Location: You wish you knew!
Date: July 8, 2016
Rating: Best yet!
Yamakase is just hands down one of the most fun evenings in LA. Not only is the “modern” Japanese cuisine incredible, but the convivial nature of the place is just great. It’s not very big and as usual we took the entire sushi bar (we had 10 this time, but you can squeeze in 11 or 12).
The location is in a good neighborhood, but something about this particular strip mall is a bit sketchy. Maybe it’s the 7/11. There are a lot of strange characters hanging about.
2000 Philipponnat Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses. BH 95. This is more mature than the 2001 with a beautifully layered nose of yeast, lemon rind, brioche, dried flowers and spice hints. There is excellent volume and superb intensity to the firm mousse that despite the firmness exhibits a very fine bead. This is exceptionally impressive in the mouth with the same striking complexity of the nose coupled with positively gorgeous length. A knockout that could be drunk now with pleasure or held for a few more years first; personally I would opt for the latter but either way, this is a classic Clos des Goisses.
Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. VM 94. The NV Grande Cuvée is absolutely stellar. This is one of the very best Grande Cuvées I can remember tasting. The flavors are bright, focused and beautifully delineated throughout, all of which make me think the wine will age well for many, many years. Lemon peel, white flowers, crisp pears, smoke and crushed rocks race across the palate in a vibrant, tense Champagne that epitomizes finesse. This release is based on the 2005 vintage and was disgorged in winter 2012/2013.
2000 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. BH 96. A wonderfully layered and nuanced nose features an intense yeasty character to the maturing fruit that displays interesting phenolic characters, in particular petrol, along with aromas of apple, pear and soft citrus hints. In contrast to the nascent maturity expressed by the nose the flavor profile is still tight and backward with a genuinely gorgeous texture, all wrapped in a strikingly persistent and highly complex finish. For my taste the 2000 Brut is at an inflection point as the nose does offer enough maturity so that it’s really quite pretty whereas the palate impression is substantially younger. As such it really just depends on how you prefer your Champagne because I suspect that the nose will be very mature by the time the still very youthful flavors attain their majority. For my taste preferences it would be no vinous crime to begin enjoying this now but be aware that this will age for a very long time. The best approach is probably to buy 6, or even 12, bottles and enjoy them over a longer period of time.
Homemade tofu, Momotaro tomato, and uni. A “typical” Yamakase tofu dish. Great interplay of textures and flavors. I could even handle the tomato!
Persimmon butter sandwich with marcona almonds. This is an odd one, but delicious. The orange stripes are dried persimmon which has been hung to dry for months. This is a traditional Japanese New Year preparation and very highly prized. The lighter stripe is frozen high end butter! Almost like a little petite four.
1994 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Heimbourg Vendange Tardive. 93 points. Burnt creme brulee, dried apricot, carmelized peach/apricot in the pie tin; rich, creamy, full bodied with medium sweetness. Slight petrol-botrytis evident here (although not supposed to override varietal characteristics, I believe it does in this case); round, soft, but with overwhelming apricot notes; long finish.
From my cellar: 2009 Weingut Knoll Riesling Smaragd Dürnsteiner Kellerberg. VM 92. Medium green-yellow. Seductive aromas of ripe peach, subtle blossom honey and mandarin orange. Becomes more exotic in the mouth, adding papaya and lime to the mix. Sweet peach and papaya fruit is lifted by extraordinarily elegant lemony acidity. Finishes with palate-staining fruit and intense wet rock minerality. Wonderful to drink now, but should be even better between 2014 and 2024.
From my cellar: 2004 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. VM 95. Pale, bright yellow. Ripe pineapple, liquid stone and exotic honey on the nose, with a spicy lift that suggests an oak influence this wine does not possess. On entry, this is sweeter and creamier than the Frederic Emile, but it livens up quickly in the middle, showing powerful minerality and sharply delineated flavors of liquid stone, pineapple and citrus peel. Still, this conveys a distinctly glyceral impression that suggests more sweetness than its 5 grams of residual sugar, no doubt a function of the 20% or so botrytized berries (in contrast to the Frederic Emile, which included no botrytis). Communicates an impression of power with elegance, finishing minerally and long but not austere. Pierre Trimbach compared this wine to the estate’s great 1990. This is already showing more Rosacker terroir than riesling character. About 9,000 bottles were made from 1.5 hectares of vines.
1996 Domaine Bernard Morey et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets. VM 93. Knockout nose combines herbs, white flowers and spiced pear; at once oily and precise. Rich-bordering-on-thick but given clarity by juicy limey acidity. Very long, palate-staining finish. The yield here was a good 50 hectoliters per hectare, says Morey. Yet this is so much more fleshy and pliant than so many ’96s.
2004 Domaine Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru La Boudriotte. BH 89. A deft touch of wood frames citrus and earth infused ripe chardonnay fruit aromas that lead to rich, full and fleshy flavors that are robust if not especially structured, all wrapped in a delicious and easy to like finish. There is good freshness here if not great underlying tension with fine overall balance and fine length. In sum, this is a generous and easy to like effort that should repay a few years in the cellar.
2006 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. VM 96. Pale, bright yellow-green. Knockout nose combines ripe pineapple, dried fruits, lemon, lime, crushed stone, minerals and mint. A wine of outstanding intensity, power and thrust, with sappy mineral and toasted bread flavors saturating the palate. Most impressive today on the explosive, mounting, tactile finish, which leaves the mouth vibrating. This called to mind Corton-Charlemagne-or a great Austrian riesling. Winemaker Seguier loves this but feels that the 2004 is in the same quality league. And the 2007 is even more chalky, he adds.
