Six months later we return to Red O for some more high priced Mexican pseudo-steakhouse…
Six months later we return to Red O for some more high priced Mexican pseudo-steakhouse…
Thanksgiving in my family is always an opportunity for epic gluttony — home cooked gluttony at that — hence the ThanksGavin nomenclature. This year we were back in Los Angeles for only the second time in decades, blending cooking and recipes from both my side and my wife’s side in an all around cooperative cooking fest.
Let’s review some of the prep like this rathere hacked Kosher turkey.
NV Demière-Ansiot Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs. VC 90+. The new release of the consistently excellent non-vintage Blanc de Blancs bottling from Demière-Ansiot was disgorged in December of 2014 and is base year 2011, with a finishing dosage of six grams per liter. The thirty percent reserve wines used here hail from 2010 and 2008. The youthful bouquet wafts from the glass in a classic blend of pear, apple, a touch of fresh almond, incipient notes of crème patissière, chalky minerality, brioche and a topnote of apple blossoms. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and still youthfully snappy, with a lovely core, excellent mousse, crisp acids and a long, pure and beautifully balanced finish. This is certainly approachable today, but I will keep my bottles tucked away for a couple of years to allow this wine to come forward a bit from behind its fine structure.
2005 Gramona Cava III Lustros Gran Reserva. 90 points. Light brioche on the nose with dried lemons and limes, and ripe pear. Nice dry finish and some minerality but overall palate lacks depth and complexity.
Olives, dates, tomatos.
People then move into the dining room.
2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières. VC 92. The 2006 Leflaive Folatières shows even more ripeness than any wine that has come before it in the cellar, with an extravagant and exotic profile on both the nose and palate. The bouquet is a mix of very ripe apples and peaches, honeysuckle, honeycomb and some chalky soil tones. On the palate the wine is a bit fresher on the attack than the nose promises, with good mid-palate stuffing, fine focus and complexity, but some heat penetrating through the fruit on the long finish that closes nicely with a note of lemon oil.
Butternut squash soup. For a long time during “development” this soup tasted too much like boxed chicken stock — but after adding some Remi Martin XO, a bunch of black pepper, ginger, and cinnanom and cooking it down it was redeemed. It came out delicious.
2004 Cantine del Castello di Conti Boca Il Rosso delle Donne. AG 92. The 2004 Boca Il Rosso delle Donne shimmers on the palate with layers of fruit, mineral, and herbs. Stylistically the 2004 is a much more expansive, generous wine than the 2005, with layers of fruit that radiate with notable energy through to the mineral-laced finish. This fresh, vibrant and impeccably pure wine is a jewel.
Seb brought: 2014 Melville Syrah Estate Donna’s. parker 97. Even better, with more depth, density and ripeness, the 2014 Syrah Donna’s offers overflowing notes of olive tapenade, salted beef, licorice, black olive, peppery herbs and cured meats, with tons of ripe currants, fresh plum and smoked black cherry fruit. Full-bodied, elegant and seamless, with fabulous purity and persistence, I wouldn’t push the aging curve, but it’s a killer wine that will provide tons of pleasure over the coming 7-8 years.
The annual plate.
Seb brought: 2014 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja. 92 points. big rounded Spainish Grenache.
NV Gonzalez-Byass Pedro Ximénez Jerez-Xérès-Sherry Viejo Noé (30 Years/Años). WD 17.5. A 100% PX wine. Caramel, molasses, Christmas pudding on the nose. Rich, oily, toffee sauce style of wine, with nuts and raisins. Really over the top; impressive, but I don’t know if I would actually want more than a mouthful. I suspect it would be really good with ice cream though.
And all handmade my me, artisanal sorbetti. Left to right: espresso, strawberry, and cherry-cassis. The texture came out textbook perfect in all 3 cases. The espresso would be better with milk, but the two fruit ones have amazing flavor.
All in all and extremely successful feast. Cooking was a shared affair between my the whole family on both sides and oodles of excellent dishes abounded. So much good home cooked food! So little room in the stomach.
Sometimes I like my Greek pretty “traditional” but Inotheke struck a nice balance as they had many of traditional dishes, merely with updated plating (that’s a plus). Flavors were good and bright and I like the sharing format.
Restaurant: Sushi of Gari
Location: 6201 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028. (323) 400-6300
Date: November 16, 2016
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi (new influences)
Rating: Good, but new style is different
Tonight just the core original Foodie Club founders went: Erick and I.
