. The Offalo was more than generous to offer me his extra ticket (because the event had sold out quick – buy tickets EARLY next year!) – thanks so much Peter! Below are some photos of the food I tried earlier today (except Mexicali, and the 3-4 stands I missed out on):

Bistro LQ: Rabbit Green Mole Taco

Bistro LQ: Rabbit Liver Taco

Bistro LQ – Rabbit Green Mole Taco, Rabbit Liver Taco

Chef Laurent actually had multiple variations of tacos available during the festival (including “FG” for those who knew the secret password), but these 2 rabbit-based tacos were very good. The rabbit in green mole was very traditional in execution and flavor, with the pulled rabbit meat being ever-so-tender. The rabbit liver, on the other hand, was very interesting, not unlike chicken liver.

Bizarra Capital

Bizarra Capital

I totally forgot what this was, but it was solid – as expected from Chef Ricardo (formerly of Guisados).

CaCao Mexicatessen: Beef Cheek Taco w/ Cipollini Onion, Radish, Chives

CaCao Mexicatessen – Beef Cheek Taco

I actually told them that I was disappointed in not having duck or suckling pig carnitas, or uni, but the beef cheek didn’t disappoint.

Chichen Itza: Lechon (Suckling Pig) Taco

Chichen Itza – Lechon Taco

Straightforward, but delicious. One of the first things I ate today, and still held up as one of the best in the end. I got a super-fatty piece of the suckling pig, which was deliciously paired with the nice piece of chicharron.

Coni'Seafood: Smoked Marlin Taco

Coni’Seafood – Smoked Marlin Taco

The swordfish was smoky and juicy, the latter which was a pleasant surprise. One of my favorites today.

Flor Del Rio: Birria Taco

Flor Del Rio – Birria Taco

Solid execution of the birria, which was a pleasure to see here (since I haven’t had it in a while).

George's at the Cove: Cured Snapper, Achiote, Cilantro, Pineapple Salsa, Cabbage, CA Avocado

George’s at the Cove (San Diego) – Cured Snapper Taco

The real surprise of the day. George’s is a fine-dining restaurant in San Diego with its share of accolades, and this proved to be a smart and sophisticated dish, great for the hot and humid weather. Snapper was nicely cured (with achiote), and I liked the little touch with the piece of fried skin.

Guerrilla Tacos: Grass-Fed Beef Tongue Taco

Guerrilla Tacos – Beef Tongue Taco

Glad I got to try Guerrilla at the festival, since I will never make it to Handsome Coffee during a regular weekday. The grass-fed beef tongue was really well-cooked here.

Le Guerrerense: (top) Uni Tostada, (bottom) Smoked Yellowtail Pate Tostada

La Guerrerense Again

La Guerrerense (Baja California) – Uni & Smoked Yellowtail Pate Tostadas, Smoked Yellowtail Pate & Pismo Clam Tostadas

Here it was, my most-anticipated stop of the day, arguably the most-acclaimed participant at the festival, and it lived up to all my expectations…and more. On a day filled with great performances like this year’s NBA Finals, Le Guerrerense just LeBron’d the competition. Smoked yellowtail pate? Tell me that’s not genius. And those salsas? Amazing!

Tacos Leo: Al Pastor Taco

Leo’s Taco Truck – Tacos Al Pastor

The trompo was out in broad daylight, ready to shut all the detractors up – it really does make a difference.

Loterial Grill: Taco Dulce

Loteria Grill – Taco Dulce

Missed out on their savory offering earlier in the day, and instead tried this dessert taco – basically a churro taco with mango and pineapple. It was okay.

Mariscos Jalisco: Shrimp Taco Dorado

Mariscos Jalisco – Shrimp Taco Dorado

Quite possibly the most beloved taco truck at the festival, and it also lived up to the hype. The lines here were among the longest of the day, and the shrimp tacos dorados were indeed worth the wait.

