Restaurant: Akbar [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
Location: 1101 Aviation Boulevard, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. (310) 937-3800
Date: December 29, 2014
Rating: Bold and balanced flavors
For our last Hedonist group dinner of 2014, we celebrate at LA’s best Indian restaurant, Akbar (Hermosa Beach branch).
Fellow Hedonist Chef Avi commands the kitchen!
The Menu can be found here, although the chef designed our feast himself and it features many unusual and off menu items.
The chutney’s and pickles. The green one is mint, the yellow-ish coconut, the one with corn spicy-pickled vegetables (yum! and oh, so gut burning) and the back corner a tangy one.
2002 Pol Roger Champagne Extra Cuvee de Reserve. RJ Wine 94. Delicious. Elegant in the mouth. Long. Really liked this a lot. Great aperitif. Ready to drink but probably a long life ahead too.
Papadum. Crispy slightly spicy “bread.”
2008 Kongsgaard Viorous. IWC 94. Nose dominated by peach nectar, flowers and spices from the viognier, with a complicating element of wild herbs. Dense and tactile yet with terrific bright fruit character and lovely brisk acidity to lift and frame the wine’s intense peach and stone flavors. Finishes chewy and very long. The roussanne here is “as thick as potato soup,” notes Kongsgaard, adding that its job is to “take the viognier down off its floral pedestal.” Both of these are high-pH varieties, and yet the net impression is of an energetic wine.
agavin: really interesting Rhone-like white. Really held up the spice.
Chicken chili. Although an Indian dish, this has Chinese influences. Sort of like a spicy super tender general Tso’s chicken!
2002 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese. IWC 94. As with last year’s rendition, the first thing that hits me here is the distilled fruit character, discreet and high-toned in the nose, then intense and mesmerizing on the palate. Tropical, orchard and black fruit essences, sweet herbs, nut oils, brown spices, forest floor, sweet herbs and stones are all present, if scarcely possible to account for.
2005 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese. IWC 90. Pale yellow. Rich aromas of lichee, lemon oil and pine.Luscious yet piquant tropical fruit flavors accented by smoke. In spite of the wine’s substantial depth, subtle acidity brings spice and finesse to the finish.
Chicken 65. Spicy south indian specialty served with serano and onion. Hot wings crossed with chicken nuggets!
2012 Carl Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese. MFW 90. Great nose of pears, slate, and citrus. On the palate rich almost at an Auslese level of density with golden apple, pear, mineral, and citrus. Long finish with mouth watering acidity. Hold 5+ years.
Pan sautéed Fresh Scallops topped with mixed pepper chutney. Succulent and delicious with only a mild heat.
2004 Bink Wines Pinot Noir Weir Vineyard. 89 points. agavin: weirdly grapey and concentrated for a pinot, but not bad.
2013 Ritual Pinot Noir. 87 points. Dark ruby but not so dark as to be unrecognizable as a pinot. Very serious, heady nose of a pinot that definitely has aspirations: smoke, spice, blood, and meat are dominant. You can tell from the first sniff that you’re going to enjoy this if you like “big” pinot noirs. Generous mouthfeel that persists. Flavors of roasted (charred) chestnuts, cola syrup, and a bit of candy apple (but not sweet, if that makes sense). Just a bit of gentle tannin. The only fault I find is that there is a bit too much of a roasted, bass note, oakiness overpowering the rest.
Indian style gobi Manchurian. Cauliflower with “Manchurian” (aka Chinese) sauce. Very similar to the chili chicken, but cauliflower. And it was one of the best cauliflower dishes I’ve ever had!
1975 Trentadue Winery Petite Sirah. agavin 94. Probably about as obscure a wine as one is likely to find. It was late harvest and has an Amarone like style to it. Full of velvety grapes and tons of strong fruit — 39 years later!
From my cellar: 1978 Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape. JG 95. Gorgeous brick red with tawny rim.
Sweet rich fruit, plummy, earthy, rich blackberry compote, tar and licorice spice, but fruit dominant.
