May 15, 2010
The Los Angeles Times just contacted me, asking if I thought that the foie gras croque monsieur at LudoBites might be the California pizza of this decade. Pondering that, I began thinking about what the pop-up restaurant phenomenon represents, and it occurred to me that while the food is endlessly fascinating, the restaurant’s importance transcends that. Because this is a whole new way of thinking about what a restaurant can be.
It’s the American incarnation of the movement that began in Paris in the late nineties when the most talented young chefs turned their backs on the three-star track. They wanted to feed their peers, not the endless parade of rich people who sat down in those fancy rooms night after night. And so they began opening modest restaurants where they served fabulous food at very modest prices. In his new guerilla restaurants, Ludo is taking this one step farther.
Why does this matter? Because it’s a sign of a serious shift. If you look at the current location of LudoBites – a little sandwich shop in a grungy part of town – it is the ultimate statement about the supremacy of food over ambiance.
But it’s much more than that. LudoBites is a harder reservation than Spago ever was; you can’t just call up and get a table. The restaurant exists for a limited period of time, making every meal more precious. Ludo’s created a new kind of exclusivity, one which speaks to the new status of the foodie (for want of a better word), and the power of social media. LudoBites is really a private club for the Twitterati, who pride themselves on being in the know.
Looking around the very small room, you see one more important shift: This is a new demographic. The important currency here is youth, not money. And curiosity, not complacency. These are food people (and hip celebrities), eager to eat whatever the chef wants to set before them. Ludo’s people don’t want the same old successes; they are in search of edible thrills. Risk-takers, they are donstatnly urging the chef to push the boundaries.
Which means, I guess, that in the end it’s about the food after all.
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