Location: 5722 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 871-4160
Date: August 1, 2016
Cuisine: New American French
Rating: Better every time!
I’ve known Kevin Meehan for years as a private and popup chef and have had the pleasure to enjoy many a fine meal he’s put together. But this year he transitioned into the more stationary, and possibly more hectic restaurant world by opening up his own Melrose Ave restaurant! This is our second Foodie Club visit.
With the opening of Kali Restaurant, Chef Kevin Meehan’s broad 23-year culinary career reaches its apex. At Kali, Meehan, whose deft hand was cultivated in Los Angeles’ most prestigious kitchens, joins forces with long-time friend and professional colleague, Drew Langley, previously the wine director at the iconic, Michelin-starred Providence.
For the 39-year-old Meehan, Kali represents the evolution of not just Kali Dining, his roving private dinner pop-up, but the rigorous years he spent refining his craft. The contemporary California restaurant blends the precision and hospitality of the white tablecloth kitchens where Meehan developed his culinary acumen, with the accessibility and ease of a local’s favorite neighborhood haunt.
Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Meehan’s initial foray in the industry was at a fried chicken joint when he was a teenager. While most would be turned off by working the fryer, Meehan was feeding an innate attraction to food, and, in the process, unearthing what would become a life-long love affair with the restaurant world. After graduating high school, Meehan enrolled in the esteemed Culinary Arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, an education that he would test and sharpen on-the-line during an apprenticeship at the Michelin-starred L’alban Chambon under French Master Chef Dominique Michou, and, later, alongside Los Angeles’ finest chefs.
In 2000, Meehan drove cross country to assume a post at the celebrated L’Orangerie, then helmed by Chef Ludo Lefebvre. It was there that Meehan met Langley, who he would subsequently work with at the now late Bastide, where Meehan served as Chef de Cuisine, and, later, at Citrine. After Citrine’s closure in 2005, Meehan joined Patina Restaurant Group as Chef de Cuisine at Joachim Spichal’s seminal Patina restaurant in Downtown. During his three-year tenure, the restaurant received a Michelin Star for its fresh interpretation of French cuisine informed by seasonality, and Meehan was consequently promoted to Executive Chef of Café Pinot.
In 2012, Meehan parted ways with the prolific restaurant group to launch his passion project, Kali Dining. The underground operation quickly garnered critical attention for Meehan’s assertive, yet nuanced tasting menus that he prepared, dinner party-style, for Los Angeles top tastemakers, luminaries, and food enthusiasts. Kali the restaurant was birthed from the success of Kali Dining, and the passion that Meehan and co-owner Langley share for pushing the boundaries of the typical fine dining experience.
For Kali, Kevin partnered with Drew Langley.
While most known for his esteemed tenure as the Wine Director at the Michelin-starred Providence in Los Angeles, Drew Langley brings an extensive resume of experience to Kali Restaurant, a passion project born out of his 15-year friendship with Chef Kevin Meehan.
As Co-owner and Wine Director of the contemporary California restaurant near Hollywood’s iconic Paramount Pictures Studios, the 39-year-old’s near life-long matriculation in the food & beverage industry is fully realized. Kali blends the haute cuisine and hospitality of a fine dining destination with the accessibility of an everyday neighborhood haunt, and Langley’s concise, intelligent wine program is a reflection of the core philosophy that defines the restaurant.
Born and raised in a small town in south Maryland, Langley’s initial introduction to the industry was as a dishwasher at a local pizzeria at the age of 13. While his contemporaries found inspiration in the classroom, Langley was drawn to the rhythm and intensity of the restaurant world, acquiring a vast understanding of its inner workings through odd jobs that ran the gamut from line cook at regional chain Perkin’s to corporate trainer for Applebee’s openings to bar back at Solomon’s Pier, a seafood restaurant and nightclub.
In 1997, the then 20-year-old Langley leapt at an opportunity to relocate to Los Angeles, and stumbled into a position at Greenblatt’s, a beloved deli and wine shop in West Hollywood, that would ultimately pave the way for his future career. Langley furthered his three-year wine education at Greenblatt’s with a position at Dennis Overstreet’s Beverly Hills Wine Merchant, before joining the now-closed L’Orangerie in Beverly Hills as Sommelier in 2000. It was there that Langley crossed paths with Meehan, who he would subsequently work alongside at the late Bastide and Citrine.
After opening Bastide in 2002 as Commis Sommelier, and enjoying a stint as Wine Director at Citrine in 2003, Langley switched gears to lend support to entrepreneur and wine collector Jeff Smith for the launch of Carte Du Vin. His time at the local wine cellar management firm birthed and deepened relationships with prominent private collectors, relationships that inform his wine program at Kali today. In 2005, Langley joined the opening team at Providence, serving as Wine Director for Michael Cimarusti’s nationally-acclaimed seafood destination through 2015 when he left to prepare for Kali’s debut in early 2016.
An avid music enthusiast, when Langley is not refining his wine list with new finds or overseeing the day-to-day operations at Kali, the Koreatown resident can be found indulging in the local drum-and-bass culture.