Fresh and smooth, superb balance and length, finishing with a deep long resonating kiss. Loving this. Hints of sherbet zest but mostly a rich earthy compote of plummy fruit with a lightly spicy edge. Amazingly fresh and crisp for its considerable age, better than many 15 years it’s junior. I have another and will happily lay to rest for another 5-10. Drinking beautifully.
agavin: I didn’t love this bottle (even though I brought it). The nose had a kind of wet towel vibe, although it wasn’t on the palette (fortunately). Good, but not all I was hoping for.
Apollo fish. Fresh Catfish marinated in spiced batter with hot chili chutney. Fabulous fried fish. Not too heavy, with a bright chili flavor.
2000 Lynch Bages. Parker 97. Beginning to open magnificently, the still dense purple-colored 2000 reveals a blossoming bouquet of blackberries, cassis, graphite and pen ink. Full-bodied with velvety tannins that have resolved themselves beautifully over the last eleven years, this wine is still an adolescent, but it exhibits admirable purity, texture, mouthfeel and power combined with elegance. One of the all-time great examples of Lynch Bages, the 2000 is just beginning to drink well yet promises to last for another 20-25+ years.
2012 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 40th Anniversary. Parker 96. They appear to be immune to some of winedom’s less than intelligent trends and fads that we see from time to time, and the result is a spectacular 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon 40th Anniversary offering. Its dense purple/black color is followed by copious quantities of crème de cassis and blackberry fruit, silky tannins, a voluptuous texture and stunning purity as well as length. This full-bodied effort is a fabulous example of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a tribute to this amazing family. It is so good now, why wait? However, I’m sure that like most vintages of Caymus, it will last for 20-25 years. Amazing!
agavin: as one person put it, “more vanilla than haagen daas!”
Tandoori Battair. Quails marinated in a medley of spices and grilled in tandoor. Really tender and bursting with flavor.
2005 L’Aventure Winery Optimus. Parker 94. The least expensive red wine is the Optimus cuvee. The 2005 Optimus (51% Syrah, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot) barely qualifies as a Rhone Ranger, but it offers classic chocolate, cassis, espresso, and subtle wood notes along with a dense ruby/purple hue, gorgeous concentration, and plenty of spice, cedar, and a Pauillac-like complexity and richness. This serious effort is more French than Californian. It should drink well for 6-10 years.
2008 Linne Calodo Nemesis Syrah. Parker 92-94. The dense purple 2008 Nemesis (always the heaviest in Syrah, with 85% Syrah and the rest Grenache and Mourvedre) is still youthful and intense, with plenty of body and hints of asphalt, graphite, blackberry and blueberry fruit, with some licorice and white chocolate. It is deep, full-bodied, rich, and should prove to be one of the longest lived wines of the 2008s from Trevisan, lasting well past a decade.
agavin: First we have Optimus, then Nemesis. Where is Hubris?
2009 Lilian Ladouys. Parker 90. Elegant, with loads of black currant fruit, cherries and dusty, loamy soil notes as well as hints of tobacco leaf, spice box and cedar, it is a medium to full-bodied, nicely textured, fleshy wine that should drink nicely for 10-15+ years.
Peas Pillau. The Indian cousin of Chinese vegetable fried rice.
2007 Saxum Syrah Broken Stones. Parker 97+. The 2007 Broken Stones (71% Syrah, 18% Grenache, and 11% Mourvedre) is a gorgeously seamless wine with an inky/blue/purple color, a tight but promising nose of blue and black fruits, incense, charcoal, and extraordinarily pure black raspberry and blackberry fruit, fabulous concentration in the mouth, velvety, well-integrated tannins, and a mind-bogglingly long finish. This wine will benefit from 2-3 years of cellaring, and should keep for 15 or more.
agavin: I’m normally a New World hater, but I had to admit, I liked this wine. It’s grapey intensity shot through the spice wall too.
2009 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard. Parker 97. Moving on to the vineyard designated Syrahs and a fantastic vintage for this cuvee, which goes back to the 2005, 2006 and 2007 levels of richness, the 2009 Syrah Reva (100% Syrah aged 42-months in French oak) offers up more fruit and purity than normal, with only hints of its normal iodine/seaweed tinged profile. Loaded with sweet black raspberry, cassis, wild herbs, flowers and subtle blood and iodine qualities, it is a full-bodied, decadent Syrah that has incredible mid-palate depth, beautiful freshness and a blockbuster finish. It will continue to gain in depth and richness with short-term cellaring and have an easy 12-15 years or ultimate longevity. Drink 2015-2024.
