Restaurant: Drago Centro
Location: 525 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071. (213) 228-8998
Date: September 3, 2015
Rating: Great high end Italian
I’ve been a Drago fan for years. Celistino Drago has even cooked at our house half a dozen times. Hedonist regular Larry has been wanting to setup a formal dinner her at the Downtown location for some some.
We were situated in the “Vault” room, an awesome, huge private room over to the side of the restaurant (past the patio). It featured its own bar and kitchen and a huge table.
Drago went full out with the wine glasses and the like, which is always nice even if I am used to bringing my own.
Our special menu.
The first amuse. Goat cheese and tomato tarts. Even I liked them — and I’m not a tomato fan.
Tuna tartar “sandwiches”. The roe gave this a nice briny flavor.
Pizza Margarita. Gooey cheese!
Special Sicilian olive oil.
On the left the Chef de Cuisine and on the right the Wine Director.
I brought a collection of “interesting” Italian white food wines because this is contrary to the usual surplus of “hearty reds.” And besides, they go with the food.
From my cellar: 2008 Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. 91 points. Oxidative nose with some lemon zest and dairy notes as werll as yeast, macadamia, white meat and plaster. With time tropical fruit starts to emerge. Dry and a tad oily palate with deep acidic core and classy round tropical fruit of good concentration. Meadow flowers and wet earth. Some spritz upon opening and this wine needed quite a bit of time to find balance otherwise as well. Very good stuff, but will only get better with further cellaring.
From my cellar: 2010 Paolo Bea Arboreus. 90 points. Normally an intense amber hue, in the 2010 vintage the Arboreus in fact has quite a light color and initial presentation of aromas. The aromas build quickly once the wine is given a few swirls in the glass, revealing a truly magnificent bouquet of honey, white flowers, spices, reduced stone fruits, sweet petrol (a contradiction?), and, yes, cat urine. Mild tannins give the wine excellent body and structure. Great persistence of flavor.
From my cellar: 2011 Paolo Bea Santa Chiara. 95 points. Apple juice to dark amber colour. It showed pre-oxidized white wine characters. Interesting taste of apple, apricot, citrus, white flowers with aroma of smoke, tar, salted fish in between. Full body. Good acidity and rich mineral support. It’s so stylish and unique. Complicated aromatic profile. It kept changing at different temperature. An interesting and enjoyable orange wine.
King crab legs, lemon, basil aioli. Very fresh and simple. Went perfectly with the oxidative Italian whites.
Baby kale and barlett pear salad, pinenuts, shaved ricotta salata, champagne vinaigrette.
1996 Domaine Jean Grivot Richebourg. Burghound 92. A bottle opened in Burggundy showed quite differently than that opened at the big Richebourg tasting held in late 2001 with still reserved but elegant and spicy aromas that offer exceptional purity of expression followed by young, tight and powerful flavors that are racy, fresh and very long. This seems more refined than the bottle at the Richebourg tasting that was very much in a rough and tumble style with big, robust, almost aggressively tannic flavors supported by powerful black fruit and good if not exceptional extract.
agavin: unfortunately our bottle was a bit corked.
2005 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia. 95 points. What a glorious wine. One of the best wines of the 2005 vintage I have tasted. The wine displayed great balance, complexity, finesse and focus and finished with considerable length and elegance. The wine is drinking beautifully now and will provide great drinking for the next decade.
From my cellar: 1996 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Sperss. 94 points. evolved very nicely. Dark deep fruits with lovely aromatics; funk and brett not a problem with decanting. Amazing complexity, a lot happening in the mid palate and in the finish. Tannins and acidity will carry this forward but certainly enjoyable now.
2001 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Riserva Vecchie Viti dei Capalot e delle Brunate. 94 points. A delicious monster.
Pappardelle, roasted pheasant, morel mushrooms.
With cheese. This has always been one of my favorite pastas at Drago. The al dente bite on the pappardelle and the rich mushroom / pheasant sauce are fabulous. Off season, as this is ideally a winter pasta, but good anytime.
Roasted corn and ricotta agnolotti, parmesan, chile foam.
Prepping the next pasta.
1996 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia Sassicaia. 93 points. Fresh, moderately deep ruby-red. Spicy, lively aromas of cinnamon and vanilla. Round in flavor and rather elegantly styled, but doesn’t offer the weight or impact of a major wine.
2003 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Parker 95. Made from a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot, this spectacular 2003 hits all the sweet spots on the palate. A glorious bouquet of cedarwood, jammy black currants, cherries, licorice and truffle is followed by a dense, opulently textured, full-bodied wine with terrific purity and freshness as well as deep, velvety textured tannins. Enjoy this beauty over the next 10-12 years.