From my cellar: NV Jacques Selosse Substance Blanc de Blancs. VM 93. Selosse’s NV Substance, based on 2007, is remarkably fresh considering the solera style that goes back to 1986. Candied lemon, white flowers and herbs are fused together in an ample, creamy Champagne. The classic Substance breadth is there, but in this release, the wine is a bit less overtly oxidative in style than it can be. Disgorged October 2015. Dosage is 1.3 grams per liter.
Erick brought: 2002 Louis Jadot Montrachet. BH 96. Jadot has seriously upgraded the quality of their Montrachet over the past few vintages and while it’s always been good (consider the incredible ’96), the last few efforts have been at another level. The ’02 offers sublimely complex aromas of white flowers and citrus wrapped in a gentle hint of wood spice followed by sappy, powerful, mouth coating, pungent flavors of superb density and weight. Ripe and vibrant acid keep everything in perfect balance and this should drink well for a long time. In short, this is class in a glass and a knockout effort.
Maguro Tofu Raya. Tuna with creamy tofu puree. The tofu was very mild, but right off the bat it set the night by distracting a bit from the gorgeous fish. Not that it was bad, but the rice here isn’t very assertive (low vinegar), and the topping complicates the tasting of the fish.
Tai Salad. Japanese red snapper topped with seasoned baby greens, roasted pine nuts, and crispy lotus root with hint of wasabi olive oil. This was interesting and quite a bit of basil, but again I wasn’t sure it paired to the improvement of the fish.
Yellowtail Belly Jalapeno. Like a nigiri version of the Matsuhisa classic. Much better pairing.
Kamatoro with wasabi. Awesome piece of toro. This is from the collar, like the giant whole collar we had the other night. Pretty straight up without a weird topping (that was just wasabi).
Yuki Masu Ringo Sauce. Snow trout with apple sauce and sprigs of radish. There was a smoked quality to the piece. I’m not sure the sweetness of the apple actually goes with the marinated vinegar tone of the fish and rice.
Yaki Sawara. Charred kit mackerel with mushroom sauce. One of these very charred fish bits. The mushroom wasn’t so distracting but I’m not a super lover of this sort of “dried” (aka charred) sushi bits.
Maguro Yukke. Shredded lean blue fin tuna marinated with Korean-style sweet sesame oil sauce on a bed of crispy nori seaweed with pine-nuts and scallion. This was very interesting and I liked it a lot. I liked that it was soft and marinated. The crispy (and it was quite chewy) bit of seaweed was interesting too.
Toro Taku. Chopped fatty tuna with Japanese yellow pickles. This one was great. Interesting we are in parallel working on a very similar handroll at Ramen Roll — maybe the toro and pickles is a classic pairing.
Crab handroll. Very nice crab, but plain like this it’s pretty subtle. I prefer blue crab.
Okay, so how was Sushi of Gari? I’d say that the decor was awesome. The service was awesome. The sushi chef’s really nice and very skilled. Two we knew from Mori. The build out is really swank as well, although for me the location is FAR. Not as far as oo-toro — but far enough. The fish quality was absolutely first rate. The price wasn’t even that bad (considering how much we had).
But how was the overall effect?
Gari has a very distinct style. The rice is very low vinegar. A LOT of nigiri (and we tried EVERYTHING THEY HAD tonight) are charred. A little too much for my taste, sort of the opposite of the Sasebune or Zo style where there is a lot of ponzu and things are very wet. Here many nigiri were quite dry and partially cooked.
Then there is the sauce/topping/modern thing. Overall I would have to say it distracted and made for novel, but inferior tasting nigiri than a more conventional approach. Now they were interesting, and some succeeded well like the truffle egg, kelp, or parsley clam, but many of my favorite pieces were the ones without heavy/unusual toppings. Like the marinated salmon or the kamatoro. So what does that tell you? If they dropped most of the gimmicks they would have to stand out on the quality of the fish — but I think they actually have that, and I might enjoy it even more.
Sunset Grind. Cookie custard, Stumptown coffee beans, marshmallow sauce and Cofax spiced crumb donut. These things are like gelato softserve crossed with Cold Stone creamery. The hugely sweet infusion of stuff makes for a yummy mix, but it’s hardly subtle or elegant. And it sits VERY heavy.
Tinseltown Toffee. Chocolate custard, peanut butter sauce, chocolate toffee and Compartes dark chocolate chunks. Peanut butter chocolate with chunks. What’s not to like? Pretty decadent.
Restaurant: Mod Pizza
Location: 8985 Venice Blvd k, Los Angeles, CA 90034.
Date: November 5, 2016
Rating: Like a low-rent 800 degrees
I keep passing this place on my way to work at our new restaurant-under-development and on a Saturday with my son (who is a pizza fiend) and in a time crunch decided to try it.
