Ludovic Lefebvre has done as much as any chef to shape the last decade of Los Angeles food culture. He made coveted events out of pop-ups and almost single-handedly started the current anti-French dining trend by serving the most basic of dishes (grilled cheese, anyone?) and throwing together ingredients that normally wouldn’t be seen together on the same menu page, let alone the same line (grilled cheese with ice cream, anyone?). His savory desserts have preceded those at Red Medicine, the snack-like influence of his petit fours can be seen at Maude, and his almost sadistic twists on meat courses inspired Animal.
So maybe it’s fitting that Lefebvre has teamed up with the masters behind Animal, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, in his latest culinary venture, Trois Mec (“three guys” in French). Together the team has created perhaps the most talked-about, slightly-mysterious restaurant there is in Los Angeles, which is still the hottest ticket in town a year later.
Yes, the hottest ticket in town. This isn’t an ordinary reservation system, but rather an incredibly inconvenient pre-paid ticketing system that only Lefebvre could get away with. Seats consistently sell out within minutes of being released online every other Friday at exactly 8:00am, and stories of my meals there have always been countered with an incredulous “how did you get in?”
The fact that everything is pre-paid naturally means that you won’t be selecting your items off a menu, although there are supplements and drink pairings that can be purchased the night of. Safe eaters won’t be comfortable dining here, as the menu will change a few times between your purchase and reservation dates and the dishes tend to veer towards the wacky.
Have you ever tried ribeye with smoked peanut butter? It’s wonderful, especially when topped with soubise, crispy shallots, and shrimp flakes. While the plating is not a work of art, it removes any temptation for the diner to nibble at each component separately, and thank goodness for that: the smoky, tangy, sweet, dark-tasting mishmash is undeniably delectable and one of a very small number of dishes etched permanently into my memory. It’s strange, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a diner that didn’t love it.
Vegetable dishes are a bit funky, too, often consisting of a potato “pulp” dish lathered in intense brown butter or a sheet of grilled savoy cabbage with miso flan and horseradish creme fraiche. The chef doesn’t stray away from animal fats, and you can expect the “green” course to be plenty rich.
“Snacks” will always precede the meal, beginning with a buckwheat popcorn of sorts – miniature popped kernels with a zing of vinegar. Salt cod cream on sushi rice or an insanely cheddary gougère might be included in the parade of bites that both begin and end the meal. You might find miso or hay in your desserts, which seem to reflect the Ludo’s whims more than any other course. You’ll know that the chef has been in a particularly experimental mood lately when he looks in your returned bowl to see if you licked it clean or hardly touched the sweet course.
The pace is refreshingly quick, with the five-course menu clocking in at under 90 minutes, and the staff is very warm and receptive, greeting you with a “bonsoir” and addressing you by name throughout the meal. If you sit at the bar chances are you’ll get to chat it up with the chef himself, a rarity in upscale dining, let alone when the man in charge is as famed as Lefebvre.
The secret is out about Trois Mec and the restaurant is going stronger than ever, both in terms of popularity and taste. And with the menu changing as frequently as it does, even past diners will be pounding the “refresh” button come 8:00 am on Friday.