Location: 633 W 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071
Date: September 12, 2016
Cuisine: New American
Rating: Awesome in all ways
This is my second visit to one of LA’s latest and hottest event restaurants, 71Above. The first can be found here.
Besides being located on the 71st floor (950 feet up!) of the US Bank building, being the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi, and showcasing the food of Chef Vartan Abgaryan, it’s owned and operated by my friend Emil Eyvazoff!
And behind that is the stunning dining room with its computer controlled auto tinting windows. Beyond that the view continues all the way around with the chef’s table and several more intimate private dining areas.
The view alone is worth the price of admission, and offers varied sights depending on your 360 degree angle. Notice how even the second tallest building downtown (seen under construction here) is below eye level! On a clear day you can easily see the vast sweep of the Pacific and several mountain ranges.
1996 Philipponnat Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses. BH 97. One of the greatest examples of the ’96 vintage, this wine has it all with elegance, intensity, subtlety and grace, not to mention buckets of unrealized potential that will enable this beauty to improve for at least another decade and perhaps longer. I can only imagine just how good this would be from magnum format! The nose is discreet, reserved and pure with lemon, green apple and layers upon layers of fruit framed by just the right amount of yeast influence that continues onto the exceptionally dry and tight flavors that are crisp and refined as well as superbly intense yet through it all there is this underlying sense of harmony, as though all of the elements are working in concert. The greatest wines, at least those cut from classical cloth, persuade through the subtlest means and so it is with the ’96 Goisses, which is indeed a great wine by any measure. While it is drinkable now, for my taste preferences a lot of potential would be left in the glass and I wouldn’t start in earnest on this for another 5+ years.
1992 Louis Latour Montrachet. BH 93. exotic aromas merge into powerful, intense and long medium-bodied flavors that offer excellent length and vibrancy, especially in the context of the vintage. This is really quite good with ample density and plenty of refinement. Moreover, it exhibits no signs of fatigue, at least when the bottles have been impeccably stored.
2008 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru La Forest. VM 93+. Bright, pale golden-yellow. Sexy aromas of orange, honeysuckle, hazelnut and toast. Big, silky, rich and deep but not especially showy today as its stony minerality currently dominates the palate. A downright profound premier cru with outstanding persistence. It will be interesting to taste this next to the superb ’07 in about eight years.
2003 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Bourgogne Blanc. 90 points. Very pale gold in appearance. The nose was very pure, clean, elegant and full of white flowers. On the palate, minerally with good acidity. Peach, yellow fruits like kiwi and a hint of rocks and stone. This was definitely a Puligny wasnt it? Table was torn between Meursault and Puligny, some were on a 1er or Grand. When Wayne revealed it was a Bourgogne, it could only be Vogue, and what an experience. The only discouraging note was that the wine lacked the structure and also had a tad of bitterness and roughness at the end. Nevertheless, it was extremely enojoyable and in a good drinking window.
From my cellar: 2011 Prager Riesling Smaragd Wachstum Bodenstein. VM 92. Initially reminiscent of slate and fresh rain, the nose evolves toward apricot and peach fruit along with caraway seed and lemongrass. Bracing lively acidity gives a weightless quality to the intense flavors of yellow plum, wild spice and abundant minerals. Seductive and stylish, with noteworthy grip and persistence, this is an excellent 2011. Some may prefer it, but the lower alcohol and marvelous freshness speak for 2012 as the slightly better of these two excellent rieslings.
1999 Henri Boillot Chevalier-Montrachet. 90 points. Had a steeliness on the palate that seems typical of 99. As the night went on, I felt like the power that H. Boillot is known for was trying to peek out as you can start to taste that density of fruit but the wine just needed time. There was a zest in the background, but still needing more time. I was actually very surprised how little it was giving up as the 00/02/04 chevs have been drinking wonderful in the past year or so.