Mo-Chica/Picca/Paiche: Pork Belly Chicharron Taco

Mo-Chica/Picca/Paiche – Pork Belly Chicharron Taco

Kind of surprising to see the Peruvian empire doing tacos, but they turned out to be both true to the traditional taco form, as well as exhibit the signature Peruvian flavors that Chef Ricardo is known for.

Rocio's Mole de los Dioses: (top) Chicken Mole Taco, (bottom) Carnitas Taco

Rocio’s Mole de los Dioses – Chicken Mole & Carnitas Tacos

The mole of the Gods that most in LA pray to, serving tacos that were very straightforward. They were pretty good, but I don’t think that the offering truly showed off what the restaurant can do.

SoHo Taco: Lobster Taco

SoHo Taco (OC) – Lobster Taco

Probably had the longest line throughout the festival – has to be the lobster. Props to SoHo for being one of 2 stands to freshly press their tortillas (Taqueria Los Anaya being the other), and more props for them being blue corn. And the lobster? Pretty good too ;)

Sol Mexican Cucina: Goat Cheese Tostada

Sol Mexican Cucina (OC) – Goat Cheese Tostada

One of the participants I wasn’t familiar with coming into today, Sol served a goat cheese tostada that was rather refreshing, but a bit too sweet for me.

Spirit House: Chashu Taco

Spirit House – Chashu Taco

The Asian representative of the festival, the chashu taco was actually much more traditional-looking and tasting than I expected.

Tacos Arabes de Puebla

Tacos Arabes de Puebla – Taco Arabe

Taco arabe, which means “Arab-style taco,” was described to me as being similar to al pastor, which makes sense since Middle Eastern cuisine uses the spit as well. Instead of a corn tortilla, what you have here was a flour tortilla that was almost pita-like. Nice touch of presenting different types of herbs to pick yourself for the tacos.

Tacos Kokopelli: Kraken Taco

Tacos Kokopelli (Baja California) – Kraken Taco

We got to see the pulpo (octopus) in action on the grill while waiting in line for La Guerrerense, and man, did it look delicious a la plancha. Tasted as good as it looked, too. A variation of this is available at Petty Cash Taqueria (where they consulted on the menu), and I look forward to trying this there as well.

Tacos Punta Cabras: Bay Scallop Taco w/ Uni

Tacos Punta Cabras – Bay Scallop & Uni Taco

I am very familiar with the tacos from TPC, and this offering would be fitting as one of their daily specials. As good as expected.

Taqueria Los Anaya: "Turbo-Charged" Chicken Taco

Taqueria Los Anaya – “Turbo-Charged” Chicken Taco

Taqueria Los Anaya, for the day, was doing business as “Dos Bros”- in accordance to promoting Dreamworks’ movie “Turbo” (very…interesting of a collaboration between a big studio and a local taco truck). Anyways, the chicken taco was fine, but nothing to be “turbo-charged” about. But I did appreciate the freshly-pressed tortillas.

I obviously thought everything was good for the day, but if I had to choose, these would be my favorites (I reserve the right to change my mind at any time, and it just might happen, as I might have a different answer the next time I reflect on this):

Chris Hei’s All-Tacolandia 1st Team:

Chichen Itza
Coni’Seafood
George’s at the Cove
La Guerrerense
Mariscos Jalisco
SoHo Taco

Big thanks again to Bill, LA Weekly, and especially to all the participating restaurants/trucks today!

LudoBites Best of Foie Gras @ Gram & Papa’s

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I am fortunate to have attended the last two LudoBites events – in LA that is :)

Originally, the LudoBites Best of Foie Gras night was a one-night event only, held this past Tuesday (and it was a five-course dinner @ $105 instead of the usual a la carte). However, because the demand for it was so high, they added an extra night. And Tracy was lucky enough to snag a reservation for four @ 9pm. So Tracy, Eugenia, Linh-Nam, and myself headed to the usual LudoBites spot at Gram & Papa’s in Downtown last night to get our fill of foie gras before the ban begins in July. And who better to honor the foie than the often-mercurial, ever-so-talented Frenchman, Chef Ludo?

