Restaurant: Kali [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
Location: 5722 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 871-4160
Date: March 16, 2016
Cuisine: New American French
Rating: Really good
I’ve known Kevin Meehan for years as a private and popup chef and have had the pleasure to enjoy many a fine meal he’s put together. But this year he’s transitioned into the more stationary, and possibly more hectic restaurant world by opening up his own Melrose Ave restaurant!
Here he is in the attractive new space, exhausted at the end of a long busy dinner service.
With the opening of Kali Restaurant, Chef Kevin Meehan’s broad 23-year culinary career reaches its apex. At Kali, Meehan, whose deft hand was cultivated in Los Angeles’ most prestigious kitchens, joins forces with long-time friend and professional colleague, Drew Langley, previously the wine director at the iconic, Michelin-starred Providence.
For the 39-year-old Meehan, Kali represents the evolution of not just Kali Dining, his roving private dinner pop-up, but the rigorous years he spent refining his craft. The contemporary California restaurant blends the precision and hospitality of the white tablecloth kitchens where Meehan developed his culinary acumen, with the accessibility and ease of a local’s favorite neighborhood haunt.
Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Meehan’s initial foray in the industry was at a fried chicken joint when he was a teenager. While most would be turned off by working the fryer, Meehan was feeding an innate attraction to food, and, in the process, unearthing what would become a life-long love affair with the restaurant world. After graduating high school, Meehan enrolled in the esteemed Culinary Arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, an education that he would test and sharpen on-the-line during an apprenticeship at the Michelin-starred L’alban Chambon under French Master Chef Dominique Michou, and, later, alongside Los Angeles’ finest chefs.
In 2000, Meehan drove cross country to assume a post at the celebrated L’Orangerie, then helmed by Chef Ludo Lefebvre. It was there that Meehan met Langley, who he would subsequently work with at the now late Bastide, where Meehan served as Chef de Cuisine, and, later, at Citrine. After Citrine’s closure in 2005, Meehan joined Patina Restaurant Group as Chef de Cuisine at Joachim Spichal’s seminal Patina restaurant in Downtown. During his three-year tenure, the restaurant received a Michelin Star for its fresh interpretation of French cuisine informed by seasonality, and Meehan was consequently promoted to Executive Chef of Café Pinot.
In 2012, Meehan parted ways with the prolific restaurant group to launch his passion project, Kali Dining. The underground operation quickly garnered critical attention for Meehan’s assertive, yet nuanced tasting menus that he prepared, dinner party-style, for Los Angeles top tastemakers, luminaries, and food enthusiasts. Kali the restaurant was birthed from the success of Kali Dining, and the passion that Meehan and co-owner Langley share for pushing the boundaries of the typical fine dining experience.
For Kali, Kevin partnered with Drew Langley.
While most known for his esteemed tenure as the Wine Director at the Michelin-starred Providence in Los Angeles, Drew Langley brings an extensive resume of experience to Kali Restaurant, a passion project born out of his 15-year friendship with Chef Kevin Meehan.
As Co-owner and Wine Director of the contemporary California restaurant near Hollywood’s iconic Paramount Pictures Studios, the 39-year-old’s near life-long matriculation in the food & beverage industry is fully realized. Kali blends the haute cuisine and hospitality of a fine dining destination with the accessibility of an everyday neighborhood haunt, and Langley’s concise, intelligent wine program is a reflection of the core philosophy that defines the restaurant.
Born and raised in a small town in south Maryland, Langley’s initial introduction to the industry was as a dishwasher at a local pizzeria at the age of 13. While his contemporaries found inspiration in the classroom, Langley was drawn to the rhythm and intensity of the restaurant world, acquiring a vast understanding of its inner workings through odd jobs that ran the gamut from line cook at regional chain Perkin’s to corporate trainer for Applebee’s openings to bar back at Solomon’s Pier, a seafood restaurant and nightclub.
In 1997, the then 20-year-old Langley leapt at an opportunity to relocate to Los Angeles, and stumbled into a position at Greenblatt’s, a beloved deli and wine shop in West Hollywood, that would ultimately pave the way for his future career. Langley furthered his three-year wine education at Greenblatt’s with a position at Dennis Overstreet’s Beverly Hills Wine Merchant, before joining the now-closed L’Orangerie in Beverly Hills as Sommelier in 2000. It was there that Langley crossed paths with Meehan, who he would subsequently work alongside at the late Bastide and Citrine.