2002 Peter Lehmann Shiraz Stonewell. Parker 92. The 2002 Stonewell Shiraz was barrel fermented and aged in new French and American oak hogsheads. The fruit was sourced from several of the Barossa’s top addresses. It offers up aromas of toasty oak, spice box (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), asphalt, blueberry, and blackberry liqueur. This is followed by a structured, tightly wound wine in which black fruits and chocolate make an appearance. It will benefit from another 8-10 years in the cellar and should drink well through 2027.
House favorite Chicken Tikka Masala. Another perfect batch of this amazing dish. The chicken itself is all super tender chunks of white meat. The sauce has this snappy tang and complex flavor.
2002 TOR Kenward Family Wines Syrah Old Clones Los Carneros. IWC 90. Good ruby-red. Very ripe if slightly medicinal aromas of blackberry and white pepper, with some minty lift. Nicely juicy and light on its feet, with varietally accurate flavors similar to the aromas. This has a high pH (3.9) but also sound structure and reasonable alcohol (14.2%). Quite stylish. (The young 2003 was distinctly more gamey, with almost Cornas-like flavors.)
Coco Lamb. Lamb prepared in coconut milk with crushed peppers and a saute of red chilies and mustard seeds. Was in Top 10 dishes in 1997 – LA Los Angeles Times.
2012 Aubert Pinot Noir Ritchie Vineyard. Parker 91-93. Made from the Calera clone, the 2012 Pinot Noir Ritchie Vineyard offers up plenty of cola and root beer notes intermixed with black cherry, dusty, loamy soil and foresty nuances. Deep and medium to full-bodied with fresh, lively fruit, it should drink well for 10 + years.
Keema Mattar. Usually is with ground Lamb, This is wild boar Keema sauteed cooked with serano, onion, tomato. Nice and spicy.
2001 Panza Petite Sirah Stag’s Leap Ranch. 91 points. Remains a restrained, subtle pet with great balance and relatively elegant for the varietal. Will live a lot more years, but not sure it will evolve much more.
Brussel sprout curry. South Indian style brussel sprout.
2012 Prisoner Wine Co Proprietary Red The Prisoner. Parker 90. There are 20,000 cases of the 2012 The Prisoner, which is an interesting blend of 46% Zinfandel, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon,18% Petite Sirah, 12% Syrah, and a small amount of Charbono. Its deep ruby/purple color is followed by a big, peppery, meaty, Rhone-like bouquet with hints of bay leaf, unsmoked cigar tobacco, black currants and sweet jammy cherries. Medium to full-bodied and explosively fruity, this is a lovely, hedonistic, seriously endowed red to drink over the next 3-4 years.
Dal Makhani. Black lentils prepared with kidney beans with butter.
1986 Raymond-Lafon. Parker 92. It is hard to believe this wine will eclipse the great 1983, but the differences in the two wines are negligible. I do not believe the 1986 makes quite the impact on the palate that the huge, massive 1983 does, but there is a great deal of botrytis, and a profound, penetrating fragrance of sauteed pineapple, vanillin, toast, and honeyed peaches. In the mouth, the wine is more streamlined than the 1983, but lusciously rich and full bodied, with very good acidity and a creamy, intense finish. It will be interesting to compare the 1983 and 1986 as they evolve. My guess is that the 1986 will age faster. Anticipated maturity: Now-2012. Last tasted, 3/90.
Mango Cheesecake. Homemade Mango cheesecake, Chef Avi’s sister in law, Marla Kapoor’s recipe. Still going strong.
Kheer. Rice Pudding saffron flavored.
Kulfi. homemade Indian saffron and pistachio flavored ice cream. Really nice and creamy.
Akbar has long been my favorite LA Indian, and this meal was probably my best yet — and very different than usual. Chef Avi really turned out a lot of unique things tonight, including a bunch of southern specialties. And the wines were really great too. All in all an excellent way to send out the Hedonist year.
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