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Foie Gras Cromesqui “MM”

We started with this amuse bouche, croquettes of liquified foie gras, which was dipped in liquid nitrogen then fried. The outside was fried, while the filling remained liquid and creamy. Krissy said that you had to eat it all in one bite, or else it’s going to get everywhere. Luckily there was no molecular gastronomy accident this time around (i.e. Eugenia popping a liquid mozzarella ball on her black dress at The Bazaar). A delicious and fun way to start the meal, and we got two per person (heard each diner only got one on Tuesday)!

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Foie Gras Dynamite, Tuna, Lichi

Chef Ludo always manages to play with different cuisines and ingredients in fun and harmonious fashions. A nicely seared piece of foie gras (which had been fridged for a period of time shortly before service to match the temperature of the other ingredients on the plate) sat on a bed of chopped tuna tartare of sorts with lychee. It was topped off the a dynamite sauce (complete with the requisite masago), and surrounded by a meyer lemon aioli. Great interaction between the lean tuna and the fatty foie, and the sauces added plenty of body.

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Foie Gras Miso Soup, Radish, Turnips

We had a Thai version of this foie gras soup at LudoBites 8.0, and I really liked it. This one was ever better. The fatty pieces of foie cooked in the soup, and basically melted into the broth. The soup itself was creamy and comforting, with the radish and turnip adding a nice crunchy contrast.

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Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur, Grapes

Apparently this is one of the all-time LudoBites favorites, and I’m glad to have finally experienced it. Arguably my favorite dish of the night. As if a croque monsieur couldn’t get any better, this one manages to one-up all the previous versions I’ve had. Serrano ham, foie terrine, cheese, bread dipped in squid ink before being toasted (that’s why the bread is all-black) – just sandwich perfection. Oh, and the grape jam was a nice condiment to dip the sandwich in too, giving it a good sweet and savory flavor.

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Foie Gras “Crepinette,” Morels, Pears, Green Asparagus

A deceiving complex dish. A normal crepinette is a small sausage of sorts wrapped in caul fat. Here, the foie and some other ingredients (I forgot what what exactly in this, but I remember hearing “sweetbread”) are wrapped in the fat, sat over a potato puree and chopped morels and pears, and topped off with the cheese foam you see on many of Chef Ludo’s previous dishes. There was a grilled ramp on the side as well. Don’t recall seeing any asparagus though. Overall, another great foie dish of the night.

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Foie Gras Sundae, Brioche, Black Berries

One of the servers brought this and joked that they ran out of dessert, so they decided to buy Pinkberry for everyone. Served in your typical frozen yogurt cup, this was a foie gras ice cream, topped with strawberries and blackberries, brioche croutons, and a Courvoisier chocolate sauce. The ice cream had more of a whipped cream-consistency, but tasted great. The real star, in my opinion, was the brioche crouton. Tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.

Again, I consider myself very lucky to have attended another LudoBites outing (more like lucky to have lucky friends). We even saw the same server from 8.0 who always said “rock on!,” although he kept it to a basic “enjoy” this time around – what a tease (that guy is great at describing these complex dishes BTW). Another spot-on dinner by Chef Ludo, and it made me realize how much I would really miss foie gras come July. I’m praying for another one of these dinners come June.

Chris Hei grade: A-

LudoBites Best of Foie Gras @ Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 624-7272

Best of LudoBites (Foie Gras Night 4/17/12) on Urbanspoon

Four on Fish @ Providence

Photo credit: Linh-Nam Vu

I’ve had this post in my drafts for around three months (the dinner was on June 20), and it’s finally time to finish it. However, after so much time has elapsed, it’s hard for me to recollect the experience in detail. Since it was a one-time dinner anyways, I figured that the details are less important than the photos. So I’ll just be lazy with this post with mainly photos taken by Linh-Nam during dinner (I went with him and Eugenia). This dinner was hosted by Opinionated About Dining, a Zagat-esque guide, at Providence. Upon leaving the restaurant we were given the guide as a gift. Chef Michael Cimarusti (of Providence) was joined by Chefs Ludo Lefebvre (LudoBites), Hiro Urasawa (Urasawa), and Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca), all providing dishes with a focus on seafood.

seabass tiradito – aji amarillo sauce, sweet potato puree

My first experience of Chef Zarate’s food, which led to my future Picca visits. Tiradito is a Peruvian ceviche-esque dish of Japanese influence, and this specific dish is now on Picca’s menu. Great start.