From my cellar: 2002 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. VM93+. Musky aromas of chicken broth, lime and crushed stone; quite austere and slow to open. Then less fruity but more important on the palate, with bracing flavors of lemon and apple and an impression of minerality I can only describe as creamy. A very rich, dense wine with a strength of material that belies the normal-for-Raveneau yield of about 50 hectoliters per hectare.
2009 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. VM 93. The 2009 Chablis Montée de Tonnerre is super-impressive. There is a level of detail, nuance and energy to the fruit that is quite rare in 2009. The Montée de Tonnerre possesses dazzling purity all the way through to the finely articulated, chiseled finish. This is yet another superb effort from Raveneau. I have a slight preference for the 2010 here, but the 2009 will offer fabulous drinking while its younger sibling ages in the cellar.
2001 Marc Colin et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. 92 points. Beautiful from the get go showing honey, roasted hazelnuts, some white chocolate, and a little tropical fruit. Reminded me of an Aubert Chardonnay in many ways. Nice mid weight…not a blockbuster but at the low end of outstanding.
2002 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Corton-Charlemagne. VM 92+. Very subdued nose hints at apple, minerals and nutty oak. Then intensely flavored, penetrating and youthfully backward, with bracing flavors of apple, spiced pear and powdered stone. Very densely packed, spicy wine that’s currently dominated by its powerful spine. This needs a good five or six years to blossom in the bottle and may well merit a higher score.
From my cellar: 2001 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 93. While understandably tighter, this is still drinking much like the same wine in 750 ml format (see herein). An expressive and still quite fresh nose includes white flower, pronounced honey and exotic fruit aromas nuanced by spice hints flow seamlessly into a similar flavor profile on the thick, powerful and vibrant middle weight flavors yet that possess more than sufficient acidity to buffer the weight and richness. Overall, this is beautifully balanced, long and offers superb intensity and has everything it needs to continue a graceful evolution. As one would expect from magnum, this isn’t quite ready for prime time and while it could be drunk with pleasure, if you wish to see the wine at its optimum point of development, it will be necessary to wait for a few more years first.
2008 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 91-94. A subtle touch of pain grillé highlights citrus notes that, like the Pucelles, exhibit hints of honeysuckle and fennel nuances that complement perfectly the textured, rich and sweet medium plus weight flavors that are quite supple yet remain detailed, energetic and strikingly long on the explosive finish. This is a relatively powerful Bienvenues. In a word, terrific.
From my cellar: 2002 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot. VM 96. Taut, vibrant aromas of grapefruit, apple, pear, and powdered and wet stone. A great expression of rocks in the mouth, with extremely pure flavors of grapefruit and lemon. Conveys a powerful impression of sweetness allied to sheer energy. Fabulous, consistent wine with near-perfect balance and extraordinary length. As penetrating as it is today, I would not describe this wine as austere.
1999 Henri Boillot Chevalier-Montrachet. 94 points. Light yellow in color. A bit of hazelnut to start but also some wood and bitterness. About 6 hours later, the wood resolved and the wine expressed some pear, honey, and hazelnut. This was supported by plenty of lemon acidity. Still very young.
1998 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart. VH 95+. Bright ruby. Highly complex nose melds black raspberry, Indian spices, gunflint, tar and smoky oak; seemed to grow fresher and more vibrant with aeration. Dense, thick and highly concentrated, with brilliantly defined but still rather backward fruit flavors. Finishes with great length and extremely fine tannins that dust the entire mouth.
2002 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart. VM 95. Bright red-ruby. Highly nuanced, expressive nose combines strawberry, raspberry, minerals, lavender, chocolate, underbrush and fennel. Superconcentrated, silky and sweet in the mouth but with superb definition and energy. The wine’s sheer density of material completely buffers its 14+% alcohol. Finishes dry and classic, with explosive rising fruit and terrific thrust. The tannins are buried in fruit and soil tones. A great Burgundy
Ultimate ramen bowl. This foie gras based seafood broth was topped with truffles and filled with yummy seafood bits. Underneath are the ramen noodles. There was crab, beef, oyster, and who knows what else in here. Absolutely stunning. So rich. So good. The broth had quite a white pepper kick too which was amazing.
1996 Denis Mugneret Père et Fils Richebourg. BH 93. Subtly complex nose of leather, earth and dried grasses with delicious yet quite structured flavors and fine length. There is good sève and muscle underlying the flavors though the tannins are completely ripe and the wine should drink well over the medium term. This is not flamboyant or especially opulent yet it delivers plenty of character and quality in a refined, discreet style. I like this very much.
A small taste of baby peach sorbet. Super light and refreshing.
“Only” 25 bottles of wine. 10 people. Great stuff tonight too. No bad or spoiled wines. Stuff was great in all 4 categories: champ, white burg, red burg, and sake. Just some really stellar drinks.
There are different was to experience Yamakase, depending on you number, but all but one time I’ve taken the whole bar. On a night when the bar is split between a collection of smaller parties it might be more staid. But when we take over, it’s certainly not. We do the wine service ourselves for the most part with a little aide from the accommodating servers. It feels like a “private party with Yama.”
Food-wise, this was one of my best meals this year — really quite excellent — and regular readers know I have more than my share of great meals. A really great format. A total blow out and Yama’s cuisine keeps gaining in strength and power. Really quite incomparable. He is unquestionably a genius. Yama has a tremendous range within Japanese cuisine, first rate ingredients, and a savvy palate. He is quite skilled at very traditional more subtle Japanese as well, but has tuned up the typical Yamakase meal with high end ingredients and bolder combinations for a more contemporary wow factor.
Oh, and that toro cheese dish and foie gras “ramen” are just to die for.