Restaurant: Azeen’s Afghani [1, 2, 3]
Location: 110 East Union Street, Pasadena, Ca, 911103. 626-683-3310
Date: January 15, 2014
Rating: Awesome again!
Another week and another Hedonist dinner. We braved 2.25 hours in traffic to take on Azeen’s Afghani in Pasadena, dominating the restaurant as usual with a giant table. Pictures of the room are available at a previous meal here.
We aren’t the only ones who love Azeen’s.
The menu. This place is amazing AND will not break the bank.
From my cellar: 1994 Robert Ampeau & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. 91 points. A nice mature white Burgundy.
2003 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. Burghound 89. Somewhat curiously for a 2003, this actually displays plenty of that classic Chablis mineral reduction nuance on the otherwise ripe nose. There is good richness and plenty of volume to the medium-bodied flavors that possess reasonably good depth and length plus better cut than one would expect in the context of the vintage. An excellent 2003 though it almost is superfluous to say that this is hardly a classic Chablis. Still, given the extremes of the vintage, this retains enough Chablis character to be convincing.
This green chimichuri-like chili sauce is a classic of Afghan cuisine. It goes with everything.
Mantu. Steamed dumplings filled with chopped beef, onions and herbs topped with yogurt and sautéed Mixed vegetables. These have been a favorite of mine for 30 years!
From my cellar: 1984 Gros Frère et Sœur Clos Vougeot Musigni. 95 points. This is a great wine (good location in the vineyard and top winemakers) from a very off year — and it’s 29 year-old pinot noir. But somehow (and I’ve had 3 bottles) it’s still in great shape. Really quite lovely with a complex tar and cherry thing going on. I happen to find it fabulous.
Aushak. Leek and scallion filled dumplings, topped with yogurt and meat sauce, sprinkled with mint.
1999 Faiveley Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. Burghound 93. Big, spicy and intense aromas are presently framed by more oak than this wine usually displays young yet there is such impressive density of both fruit and flavors that it should absorb it over the next couple of years. That niggle noted, this is very classy juice with terrific complexity, breed and excellent length. As such, while this should drink relatively early for a Clos de Bèze, the balance and overall harmony are such that I suspect this will live for a long time.
Pakawra-e-badenjan. Batter dipped, sautéed slices of eggplant topped with yogurt and meat sauce.
2000 Le Carillon de l’Angélus. 89-90 points. Great classic bordeaux nose of fruit, some funk, earth, and light cedar. Medium body. The great red and black fruits dominated the earth initially, and over 1.5 hrs the red fruits came to dominate, the earth dissipated and minerality dominated the mid palate. Finish was short to medium.
Aush. Vegetable, noodle and yogurt soup sprinkled with dill topped with meat sauce. Aush has many of the same ingredients as some of the other dishes, but the soup factor really works. Great stuff.
1999 Cullen Wines Diana Madeline. Parker 88. The proprietary red wine blend, the 1999 Diana Madeline, is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc (95%). Its dark ruby/purple color is followed by sweet aromas of red currants, cedar, plums, earth, and spice. Stylish, elegant, and European in its orientation, it should drink well for a decade. By Australian standards, it is a measured, restrained red wine.
The simple salad with yogurt dressing and zatar.
1997 Phoenix Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate. IWC 91. Bright ruby-red. Pungent nose combines blackberry, cocoa powder, dried rose, mint and meat. A juicy, intense fruit bomb on the palate, with urgent, thoroughly ripe blackberry flavor complicated by notes of leather, game and cinnamon. Finishes with lush tannins and excellent grip and length. The first wine I’ve seen from this new producer, and very impressive.
On the left, Kabob-e-gousfand. Tender cubes of lamb. On the right, Kabob-e-murgh. Tender chunks of breast of chicken. And also some beef kabob.