1976 Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay. 88 points. Dark yellow. Some peaches underlying moderate oxidative aromas. Actually on the palate, the wine was not bad. Amazing that a California chard could show this well at 35 years.
1998 Sine Qua Non Backward & Forward. VM 93. Pale peach skin color. Deep, complex nose of apple, nut skin, apricot and minerals; this somewhat resembled a bottle of 1990 Pol Roger Winston Churchill I had tasted 15 minutes earlier. Thick, penetrating and solidly structured; rich, nuanced flavors of vanilla, minerals, apricot and superripe peach. Wonderful sweetness and chewy texture more akin to the Southern Rhone than to Southern California. Great building length on the finish. Close in quality to the extraordinary ’95 Sine Qua Non white blend labelled The Bride.
2014 Donelan Vénus. VM 91. The 2014 Venus is lovely, soft and understated. Apricot pit, mint, chamomile and dried flowers flesh out nicely in this very pretty, expressive Roussanne/Viognier blend. Veins of supporting acidity give the wine its freshness and sense of overall proportion. There is plenty to like here.
From my cellar: 1991 Domaine Georges Mugneret/Mugneret-Gibourg Echezeaux. BH 94. This possesses perhaps the most complex nose of any of these “youngsters” as there is a potent mix of spice, game, herb, leather, earth and smoke nuances that seems to signal the remarkably dense, sweet and intense flavors of near perfect balance and stunning length. While this is sublime now there is sufficient structure to carry it another 10 to 15 years with no problem, perhaps longer. In a word, astonishing and highly recommended.
1990 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Volnay 1er Cru Santenots-Du-Milieu. BH 87. Rich, fragrant and complex black fruit aromas explode from the glass and lead to very rich, robust, indeed almost massive flavors underpinned by chunky tannins and good length if not much finesse or elegance. This is not a typical Volnay and will appeal more to those who enjoy Rhone-style Burgundies as it’s a powerful Volnay.
1990 Domaine Rossignol Trapet Chapelle-Chambertin. 96 points. Considerable bricking and somewhat opaque; knew from the outset it was at least fifteen years old. The luxurious bouquet sings with the finest elements of great Burgundy! Sous-bois, earth, rose petals, charred cork, and hints of smoke, etc. The wine features brilliantly focused acidity, all the elements on the bouquet, and a mind-bending textural mouthfeel! Lasting finish marked by tremendous acidity and unbridled deliciousness!
2009 Domaine Joseph Voillot Volnay 1er Cru Les Fremiets. BH 91. A deft touch of wood sets off an attractive mix of violets, wet stone and ripe red cherry aromas. The rich, full and seductively textured flavors possess excellent delineation and fine length. This is on the awkward side today as it hasn’t fully harmonized but the underlying material is of sufficiently high quality that it should do so in time.
1990 Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Le Corton. BH 92. A complex nose of earth, leather, game and very ripe, in fact hints of over ripe pinot fruit leading to still firmly structured flavors are underpinned by curiously dusty, chalky tannins with outstanding length. In many ’90s, the fruit will never outlast the fruit but here the structure is completely integrated with the sappy and mouth coating flavors and finish. The only nit is that the wood is not subtle and while not dominant, if it hasn’t melted into the essence of the wine by now, it probably will always display a trace of it. Still, this is a most impressive effort in every respect and certainly built for the long haul as this is no where near its apogee in this format.
Suckling pig. Loin, Belly, Confit Pressé, Young Lettuces, Cherry, Mustard. An awesome trio of pig. The rich pork belly, the succulent loin, moist and with delicious herbal notes, and the confit fritter. Wow! A bit of chorizo juice on top too.
1990 Lynch Bages. Parker 99. This magnificent Lynch Bages has been drinking well since the day it was released and it continues to go from strength to strength. The biggest, richest, fullest-bodied Lynch Bages until the 2000, the fully mature 1990 exhibits an unbelievably explosive nose of black currants, cedarwood, herbs and spice. The majestic, classically Bordeaux aromatics are followed by a full-bodied, voluptuously textured, rich, intense wine with superb purity as well as thrilling levels of fruit, glycerin and sweetness. This beauty should continue to provide immense pleasure over the next 15+ years.
