I dined at Trois Mec tonight. Let’s talk about the strengths first: The room is lovely, especially the open kitchen. The service was cheerful and on point. It was cool to see Ludo on the line cooking with his staff.
But the food did not thrill me much at all. Not to say it was bad, just not delightful.
Salad tart – It was bracingly acidic and salty, which may have been the intention. I thought it went a bit overboard for my taste and I was having flashbacks from the salt and vinegar/citrus assault I experienced last year at Coi in San Francisco.
Buckwheat popcorn – Good, but peculiar in its overly simplistic presentation. It was just a small bowl full of crunchy bits with a very small spoon There is nothing more to say about this.
Chicken wing with tandoori spice – The meat mostly benefited from the flavor imparted by the wood grill. I had heard so much hype about the wonders Ludo does with chicken that I think my expectations may have been a bit too high. I was a serviceable bite of lukewarm chicken meat.
White and green asparagus – Very good quality veg, but the accompaniments (egg yolk, yuzu) didn’t really carry much of a tune.
BBQ carrots – This dish was so aggressively seasoned, as if it were designed for the palate of a kid who grew up on Flaming Hot Cheetos. The accompanying yogurt did not do much to cut the harshness of the sauce and the singular slice of avocado was significantly over seasoned with salt.
Potatoes, with onion soubise, and bonito flakes – This tasted great. Probably the best dish of the night, in my opinion. But in the final analysis, it tasted like a really good scalloped potato dish. Not much in the way of innovation. There seems to be a certain amount of audacity to deliver a plate of prosaic mashed potatoes as one of the main dishes in a tasting menu. It presented as odd: “Look, a plate of mashed potatoes!”
Rib eye cap with jus – The presumably sous vide beef was a bit “sloppy” and didn’t hold form together that well. The grains accompanying it were strewn with black walnut, which had a discordant taste on my palate. It was hard for me to ascertain exactly what I tasted. In this case, the dish lacked seasoning as far as salt and pepper goes, which was a stark contrast from the slightly elevated levels of salt that most of the other dishes carried.
Strawberries, olive oil cake, and rose water ice – It was good, not great. Certainly not remarkable and tasted like something a good home cook could whip up at home relatively easily. Again, maybe my expectations were too high, but I was hoping that our one dessert would hit it out of the park.
White chocolate tart with habanero salt – This was our last bite. Upon first glance, I presumed it was going to be sweet, like most mignardises. My tongue was more than surprised that it was indeed savory, with occasional bursts of pepper going off in my mouth. It was curious, but stranger than anything. I am usually always up for a good surprise, but at the end of the meal, this bite felt more like I was being hoodwinked rather than treated.
The meal concluded in one hour. I’m sort of torn between thinking that the pacing was rushed, or grateful that we weren’t there any longer than necessary. This was my first ever Ludo dining experience, so I have nothing to compare it against in that regard. Every meal I have had at Son of a Gun and Animal (his partner’s other restaurants) have far exceeded this one by a long shot. Every meal I’ve had at Papilles (the other restaurant born of an old Raffalo’s Pizza in a Hollywood strip mall) has surpassed by Trois Mec experience. And my experiences at Momofuku Ko in NYC (another open kitchen and similarly difficult reservation system) have spoiled me in terms of what this sort of concept can deliver in terms of providing delicious and innovative food. I’m glad I went to have the experience first-hand. I have no need to return. Subsequently, I’m very grateful that I do not have to navigate the madness of the online reservation system when it debuts.