Location: 1331 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021. (213) 553-8006
Date: June 2, 2016
Rating: Some of the best (new?) Italian in the city!
Officine Brera is one of LA’s hottest 2016 openings and I’ve been waiting for an excuse to haul myself Downtown for months. Another modern “rustic” Italian by the team that brought us Factory Kitchen, including master chef Angelo Auriana, plus Brera brings in some new blood in the form of Mirko Paderno who rocked it at Oliverio.
The actual restaurant is behind us, but like many recent hot openings (including Factory Kitchen), Brera is located in the “Arts District”, a bombed out region of DTLA not far from skid row that is rapidly up and coming.
And inside the gigantic warehouse/factory space has been reconfigured with highly attractive duct work. Who would have thought that grungy 70 year-old factory windows could look so good?
Tonight’s special dinner was organized by Sage Society wine guru Liz Lee (left), shown here with Francine Ferdinandi the wine director at Officine and Factory Kitchen. The theme: 1960s Barolo and Barbaresco!
Tonight’s special menu.
1998 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 95. The 1998 Comtes de Champagne is a different story altogether. This is a sexy, up-front Comtes endowed with lovely richness in its fruit and open, expressive aromatics. It remains an impressive, inviting Comtes that should also continue to develop nicely in the bottle for at least another decade plus.
This simple dish of chickpea flour and olive oil is fabulous covered with strong black pepper.
2010 Borgo del Tiglio (Nicola Manferrari) Collio Friulano Ronco della Chiesa. AG 94. Borgo del Tiglio’s 2010 Ronco della Chiesa shows what this hillside site in Cormons can do in cooler vintages. Still bright, focused and intensely saline, the 2010 bursts from the glass with grapefruit, lime, mint and crushed rocks. The 2010 will probably be appreciated most by readers who like tense, vibrant whites. Next to some of the other vintages, the 2010 lacks a little mid-palate pliancy, but it is quite beautiful just the same. I especially like the way the 2010 opens up nicely in the glass over time.
From my cellar: 2010 Paolo Bea Arboreus. 90 points. This is a very special and somewhat odd wine. Very floral and fruity nose with strong apricot and honey notes. On the palate this seems like a different wine with a much drier impression with quite high acidity. This makes the wine seem somewhat confused about what sort of wine it wants to be. This is not objectively speaking a great wine, though it is good, but I just can’t resist the charm of the aromas. 90-91 points, based mainly on the nose.
Porcini Salad. Shaved foraged porcini mushrooms, sunchockes, Grana, Culatello, fried parsley. A wonderful early little “salad” that went better with the cooler more herbal Borgo del Tiglio.
From my cellar: 1964 Gaja Barbaresco. JG 93. Cloudy. At first a little disjointed and flat. An hour or so later lovely, perfume nose. On the palate, this is sweet upfront with a metallic hint. Long finish. Improves in the glass, turning savory and long, richer and sweeter. This is really interesting and enjoyable. Better with food than by itself.
Nastrini al Sugo Divitello. Homemade egg tagliatelle, oxtail veal shoulder sauce, aged reggiano. A wonderful example of traditional braised meat ragu. The meat reduction at the end was to die for.
Risotiata Officine Brera. Carvaroli Arborio Rice, Summer Black Truffle, Fine Herbs, Snail Ragu. Perfectly firm and creamy rice with a really interesting snail center.
1967 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva Antichi Vignetti Propri. 94 points. Gorgeous stuff. I have always really liked 1967 in Piedmont, and this was a great example of the vintage. It had an intriguing nose, starting out earthy and meaty, with a whiff of smoke in here, then showing flecks of exotic spice, like cardamon and cloves, and a little boiled herb, and after some time, sweeter red cherries and flowers. Lovely, complex stuff. It was on the palate where the wine shone though. There was still some richness to the wine, with lovely sweet fruit flavours of red cherries and berries – something that I often associate with the better wines of the vintage; but this was also wed to a wonderful clarity and purity of expression, with a nice transparency underpinning the fruit, so that the wine came across as elegant without being precious about it. After a fine midpalate with a little smoky undertone, the wine then settled into long, gentle finish that started with a twist of black tea and ended in a little kiss of spice and herb. There was just that remnant of masculine structure as well, otherwise, this could well have been confused with a Barbaresco with its sweetness and elegance. A delicious Barolo, seemingly at peak, this was absolutely singing on the night.
1967 Cantina Mascarello Barolo. JG 95. Color was initially pale red, with orange bricking to the rim. darkened considerably as the night went on. Initial mustiness on the nose blew off. Nose was classic barolo- roses, tea, cherries and slightly decaying leaves- waves upon wave. The palate was fantastically alive with a warm velvet texture, pure cherry fruit with considerable elegance and amazing persistence. awesome wine.
From my cellar: 1967 Francesco Rinaldi e Figli Barolo. JG 94. Dried cork that took a bit of effort to extract. There’s a good bit of earth and dirt on the nose, a hint of manure, and some ripe fruit elements. The palate is quite jammy (somehow) with plenty of fruit. This is a pretty big Barolo, even at almost 50 years old. The tannins are still present, and you can feel them quite prominently on the palate. Here’s hoping that the bottle funk will blow off in the time before dinner. (Dinner) This now displays gorgeous ripe red fruit on the nose, with a few light high-toned elements. The palate has a good balance of the same ripe red fruit, earth, and animale. Fully resolved tannins, this is good to go now. I would suggest a half-day decant before consumption. This bottle did clean its act up quite nicely in those few hours.
1961 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo. VM 93. Fascinating. Amazing color. Virtually no browning for a 51 year old wine. Fruit was vibrant and in tact. Earthy bouquet, round and pure on the palate. lengthy and elegant finish. Many years ahead for this wine.
Gianduiotta. Hazelnut choccolate creme, candied nuts. Classic Italian flavors if not the most traditional form factor.
Overall another amazing evening.
Food. The food at Officine is very good. It’s very Italian, with a fairly non Italian “vibe” to the place and a more modern share plates style. Tonight it was particularly on point, individually plated as it was, with each dish being tuned (many off menu) by Chef Angelo himself. This was a different meal in style than my previous visits, with less variety (family style you get more tastes) but more tuned up cuisine. Anyway it was fabulous and I was plenty full.
Service. Service was great and we were treated like family. Wine service in particular is a real standout. Opening and managing all those old Baroli is quiet a chore and Francine spent most of the evening with us.
Atmosphere. I love the big factory look. It’s a little loud, but not as bad as some (Bestia!). We had 8 people in the back where it wasn’t quite as deafening.
Wines. We didn’t have a bad wine tonight. Some a little tannic, one maybe partially “corky” and one a little oxidized. Pretty amazing for 50ish year old Nebbiolo! The pairings were perfect as the cook tasted, chose, and cooked every dish to match!