1978 Leoville-Las Cases. Parker 90-93. The 1978 Las Cases has taken on a garnet hue with some dark ruby tints. The nose is more complex and penetrating than the flavors. The wine offers classic, mineral, lead pencil, smoky, earthy scents, with plenty of ripe fruit, and none of the vegetal herbaceousness that many 1978s have begun to exhibit. The attack offers good ripeness, medium to full body, higher acidity than many more recent vintages, and considerable tannin in the hard finish. Although this wine possesses outstanding complexity, the high tannin level may never fully melt away. While it will last another 15-20 years, the 1978 is at its apogee and will slowly dry out over the next two decades.
1973 Rothschild Brothers of California Cabernet Sauvignon. 84 points. The nose speaks of old, maderized, gone wine. The palate initially also seems tired, but bottle after bottle, they wake up after an hour. Dried cherries and some woody notes on the palate; silky; some worcestershire. Unsure how this was 20 years ago (probably just okay) but surprising that this has any character left at this point.
1995 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 99-100. The 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon is cut from the same mold as the profound 1996, displaying astonishing levels of black fruits (the usual suspects – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cassis), phenomenal concentration, and virtually perfect balance and equilibrium.
2009 Donelan Syrah Obsidian Vineyard. VM 95. Another stellar wine, 2009 Syrah Obsidian Vineyard is fabulous today. In 2009, the Obsidian has a little more fruit, richness and sheer volume, all of which serve to balance some of the wilder notes of this cool-climate, marginal site. Dark, sensual and alluring, the 2009 Obsidian is firing on all cylinders today. This full-throttle Syrah should drink well for another decade, perhaps beyond.
1997 Domaine Robert Groffier Bonnes Mares. VM 94+. Knockout aromas of black and red fruits, flowers, mocha and game. Great freshness and grip on the palate; at once thick and penetrating. Superripe flavors of framboise and blackberry. This powerfully structured wine quickly closed up in the glass. Very subtle and very long on the aftertaste. Another remarkable ’97: the crop level here was just 22 hectoliters per hectare, according to Serge Groffier.
Lemon Curd. Sparkling goat’s milk ice, vanilla rhubarb, sweet basil oil, wild bay leaf ice cream, cherry blossom gelee. Really interesting flavors and textures. Barely a dessert actually as it was more like an herb/lemon ice — extremely savory and refreshing.
Chocolate. Cremeux, gel, ganache, smoked, yogurt sorbet.
Overall, 71Above is just a seriously well conceived and executed one-of-a-kind restaurant. Really, it’s more like a NY, Singapore, or Tokyo kind of concept. First of all, the view is just awesome. I can’t wait to come back on a really clear day. Particularly once they begin brunch service, a nice winter day will offer an observation deck like panorama.
But then Emil and crew built out such a lovely space to capture the drama. It’s modern, but welcoming. Not too loud, you can here the conversation and the music both. And from when you enter off the double elevator ascent it folds from one experience to another: lounge, dining room, more intimate corridors, chef table, quiet and romantic view areas in the back, and a series of two adjustable private dining rooms. The attention to architectural detail is amazing.
Then the menu has a creative format with a fixed price (currently $70) and three savory courses. You can pick from six options per category. If you are a glutton like me, you can add extra courses – and of course dessert.
But an interesting menu wouldn’t be anything without great execution. As you can see above the plating is modern but approachable and highly attractive. But the flavor on the dishes is paramount, and really quite excellent, particularly considering their complexity and textural variation. There is a balanced quality between opposite forces in Chef Abgaryan’s cooking that pulls from Chinese culinary theory, while that specific flavors and combinations are largely American/European. It’s both approachable and sophisticated. Bravo!