It should be prefaced that we eat at 800 Degrees all the time (even though I have never written it up) — and that chain was co-founded by my partner.
Mod pizza is a similar concept. Made to order pizzas. It’s cheaper (and 800 Degrees is pretty cheap) and uses a fixed price model. Toppings don’t cost, only your pizza size and extras.
My custom meatser. Various sausage, pesto base, sweet peppers. The crust isn’t great at all, and the toppings so-so. And this pizza was REALLY REALLY salty, which tasted ok but left me feeling salted out.
Our son, who LOVES pizza and who declares 800 Degrees is his second favorite restaurant ever ate only one piece of his cheese pizza. He was confused why it was “worse.”
So Mod Pizza is kinda like 800 Degrees, but a little cheaper and quite a bit worse. Given that I don’t care about a $2 difference, no way I’d choose it in any kind of head to head. In fact, I’m unlikely to go back unless I’m desperate for some reason. They are cheap and fast. They do have flexible sizes (having that little size is good for kinds). But quality is meh.
Location: 1569 Fairway Dr, Walnut, CA 91789. (909) 598-8299
Date: November 12, 2016
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi (with slight nod to China)
Rating: Ends of the earth, but very good
And by far east I mean REALLY REALLY far east — to Walnut California. 40+ miles from my house. 20 miles past Alhambra (which most people consider to far to drive for food). It took an hour and twenty minutes on a Saturday night!
The slick looking location is in the heart of the affluent Chinese American San Gabriel Valley. But yes, it’s Japan, if perhaps catering to Chinese taste. This photo was shot at about 10pm after everyone else had left.
Ron brought: NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. Pale orange. High-pitched red berry, orange zest and jasmine aromas, with suave mineral and smoky lees notes adding complexity. Spicy and precise on the palate, showing very good punch to its strawberry and bitter cherry flavors. Opens up smoothly with air and picks up a bitter rhubarb quality that lingers onto the long, tightly focused finish. This bottling showed more brawny character than many past renditions of this cuvée, but with no lack of vivacity.
Yarom brought: 2004 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. BH 95. Stylistically, this closely resembles the Valmur with its ultra elegant and pure aromas featuring white flowers, oyster shell and subtle spice notes that perfectly complement the round, powerful, rich and full-bodied flavors that coating the mouth and culminate in a saliva-inducing, incredibly intense finish that reminded me more than a little of a great Corton-Charlemagne. This just oozes minerality and the texture is minerally to the point of this resembling a block of stone. A great Les Clos.
From my cellar: 2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. VM 92. Medium bright yellow. Sexy aromas of yellow peach and hazelnut. Superripe and sweet, with flavors of apricot, peach and buttery pastry. Not particularly complex but thick and approachable. Finishes with a distinctly sweet quality.
Parfait of sesame tofu and uni.
Danny brought: 2013 Sine Qua Non Résisté. VM 92. A rich, voluptuous white, the 2013 White Wine Résisté is built on pure texture. Honey, apricot pit, succulent peaches and mint all race from the glass. The high acidity of the Petite Manseng adds a kick of brightness on the finish. The blend is 45% Roussanne, 26% Chardonnay, 14% Petite Manseng, 10% Viognier and 5% Marsanne; 40% from Eleven Confessions, 29% Cumulus and 31% Bien Nacido.
Arnie brought: 2009 Marcassin Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard. VM 92. The 2009 Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard is quite pretty and lifted in the glass. Expressive and floral, the 2009 possesses gorgeous fruit and lovely mid-palate pliancy. Here the Pinot tannin carries the fruit much more gracefully than in the Chardonnay. Sweet floral and spice notes reappear on the finish, adding lift. The 2009 is intense, but not at all heavy.
Roasted Blue fin tuna collar, kama-toro. This giant collar from a giant fish is one of the things that brought us back. The meat looked and felt like roasted lamb, but of course tasted more like tuna. It was very rich and solid and almost certainly the best cooked tuna I’ve ever had.
Dr D brought: 2002 Domaine Jacques Prieur Corton-Bressandes. VM 90+. Good deep red. Crushed blackcurrant, black cherry, smoke and cured tobacco on the nose. Broad and rich, with a restrained sweetness. Notes of dark berries, sassafras and mint. Began with an almost medicinal austerity but grew sweeter in the glass. A big, rich, very ripe, soil-inflected wine that should repay six or seven years of patience.
