WHAT WORKS: The vibe, menu and staff create a seamless — and stellar — experience.
WHAT NEEDS WORK: The small menu could make ordering difficult for pickier diners.
THE TIP: Go with an open mind, and just maybe you'll find something you never thought you'd love (like sea urchin!).
Our server was sporting suspenders — suspenders! — over his white tee and hipster-approved pants.
It was all very “Doctor Who,” which made me an instant fan, but what spoke louder than his jaunty suspenders were the very obvious passion and intelligence he had about the food at Ludivine. And that’s the vibe that imbues the entire space — it’s innovative without being too full of itself.
Plus, Ludivine means what it says when it throws around words like “locavore” and “green.”
“It is very important to us to show where everything comes from,” said Jonathon Stranger, co-owner and chef at the restaurant. “We want our customers to go to these people at the farmers’ market … and support them as well. If you love the spring garlic we are serving, you can go to Phil Young and Two Tomatoes Veggie Farm and bring it home to cook for your family.”
On the green end, the restaurant does a number of things to help the planet, like composting, using recycled materials and even donating grease to the Urban Agrarian to help run his Veggie Van.
But Veggie Van, Smeggie Van. I was thinking only of dinner and drinks when I met a friend recently at Ludivine.
If you are able to, opt to sit at the chef bar to get a little “chef-in-action” entertainment with your meal.
The menu at Ludivine is small and changes at least weekly, so check it out online first if you’re a picky eater. And before you lament the absence of your standard chicken-fried whatever, know that all those unique ingredients and combinations are coming to you incredibly fresh. Trust me, if you give it a try, you’ll probably like it.
In the spirit of “trying,” I goaded my friend into ordering the sweetbreads ($11), the oxymoronic term for the “other” meat. “Other” as in the thymus and pancreas. No bread in sight.
Terror aside, my friend tentatively tried her first sweetbread and said the flavor of the beurre noisette sauce was enough to keep her mind off what she was eating.
She wasn’t about to go home and write a diary entry raving about her new love, but she was happy she tried the dish. For my part, I stuck with a safe — but delicious — bowl of potato and leek soup ($7).
I’m not always such a wimp. Last time I was at Ludivine, I tried the sea urchin — knowing full well what they look like in the wild — and loved it. On that same visit, I ordered halibut with potatoes and probably would have started licking the dish if I thought people wouldn’t notice.
For our entrées, I tried the vegetarian option ($22). Even if you don’t see it on the menu, it’s always available and will include a selection of vegetables and maybe egg. Mine was a mix of sautéed veggies (like Brussels sprouts, carrots and tomatoes) in a pecan mirepoix puree topped with an over-medium egg — lots of great flavor and definitely filling.
My friend went for the braised beef short rib from Sandy Spring Farm ($25), a colorful, flavorful plate done with lightly sautéed greens and tomatoes mixed with gnocchi — cooked perfectly, according to my friend.
We ended on a sweet note with the suspender-recommended chocolate and lavender bread pudding ($8). The bread pudding was moist and rich, served with a thick and creamy orange ice cream and local honey.
In the end, Ludivine is about trying something new — either a dish you’ve never heard of or a unique twist on a classic. And, according to Stranger, diners have embraced just that.
“We are surprised by the willingness of our great guests to try new things,” he said. “This also tells (co-owner and chef) Russ (Johnson) and I that people trust our cooking and us.”
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.