(Left) red snapper and half-cooked ebi botan wrapped in seaweed, marinated radish, shiso, miyoga and plum sauce

(Right) hakkaido scallop and monkfish liver, caviar, pickled turnip, wasabi, shiso, miyoga

The closest I will get to taste Chef Urasawa’s food (that is, until my fated visit next March). The two seafood items were both served with the plum sauce, which provided a sweet and sour taste. I thought the red snapper and shrimp combination was good, but it didn’t blow me away. However, the scallop and monkfish liver combination was amazing! I look forward to this quality of food served at Urasawa.

antichuchos of santa barbara spot prawns with yuzu kosho

The second dish served by Chef Zarate, also now on Picca’s menu. The prawn was perfectly cooked, with a nice char. There was just a touch of yuzu kosho, and with a squeeze of lime that was all this needed, to let the shrimp speak for itself.

santa barbara sea urchin, champagne beurre blanc, fine herbs

This is one of Providence’s mainstay dishes on the tasting menu (I had another variation of this during my visit to Providence later that month). I loved this dish. The creamy uni went really well with raw egg, and the beurre blanc provided a nice flavor, while the little croutons added a nice crunchy contrast.

chawan mushi, summer truffles and ikura

The second dish served by Chef Urasawa. The egg-on-egg dishes served that night were just downright awesome. The egg custard had some sea urchin and shrimp underneath I believe, and was topped with truffle shavings, salmon roe, and dashi broth. Just look all all those awesome ingredients. Only negative might be that the truffle shavings were a bit thick for me, but how can one really complain about truffles, let along an abundance of them.

japanese freshwater eel, soba, soy milk

Another hit by Chef Cimarusti. The eel had a nice, crunchy skin and delicious sweet eel sauce glaze. The soba was served in bits, which were crunchy and tasted more like bread crumbs than soba (but was still good). The soy gave the dish a nice balance.

lobster vadouvan

This dish, by Chef Ludo, is arguably the most aromatically-pleasant dish I’ve ever smelled. The combination of scents coming from the vadouvan butter (vadouvan is a French spice blend that’s reminiscent of curry powder) and an orange-like fruitiness was heavenly. The dish itself, however, was not as good. My lobster, unfortunately, was a little bit overcooked. And I think I would’ve liked the dish to be less…tart. Still good though.

creme fraiche panna cotta, alverta president caviar

A classic Ludo dessert (so I’m told), this panna cotta with caramel sauce had a great salty contrast. But instead of sea salt with caramel like most places use nowadays, Chef Ludo instead uses caviar to provide that salty kick. Once you get over the fact that there’s caviar in a dessert, this was quite the combination. Very creative, and a great dessert.

mochi cake, blackberry & litchi, coconut-kaffir sorbet

The second dessert, provided by Providence. I had a very similar variation of this at my subsequent Providence dinner. On this visit, it was a coconut-kaffir lime sorbet, as opposed to a soy milk ice cream. The combination of the sorbet with the bits underneath had a Froot Loops-like taste, according to Linh-Nam. Nice dessert.

Overall, this was an awesome seafood-themed dinner (albeit a very expensive one), from the minds of four extremely talented chefs. My dinner at Providence was an A, my last dinner at Picca was an *spoiler alert* A- (bumping it up after visit last weekend), Urasawa is by far my most anticipated dinner, and I am praying that I’ll be able to experience LudoBites someday. Only thing that prevented this dinner from being an A was that the different cuisines didn’t necessarily come together as a cohesive progression. I’m not one to be part of the special dinner events scene, but if all of them can be like this dinner, I might have to Paris Hilton the food social scene.

Chris Hei grade: A-

“Four on Fish”
Providence
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170