Yarom brought: 1981 Penfolds Grange. Parker 97. The 1981 stood out as slightly superior. Winemaker John Duval always felt this was a tannic style of Grange, but the wine has shed its tannins, and this is one of the few vintages where the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon was above 10%. Sweet notes of creme de cassis, cedarwood, charcoal, and barbecue spices are followed by a full-bodied, opulent wine displaying heady amounts of alcohol, glycerin, and density in its full-bodied, skyscraper-like texture. I was drinking this wine with great pleasure in the mid-nineties, yet here it is nearly 15 years later, and the wine does not appear to have budged much from its evolutionary state. This is a testament to how remarkably well these wines hold up, and age at such a glacial pace.
agavin: the peculiar thing about this wine is that Yarom had it in his fridge (rabbited) for 2+ weeks and it was still drinkable. Only Grange would survive like that. It wasn’t fabulous (anymore), but it was pretty good.
Ron brought: 95 Figeac. Parker 92. Tasted at the Château Figeac vertical at the property from one of the last remaining imperials, one could argue that the six-liter format would have benefit the 1995 Figeac. Even so, that should not take anything away from this, the best vintage of that decade. Firstly, one notices that it is deeper in color than the underwhelming 1996. Then you fall into the aromatics, a beguiling concoction of blackcurrant pastilles, melted tar and tobacco all beautifully preserved after two decades. What differentiates it from the succeeding vintages is that here there is the fruit to back it up. The palate is fresh and quite dense in the mouth. The acidity is perfectly matched to the fruit, lively with a touch of piquancy on the ebullient, red cherry and wild strawberry finish that still has a bit of glycerin. The 1995 is the best vintage between 1990 and 2001, and represents a worthy wine to celebrate Thierry Manoncourt’s 50th vintage.
Yuzu sorbet and cheesecake. A very mild sorbet with a slightly icy texture.
My yuzu sorbet is way better. It’s pictured here, but not eaten tonight at ootoro (but you will be able to get it at Ramen Roll if you are lucky). I make it with a lot more yuzu and it is punchier. The caramel offsets the sour fruit. Plus I go for a proper Italian Sorbetto creamy texture :-).
The wine lineup. All enjoyable.
Overall, OOToro is an interesting place. It’s far. Very far. And the food adheres to a certain over-the-top super-rich-ingredient version of sushi. Plus they “distract” with LOTS of yuzu pepper and wasabi and general richness. Still, it was (in a rich way) very enjoyable — if a touch pricey. Our second visit was a bit cheaper and probably better than our first. I’d really like to try the preorder $250 omakase. It might be epic. Or more of the same.
But that drive! It was so far that most of the party booked a nearby Marriot and turned it into a bunch of meals, massages, and other decadences. I drove home to my lovely wife.
Restaurant: Lee’s Noodles
Location: 401 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90020. (213) 351-9963
Date: November 2, 2016
Cuisine: Chinese Korean
Rating: Tasty little spot
Lee’s Noodles is located in the heart of Korea Town, and while it says “Chinese Restaurant” on the sign, it’s really more Korean/Chinese or Chinese/Korean. Does this make it Yanbian? (the prefecture in China between North Korea and China). I’m not sure. Or maybe it’s just the kind of food made by Chinese in Korea. Either way, let’s move on to the food.
Spicy Seafood Soup Noodles. A giant bowl of seafood and noodles drowned in the Korean “red sauce” (aka siracha-like sauce). We got it mild and it still had a bit of kick.
Pan-fried glass noodles w/ pork over rice. This turned out, along with the chicken, to be a standout. Nice woody flavor from the mushroom. A little bit sweet. Delicious.
Overall this was a super reasonable ($40 total) and extremely tasty little meal. I’ll certainly pop by again on one of my many K-Town lunches.
Location: You wish you knew!
Date: November 4, 2016
Rating: Always awesome!
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 take the entire sushi bar, but not tonight.
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.
Inside, chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto rules over the sushi bar.
Have a little tuna/toro! With the big crowd he went through two of these.
Larry brought: 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.
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.
From my cellar: 1994 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia. 97 points. Absolutely exquisite. Soaring, kalediscopic nose, with swirling aromas of salted caramels, vanilla, honey, jasmin, ginger, almonds, and orange peels. Just mind boggling. Sensuous, smooth, and nutty on the palate, with a level of refinement that the other (also excellent) LdH blancos just can’t reach and a salty finish that leaves your palate tingling for what seems like minutes. A masterpiece that will last for ages.
