TROIS MEC

“NO WAY.  THAT’S LUDO’S IPOD.”

THE MUSIC IS HIP-HOP LOUD BUT WHEN ASKED TO TURN IT DOWN OR CHANGE IT TO SOMETHING MORE CONDUCIVE TO A FIVE-COURSE TASTING MENU WITH MATCHING WINES AT $150/PERSON, THIS IS THE ANSWER WE GET.  BECAUSE THIS IS LUDO’S RESTAURANT AND WE SHOULD COUNT OUR LUCKY STARS WE WERE ABLE TO GET A RESERVATION FOR SIX P.M. ON A THURSDAY NIGHT.

OUR FRIENDS GINA AND JOHN DESPRES HAD FOUGHT THE TRAFFIC FROM SANTA MONICA FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF IN ORDER TO MEET US FOR DINNER.

WHAT WAS ONCE A RAFFALLO’S PIZZA, LOCATED JUST NORTH OF THE 76 STATION ON MELROSE AND HIGHLAND, IS NOW TROIS MEC; THE THREE GUYS IN QUESTION BEING VINNY DOTOLO AND JOHN SHOOK OF ANIMAL AND CHEF LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE, OF TV FAME AND LUDOBITES POPUPS.  THE RAFFALLO’S SIGN IS STILL THERE.  EVERY EXPENSE HAS BEEN SPARED ON THE INTERIOR WITH ITS HARD SURFACES, WOODEN TABLETOPS AND CUSHIONLESS SEATING.  THE MAIN ATTRACTION IS THE OPEN KITCHEN, BECAUSE THE STAR HERE IS NOT YOU, DEAR DINER, BUT LUDOVIC HIMSELF, ALTHOUGH HE WAS ON TELEVISION THE NIGHT WE DINED AND NOT IN HIS KITCHEN.

NOTE:  NOT ONLY MUST YOU RESERVE IN ADVANCE.  YOU PAY ADVANCE, TOO.  NO SHOW.  TOO BAD FOR YOU.

THE FOOD AND WINE IS EXCELLENT, ODD BUT NOT WEIRD, FAMILIAR WITH A TWIST.  LUDO’S APERITIF ACCOMPANIES A TRIO OF BITE-SIZED SNACKS — SALTED BARLEY POPCORN, A SILVER-DOLLAR-SIZED TEA CAKE AND A SAVORY MADELEINE.  AVOCADO, SUSHI RICE AND SALT COD CREAM WITH A FLOWERING SPRIG OF CILANTRO IS ACCOMPANIED BY GUY LARMANDIER NON-VINTAGE BLANC DE BLANC CHAMPAGNE.  “A NINE HECTARE VINEYARD STRETCHING BACK FIVE GENERATIONS,” OUR WAITER HELPFULLY INFORMS US.  BUT BEFORE IT IS CONSUMED A TRINQUEVEDEL TAVEL ROSE IS SET DOWN TO BE DRUNK WITH THE BEEF CARPACCIO.  THE METALLIC RICHNESS OF THE WAGYU BEEF SET OFF BY GRILLED YOGURT, FERMENTED BLACK WALNUTS AND CARAMELIZED EGGPLANT MAKES THIS IS THE BEST DISH OF THE NIGHT.

A HALF HOUR INTO OUR DINNER, I ALREADY FEEL RUSHED.  THE PORTIONS ARE NOT LARGE, BUT I FIND MYSELF TAKING LONGER TO EAT THEM THAN I NORMALLY WOULD IN HOPE OF SLOWING THINGS DOWN.  SITTING ON MY UNFORGIVING CHAIR, I RECALL A LUNCH AT TAILLEVENT, WHERE WE HAD RESERVED FOR 12:30.  WHEN WE DECIDED TO COME LATER, I CALLED THE RESTAURANT AND WAS TOLD, “OH, MONSIEUR, THE TABLE IS YOURS FOR LUNCH. COME WHENEVER YOU LIKE.”  THE CHAIRS AT TAILLEVENT WERE UPHOLSTERED; THE TABLECLOTHS, WHITE LINEN.  WAITERS NEVER INTERRUPTED OUR CONVERSATION.  PLATES SEEMED TO APPEAR AND DISAPPEAR AS IF BY SLEIGHT OF HAND.  THE FEELING AT THIS ELEGANT BUT GRACIOUS 3-STAR WAS THAT EVERYONE FROM BUSBOY TO MAITRE D’ WANTED YOU TO HAVE THE BEST MEAL OF YOUR LIFE IN EVERY RESPECT — FOOD, SERVICE, AMBIENCE.

BUT WE ARE AT TROIS MEC.  LUDO’S PLACE , LUDO’S WAITERS, LUDO’S RULES.  WE ARE NOT GUESTS.  WE ARE HIS AUDIENCE AND ATTENTION MUST BE PAID.