This was a Foodie Club dinner, with just 6 of my regular dining intimates — and of course great wine.
1996 Salon Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut. VM 97. The vibrancy and drive of the vintage came through in spades in the 1996 Salon, which was flat-out stunning. The 1996 remains a youngster, but is immensely beautiful, even at this stage. Several recent bottles have been just as stunning.
1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Oenothèque. VM 97. The 1996 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque has really turned a corner over the last six months or so. When it was originally introduced the 1996 was hard as nails, today it is an exquisite Champagne that captures the essential brightness and energy of the year. Lemon, slate, oyster shells and white flowers stain the palate in an intense, beautifully sculpted Champagne of the highest level.
1996 Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. VM 93+. Lime, smoked meat and spicy, vanillin oak aromas. Dense but bright and juicy; sharply focused, intense flavors of lemon, lime, spiced apple and mineral dust. Penetrating acidity gives this a sinewy quality today. Finishes with a flavor and texture of pulverized stones. This grew richer and richer in the glass, showing strong soil character and powerful structure.
From my cellar: 2000 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux. BH 92. Wonderfully intense, green, slightly austere Chablis fruit aromas lead to richly detailed, mouth coating and sappy flavors of extraordinary pungency and while this doesn’t quite have the size of the ’00 Valmur, it has all of the intensity and length. In short, this is a first rate effort with plenty of classic Chablis character.
Burrata, blackberries, tomatoes, pistachios, flowers. Brilliant and extremely unusual “caprese” execution with a blend of sweet, tangy, and creamy. Great texture too with the soft burrata and the pistachios.
1996 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot. VM 92+. Deep, bright red-ruby. Complex, wild aromas of raw crushed blueberry, violet, raw meat and iron. Intense, primal flavors of crunchy berries and powdered stone. Integrated acidity gives the fruit an urgent quality. Quite powerfully structured for aging. Very long and bright on the back end, with tannins nicely supported by extract.
1993 Louis Jadot Bonnes Mares. VM 92+. Good deep youthful red. Quintessential briary Bonnes-Mares aromas of raspberry, roasted currant, mocha and menthol. Penetrating flavors of black cherry, flowers and mint; insinuating, ripe acids give the wine terrific verve and lift. Finishes long, vibrant and youthful, with firm but round tannins. Quite rich but not as concentrated or long as the ’96. “The crop size was down due to mildew. The aromas remind me of red Burgundies from 1953.
Ron brought: 1999 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage A Jacques Perrin. Parker 96. Similar to the 2004 and made from a blend of 60% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Counoise, the 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape Hommage À Jacques Perrin is a perfumed, gorgeously rich effort that excels on its elegance, complexity and length. From a cooler year and possessing bright acidity, full-bodied richness and building tannin, it offers up a smorgasbord of cured meats, licorice, dried flowers, spice and sweet berry fruit. Drinking nicely now, it should continue to evolve gracefully for another two decades.
Flannery beef hanger steak with “corn porn.” Leek char. Although a tiny bit overcooked this was some delicious beef and taken to the next level by the corn.
1997 Dalla Valle Maya Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 99. Close to perfection, the saturated blue/black-colored 1997 Maya exhibits complex aromatics of creme de cassis, smoke, spice box, iron, and espresso. The wine has a viscous texture, huge, concentrated, ripe fruit, remarkable body, and a seamless, multi-layered finish. The tannin, acidity, and alcohol are all beautifully integrated.
1998 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 94-96. The 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Pritchard Hill is a fine wine. While it does not reveal much weight, it is a dense plum/purple-colored, big, thick, concentrated effort. Evolved aromas of smoke, cedar, tapenade, blackberries, creme de cassis, and creosote are followed by a lush, full-bodied, voluptuously-textured 1998 exhibiting superb intensity as well as low acid, sweet, pure flavors. This is a dazzling example of extremely ripe Cabernet Sauvignon made under less than ideal conditions. It will drink well upon its release, and over the following two decades.
1995 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 93. From a hot year – with rain at harvest – that benefited later-picking estates, the 1995 Chateauneuf du Pape is still impressively young and vibrant, with a solid kick of tannin. Possessing a masculine edge to its licorice, smoked meats, peppery herbs and both red and black fruits, it’s medium to full-bodied, concentrated and a little edgy on the palate, with plenty of similarities to the 2005. It certainly has another decade of longevity, but the tannin will be something to watch. I’ve had more ready to go bottles from my cellar and certainly see no reason to hold off here.
Overall, not only was this a great meal with great friend (and wine), but Kevin’s food was really bang up fabulous. He’s always been a very talented chef but it seems to me, and I noted how in my previous visit that he’s really polished the cooking. This trend has continued, because in a few short months things have gone from great to… well greater. I don’t know anyone else in LA that’s doing this kind of ingredient focused cooking and yet nailing it with such bright pure flavors. The dishes have this balanced tension that is very sophisticated and some of them are pretty stand out amazing like the yellowtail, burrata, cod, steak, duck, and gelato — and noticed how I named a LOT of dishes because the percentage of knock outs is very high!
Service was great. We felt like family.
Really great stuff. Bravo Kevin and Drew!