2003 Tua Rita Redigaffi Vino da Tavola. Parker 90. Tua Rita’s 2003 Redigaffi, 100% Merlot, opens with notes of over-ripeness on the nose. An initial suggestion of reduction blows of with air. It presents plenty of fruit, chocolate and toasted oak along with a richly concentrated, opulent personality, yet a note of gaminess and hard, unripe tannins ultimately convey the impression of a less polished version of this wine than is normally the case. My preference is to drink Redigaffi on the young side.
2005 De Suduiraut. Parker 93. Tasted blind at the 10-Year On Tasting in Sauternes. The 2005 Château Suduiraut seemed a little out of sorts at first, although it comes together with honey, barley sugar, orange blossom and mineral scents that become more delineated as its aerates. The palate is very intense on the entry. There is a beautiful line of acidity that cuts through the viscous fruit, though the finish does not quite exude the precision of a top vintage, but still delivers that sense of class one expects from this address.
Seared foie gras, porcini mushroom cavatelli. I’m not sure I’ve ever had full on seared foie AND pasta in the same dish. It certainly didn’t suck. I loved the chewy bite from the cavatelli too.
Summer truffle fettuccini.
2006 Ridge Monte Bello. Parker 94+. While it is eclipsed by the brilliance of the 2005, the 2006 Monte Bello (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc) is a very strong effort. Its dense purple color is followed by copious aromas of creme de cassis, licorice, spice box, and a touch of oak. Well-balanced, dense, pure, layered, and rich, its big, rich style is similar to the 2003. This cuvee should keep for 25-30 years in a cool cellar.
2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 100! The 2002 boasts an inky/purple color along with notes of graphite, violets, blackberries, creme de cassis and hints of charcoal and barbecue in addition to a full-bodied, multilayered mouthfeel that builds incrementally with great purity, staggering fruit concentration, and a long, velvety, 50+-second finish. This prodigious effort should continue to drink well for 20+ years.
2001 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder. Parker 100! An utterly perfect wine that exemplifies this extraordinary vintage for North Coast Bordeaux varietals is the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder, which comes from the Jackson family’s Veeder Peak Vineyard. Unfortunately, slightly less than 300 cases were produced, so availability is limited. A dense opaque blue/purple color is followed by notes of lead pencil shavings, ink, blueberry liqueur, raspberries and black currants. The wine is super intense as well as extremely full-bodied and opulent with great structure, purity and density. (I know this sounds weird, but when I smelled and tasted it, it reminded me of the 2010 La Mission Haut Brion that I had tasted a month earlier, no doubt because of its volcanic/hot rock-like character.) This phenomenal wine is a modern day legend from Napa. Still a youngster in terms of its development, it should hit its peak in another 5-6 years and keep for 30+.
Squab, eggplant, and roasted garlic “risotto alla norma.” Nice gamey chunks of foul. Yarom was hoping for more “meat on the bone action.” Although truth is, I like it like this. These are basically tiny squab versions of duck breast.
Branzino, potato gnocchi, zucchini.
2005 Chateau de Fargues. Parker 95. Tasted blind at the 10-Year On Tasting in Sauternes. The 2005 Château de Fargues has a rich and intense bouquet with layers of honey, dried peach, beeswax and acacia that soar from the glass. The palate is powerful and authoritative: intense botrytis-rich honeyed fruit with compelling mineralité underneath. It fans out in glorious fashion – a stunning de Fargues that is now beginning to show its talents. As I remarked a couple of years ago, just afford it a couple more years so that it can fully absorb the vestiges of oak.
Chocolate brownie, black mission figs, hazelnuts.
Market mixed fresh berries.
Overall a great evening, although not without its differing opinions in our highly opinionated group.
Service, particularly wine service, was first rate. We had our own dedicated servers and they were on it. For a change, I barely had to pour any wine. They had tons of glasses and worked the wine around in a perfectly timely fashion (extremely rare at big dinners). We did have a bit of a snafu in that we had 2 no-shows and we were very late giving the restaurant notice. Sort of a gray area and we should have sorted it out earlier and let them know.
The room and setting were amazing.
Food was for the most part great. The pastas were all fabulous. I was disappointed though in the desserts. Instead of those minis I would have preferred normal sized desserts that were striped around. I never find that minis like that are the best. The cheesecake was pretty good, but it was just one little morsel. Fruit never does it for me :-).
Wines were pretty good. I loved the whites, although they are perhaps too sophisticated for everyone’s palette. Was bummed the Richebourg was corked. We could have used some Brunello. I loved all the Nebbiolos. The super Tuscans were good too, but not as good as the Piedmontese wines. I didn’t think the big Americans really belonged, even though they were very good wines. They just don’t pair well with Italian. Too extracted. But of course the “hearty red” crew adored them — which is their prerogative.
This dinner was similar in many ways to the recent Michael’s dinner. Michaels was a slightly better deal, as we had more courses for less money. Maybe the DTLA markup, haha. Both have great food and which was better varied on a course by course basis. Michael’s had a more Italian wine lineup (which is our doing, not the restaurant’s), but we had a few off wines that night. Tonight only the Riche (cry) was corked.