GRATED POTATO PULP WITH ONION SOUBISE AND BROWN BUTTER IS A LUSCIOUS LITTLE TURN ON RISOTTO.  OR MAYBE MASHED POTATOES.  THE RICHNESS OF WOOD-GRILLED LAMB BELLY IS OFF-SET BY A PUDDLE OF GREEN BEANS, CLAM BROTH AND GARLIC OIL, WHICH WE  ATE WITH  A DRY GRENACHE FROM THE LANGUEDOC  BY ZELIGE-CARAVENT.  ANOTHER WINNER.

THE MOST DELICIOUS WINE OF THE NIGHT, AN ALSATION GEWURTZTRAMINER FROM MAURICE SCHOECH, PLAYED OFF AGAINST THE POACHED APPLE WITH MISO SORBET AND CARAMEL GRANITA FOR DESSERT.  THE MIGNARDISE, IF YOU CAN CALL IT THAT, WAS  STRAWBERRY AND PIECE OF WHITE CHOCOLATE.

BY THEN IT WAS 8:15.  WE’D BEEN THERE TWO AND A HALF HOURS — NOT UNUSUAL FOR A TASTING MENU AT AN EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT.  MANY YEARS AGO AT TROISGROS WE DIDN’T RISE FROM OUR LUNCH TILL 5:30.  MORE RECENTLY, A BIRTHDAY DINNER AT ELEVEN MADISON PARK  BEGAN AT 7 AND ENDED AT 11.  BUT HERE, AT TROIS MEC, THE WAITER TOLD US, NOT UNKINDLY, THAT OUR TIME WAS UP.  WHEN WE PAID FOR THE WINE AND LEFT, OUR REPLACEMENTS WERE WAITING ON A BENCH OUTSIDE THE DOOR.  I SYMPATHIZED.

CERTAINLY, WHAT A RESTAURANT MUST DO TO GARNER THREE MICHELIN STARS BORDERS ON THE OBSCENE.  NOT JUST PERFECT FOOD AND WINE, BUT SERVICE,  GLASSWARE, FLOWERS AND EVERY IMAGINABLE LUXURY.  (FOR AN EXCELLENT ACCOUNT OF THAT PROCESS, READ BURGUNDY STARS, WHICH DESCRIBES HOW BERNARD L’OISEAU GOT HIS, THEN KILLED HIMSELF.)  I CAN ENJOY AN EXCELLENT MEAL IN MUCH REDUCED CIRCUMSTANCES.  LES PAPILLES, IN A STRIP MALL ON FRANKLIN AND ARGYLE SERVES ELEGANT FOOD IN A NON-DESCRIPT SPACE.  BUT LEFEBVRE IS AIMING FOR MICHELIN STAR QUALITY IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE IN ORDER TO ENJOY HIS FOOD YOU MUST OVERCOME THE DISCOMFORT OF AN UGLY RESTAURANT WITH UNCOMFORTABLE SEATING AND ARROGANT SERVICE, ALL TO THE JARRING TUNES ON LUDO’S IPOD.

 

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4 thoughts on “TROIS MEC

  1. One wonders how Trois Mec succeeds. Is the food so good that it overcomes aural and other physical dscomfort, arrogance and time pressure, not to mention exhorbitant price? Perhaps Pogo had the answer, albeit he spoke in a different context: “We have met the enemy and they are us” But I predict that Trois Mec will have a short run. Like Chef John, I suspect that few will want to repeat the experience, although they may blog about it as the restaurant du jour. For myself, a two or three cocurse meal with attentve service under relaxed circumstances with a sound level that permits conversation trumps even the most innovative cuisine and resuts in many return visits. Perhaps L.A. is populous enough to support a one-off clientele. But I doubt it.

    • Try Orsa and Winston, Josef Centeno’s recently opened fine dining restaurant adjacent to his Bar Ama and around the corner from Baco Mercat.

  2. Ah, John. You bring up some good points. I didn’t find it uncomfortable or the service “arrogant”. But you’ve eaten lots of places and have a vast frame of reference to place it in. My question is can one really compare Taillevent or Troisgros to Trois Mec? (Though I like the alliteration.) Think of it in theatrical terms (a subject I know next to nothing about).Can one say a Peter Brook production is not the Royal Shakespeare way of doing things therefore bad? I find Trois Mec refreshingly original. Why don’t we crack open a bottle one of these days and talk it through.
    Patric

    • I agree that the style of these restaurants are vastly different, but there is a common quality which unites all good restaurants, high or low and that is courtesy — the chef and the staff are trying their best to feed you well and make you feel at home, not that you should be so lucky as to be eating there. In contrast to the attitude at Trois Mec, is the service at Orsa and Winston, which is hardly luxurious, but friendly, polite and informative. Have you ever paid that much for a meal where they ask you to leave when they need the table?

      And, yes, definitely, let’s get together soon over a bottle of something terrific.

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