After opening Bastide in 2002 as Commis Sommelier, and enjoying a stint as Wine Director at Citrine in 2003, Langley switched gears to lend support to entrepreneur and wine collector Jeff Smith for the launch of Carte Du Vin. His time at the local wine cellar management firm birthed and deepened relationships with prominent private collectors, relationships that inform his wine program at Kali today. In 2005, Langley joined the opening team at Providence, serving as Wine Director for Michael Cimarusti’s nationally-acclaimed seafood destination through 2015 when he left to prepare for Kali’s debut in early 2016.
An avid music enthusiast, when Langley is not refining his wine list with new finds or overseeing the day-to-day operations at Kali, the Koreatown resident can be found indulging in the local drum-and-bass culture.
This was a Foodie Club dinner, with just 6 of my regular dining intimates — and of course great wine.
1973 Perrier-Jouët Champagne Cuvée Fleur de Champagne. Agavin 93. Strong oxidative notes, but delightfully in balance with a terrific acidic backbone.
NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. This is the 1990-2006 disgorgement. 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.
Sous vide egg. Very close to straight egg with a little creme fraiche and rosemary. Super delicious and an awesome pairing with the old champagne.
From my cellar: 1985 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. agavin 87. Kinda funky, especially at first, with strong petrol notes.
1986 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Chardonnay. agavin 95. Who would have thought, but this old Cal chard was gorgeous. Nutty, with an incredible white floral nose and a lot of round punch. Fairly Burgundian, although not as acidic.
Bass Crudo. citrus / olive / nasturtium. A fabulous crudo with really strong olive notes that really worked. That EVO drizzled around was amazing, very intense.
1970 Château Haut-Brion Blanc. 93 points. On the nose, ripe apricot, lapsang souchong, gasoline initially. An older dry palate with dried apricots, bitter orange, and faint pecan skin. This bottle was really singing with a crazy strong acidic backbone.
2003 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 91. Here too the nose has incorporated virtually all of the wood and offers elegant ripe and spicy green apple fruit aromas that complement the big, rich and very powerful flavors that are complex and massively long. Interestingly, the flavors seem almost heavy on the mid-palate yet there is good vibrancy to the finish that provides the necessary lift. This would merit a slightly higher score save for the noticeable finishing warmth.
agavin: super round and ripe without a lot of acid. Some botrytis on the finish, almost like honeysuckle.
Shrimp and potato agnolotti. A really nice pasta dish with strong harmonious flavors. Great sauce, nice like texture on the pasta, and very fresh little shrimp with no hint of fishiness.
From my cellar: 1975 Charles Noellat Vosne-Romanée. agavin 94. While this was a bit cloudy, and funky for a second, it blew off and possessed a ton of red fruits, cherries and strawberries and a really nice mature finish. Not a super refined Burg but in great shape.
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!
Wheat berry Risotto. black garlic / toasted cheese. Looked all funny, but a really nice balance between the earthy risotto and the crunchy cheese.
1987 Bruno Giacosa Barbera d’Alba. agavin 93. Drinking great, age having smoothed out all the rough edges.
1952 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo. This was a weird one, some ancient 1952 Barolo “restored” at the domain with 2000 barolo. It tasted like a 1998! Very nebbiolo, with some maturity, but none of that old bricked character.
Duck breast with carrots in carrot jus. Just a really nice piece of aged duck with a very french bit of gaminess.
Whole Wheat Crackers. For the cheese below. Delicious. Like wheat thins and graham crackers blended.
Creamy Chevre. tangerine marmalade / whole wheat cracker. Small but delicious on the toasts.
1976 Maison Sichel Niersteiner Rehbach Riesling beerenauslese. agavin 94. Yummy sweet stuff.
1986 Château Filhot Comtesse Durieu de Lacarelle. Nicely mellowed.
Toasted Meringue Gelato. grated candied yolk. This tasted like sweet cream with a dusting of salty eggy goodness. It was mild, creamy, and absolutely stunning. I ate two.
We had a few glasses for 6 people!
Overall, not only was this a great meal with great friend (and wine), but Kevin’s food was really bang up fabulous. He’s always been a very talented chef but it seems to me (and I’ll have to try more dishes — oh, poor me) that he’s really polished up the details. Perhaps it’s having his own kitchen, but execution was really on point for each dish. There are comfortable but slightly unusual flavor pairings — and they all worked — which gives a lively freshness to the cooking. His concept was Michelin food in a casual setting, and Kali really seems to be delivering.
Service was great. We felt like family.
Really great stuff. Bravo Kevin and Drew!
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