Larry brought: NV Krug Champagne Brut Rosé. 95 points. The current release of Krug Rosé is a beautiful wine, which is comprised of a blend of fifty-nine percent pinot noir, thirty-three percent chardonnay and eight percent pinot meunier. It was disgorged in the spring of 2013 and includes reserve wines in the blend back to the 2000 vintage. The wine is beautiful and still very youthful and discreet on both the nose and palate, wafting from the glass in a lovely and blossoming blend of white cherries, tangerine, wheat toast, stunningly complex minerality, delicate spice tones and a topnote of dried rose petals. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, pure and seamlessly balanced, with a lovely core, pinpoint bubbles, bright acids and exceptional focus and grip on the pure and still quite primary finish. This is very easy to drink today, but it deserves some cellaring time to really blossom.
Ultimate ramen bowl. This foie gras based seafood broth was topped with crispy onions 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.
A small taste of baby peach sorbet. Super light and refreshing. Yama makes a very pure sorbet, no stabilizers, probably only fruit, water, and sugars.
There are different was to experience Yamakase, depending on you number. This was the first time in 4-5 years that I haven’t taken the entire sushi bar (and usually we have the whole restaurant on a weeknight). This time it was just 4 of us in my party — at the bar — and on a Friday with a crazy busy crowd. At the tables there were mostly young Asian power couples. Quite the date night!
The food was as great as ever, and Yama added some extra staff so the service remained top notch and super attentive. The energy is a bit different with so many others and the space was packed. It’s louder, but with people staying more in their chairs. When we have the whole place, people are up and hanging out quite a bit. Yama also had to work like a banshee to produce nearly twice as many of each dish. He was right in front of me and it was impressive how fast he had to chop, plate, slice, dice, simmer, boil, etc. The knife was a flying! Those crabs had no chance. He is a total master and I’m proud to have him as my partner in Ramen Roll.
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. 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.
Restaurant: Private Club
Location: Somewhere in California
Date: October 26, 2016
I end up at the California Club all the time for wine dinners, but tonight was a special treat as I was invited by Liz Lee of Sage Society to join the Alsatian group and Anne Trimbach (of Trimbach wines).
They don’t make them like they used to!
Tonight’s special menu. The chef is Alsatian and so he “cooked it up.”
Tonight I forgot (didn’t really get the chance) to photo the wines. So you will just have to imagine what all those great bottles of Trimbach looked like.
Warm Vermont cheese oma, poached pear.
All and all a fun evening. The venue was great. The service was great. This kitchen handles an enormous volume, yet these dishes were all really nice, and many fabulous. They aren’t the most modern looking, but they tasted really great and were fabulously paired with the wines.
The star of the show was of course charming Anne Trimbach, who is back on the road evangelizing her family wines after having brought a new (human) Trimbach into the world — congratulations Anne!
Restaurant: Little Sister
Location: 523 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90017. (213) 628-3146
Date: October 27, 2016
Cuisine: Modern Vietnamese
As I mentioned in my review of Simbal LA seems to be developing a strong Vietnamese “trend.”
goi cuon ‘fresh spring roll’ with shrimp & pork, dipping sauce. Also a very typical Vietnamese dish. Not usually my favorite here in the states, although in Vietnam itself they had a more intense flavor. These were pretty good. They did have an interesting crunchy bit in there.
shaky shaky beef, watercress, baby tomatoes, burnt butter soy with tomato garlic fried rice. The Little Sister version of the classic “shaken” or “French” beef. Not bad. Meat was a little chewier than I might have liked.
saigon lemongrass beef, vermicelli noodle, herbs, cucumbers, chili-lime dressing. Also another great dish. The beef had a lot of flavor.
Overall, Little Sister had good strong flavors and was quite tasty. I liked the pubby atmosphere too. Basically classic Vietnamese food with prettier plating and better menu descriptions. I didn’t really see anything “reinvented” substantially. Kitchen execution was fine, but not superlative. I mean, it’s Vietnamese flavors, so that gets you pretty far, but things weren’t perfectly on point. And really really salty. Still, I’d definitely go back because I love a flavor punch.
Restaurant: Halal Guys
Location: 3432 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010. (213) 480-7738
Date: October 26, 2016
Cuisine: Fast Casual Gyro
Rating: Tasty and quick
Giant heap of chicken Shwarma on the right.
Combo plate. Here it is, both meats with the “salad” a touch of pita and the white, spicy, and BBQ sauces. It was pretty spicy and the meat, while tender, is fairly hidden by the tangy/spicy sauce. Pretty darn tasty sauce but anything else, and certainly the uninspired “salad” is just a vehicle for the sauce.
Apparently, the white sauce is pretty much this:
So fine, if I happen to be near a Halal Guys and I need a 15 minute lunch, yeah, I’d go again for sure. Not much variety, but pretty tasty and quick.