1995 Vineyard 29 Cabernet Sauvignon Grace Family Vineyard. IWC 86-88. Superripe, sappy nose combines blackcurrant, chocolate and brown spices. Sweet, supple and chewy on the palate; already displays expressive inner-mouth aromatics. A fairly big wine, finishing with excellent length and thoroughly buffered tannins. Faint notes of roast coffee and game on the aftertaste.
1999 Joseph Phelps Vin du Mistral Syrah. Parker 87-89. Phelps’ Syrah, which originates from vineyard holdings in Yountville, is aged primarily in French oak, of which 20% is new. The 1999 Vin du Mistral Syrah should turn out to be impressive. A dense saturated ruby/purple color is followed by a blackberry/cassis-scented bouquet, medium to full body, adequate acidity, and soft tannin. It is a wine to drink during its first 6-7 years of life.
A special beef meatball and lentil stew. Delicious over rice and clearly in the family of dishes shared with Persian cuisine.
2010 Rhys Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard. IWC 94. Glass-staining purple. Powerful, smoke-accented aromas of black and blue fruit preserves, olive and licorice, with a spicy topnote. Shows textbook syrah character and intense blueberry and cassis flavors lifted by tangy acidity. Finishes smoky, sweet and very long, with smooth tannins lending shape and gentle grip.
Our bottle smelled corked.
This special is seasoned rice with succulent chunks of lamb (not visible) topped with raisons and carrots. Really lovely sweet and savory combo.
2009 Koehler Syrah Santa Ynez Valley.
2004 Torbreck Descendant. Parker 98. The 2004 Descendant, an old oak-aged blend of 92% Shiraz and 8% Viognier from a 12-year old vineyard, offers up notes of blackberries, ink, sweet truffles, and acacia flowers. There are 1,000 cases of this full-bodied, intense, rich blockbuster. It will drink well for 10-15 years.
Kadu. Sautéed butternut squash topped with yogurt and meat sauce. Incredibly succulent.
1999 Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Bricco Rocche. IWC 93. Medium red. Complex, ripe aromas of cherry, plum, marzipan, dried rose, earth and peppery spices. Big, lush and expansive but adamantly dry. A very full, layered Barolo with lovely vinosity and balance. Finishes with lush, very fine but strong tannins and insinuating, impressively persistent flavor. Possesses more than enough material to handle the 100% new barriques A superb bottle. According to Alessandro, this cuvee is Ceretto’s most complete Barolo, typically combining the character of the Brunate and Prapo.
Sabsi. Sautéed spinach cooked with onions and garlic.
The flat bread goes great dipped in the green sauce – or the Aush!
An interesting dessert wine that was pleasant and apricoty.
Firnee. A light pudding with almonds and pistachios served chilled. Yum, yum! This was creamy and saturated with rose water, which I love.
2003 Coutet. Parker 89-96. Ex-chateau bottle tasted blind in Sauternes. This bottle of Coutet ’03 was showing slight reduction on the geranium-scented nose, although it seems to sort that out and offer lanolin and melted wax aromas with time. The palate is viscous and quite spicy on the entry – dried honey, marjoram, white pepper and quince, whilst the finish offers an attractive oxidative note. Coutet’s limestone soils mean it thrives on acidity and race, but in 2003 I think the heat of the summer just knocked this great Barsac sideways.
Baghlava. Thin layers of pastry with walnuts and pistachios, syrup soaked. Somehow this batch was so much better than previous times. In fact, these were some of best I’ve had.
This was another amazing Hedonist blow out. The food is so tasty here. Afghan is a really delectable cuisine. Middle eastern with a hint of China, Persia, and India. It’s not spicy but is packed with flavor. Growing up, we used to frequently enjoy this cuisine in the Washington suburbs. You can check that out here.
The service at Azeen’s is fantastic. Abdul really makes you feel welcome. And Azeen’s is probably the best kitchen execution I’ve experienced in an Afghan restaurant I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s better than 99% of the places in Kabul. In fact, my cousin is stationed in Kabul, and he says he never gets any decent food (which is partially because he’s barely allowed off base).
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