Restaurant: Kali [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]
Location: 5722 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 871-4160
Date: December 1, 2016
Cuisine: New American French
Rating: Better every time!
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 transitioned into the more stationary, and possibly more hectic restaurant world by opening up his own Melrose Ave restaurant! This is our third Foodie Club visit.
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.
And the cool meat larder — pig head and all.
2004 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 96. I am thrilled with the way the 2004 Comtes de Champagne continues to evolve in bottle. A few years ago, the 2004 was quite focused and linear, in the style of the vintage, but more recently, the wine has begun to fill out beautifully. The 2004 remains bright, with a full range of citrus, white flower and mineral nuances that dance on the palate. A brisk, saline-infused finish rounds things out beautifully in a Comtes that impresses for its crystalline purity. I expect the 2004 will always remain a bit cool next to the more opulent 2002, but it is still drop-dead gorgeous.
A delicious cracker/cookie and cheese sandwich.
1999 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 92+. A mineral bath of a nose, with bright lemon and lime fruit notes. Youthfully austere, penetrating and sharply delineated; strong minerality currently dominates lemon and white grapefruit flavors. Bracing, near-painful finish features superb length and grip.
Live octopus — it was still twitching.
Then it was cut up into bits and tossed with tangy marinate. Chewy, but delicious.
2015 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé. VM 93. Pale orange. Lively, expansive citrus pith and red currant aromas are complemented by suggestions of chalky minerals and white flowers. Sappy, concentrated and precise, offering palate-staining red berry and blood orange flavors and a hint of spicy white pepper. Shows excellent thrust and persistence on the mineral-driven finish, which emphatically echoes the floral and citrus fruit qualities. I’m impressed by the way this wine balances the opulence of the vintage with vivacity and I suspect it will reward at least another eight or so years of patience — standard behavior for this bottling, which ages more like a red wine than a pink one.
2004 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles. BH 93. A mildly reduced nose features honeysuckle and acacia blossom notes introduces sweet, rich and beautifully complex flavors of impressive purity and vibrancy with brilliant length. A terrific effort that has the hallmark softness of Pucelles while retaining a firm and tangy, indeed almost linear finish that displays more minerality than usual.
With this amazing broth with a rich bisque-like taste.
1993 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens. BH 92. For years the ’93 de Montille Rugiens was impenetrable and it’s still incredibly youthful and in fact, not a great deal has changed except to note that little by little, the wine is gradually emerging from its awkward adolescence with a gorgeous and still primary nose of red and black pinot fruit that reflects obvious mineral notes. The vibrant and firm medium full flavors are impressively complex and are underpinned by firm but integrated tannins that leave the finish with a dusty texture. This will require the better part of the next decade to come around but it should be worth the wait.
Black barely risotto. Black garlic, toasted cheese. A very nice whole grain with a creamy garlic herb vibe.
From my cellar: 1996 Faiveley Corton-Clos des Cortons Faiveley. VM 94. Deep ruby color. Multidimensional aromas of violet, coffee, dried rose, clove, rare steak and seductive oak. Huge and tactile; really implodes in the mouth today. Extremely deep and lush, with the sheer sweetness to buffer its considerable acids and tannins. Oaky. Finishes extremely long, with very fine, tooth-coating tannins. With aeration, some of the baby fat melted away, and the wine’s powerful structure was manifest. Headspinning, old-style Burgundy, and very impressive. One to buy and cellar.
LAMB. parsnip / date / pecan / purlane.
1999 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Echezeaux. 92 points. Complex and mature bouquet with -beside some red fruits- mostly tertiary impressions. Tar, toast, asphalt, gun powder, a bit organic and rustic. On the palate the same special impressions, minerals, volcanic, beautiful acidity, soft tannin and strawberries. Beautiful and very special wine. Drink now or in the next few years is probably a wise thing to do.
2008 Louis Jadot Grands-Echezeaux. VM 93. The 2008 Grands-Echezeaux is wonderfully expressive in its aromas and flavors. Clean, mineral notes frame an attractive melange of sweet red cherries, flowers, licorice and spices in this mid-weight, intensely long Burgundy. This is a classy effort from Jadot.
DUCK BREAST. carrot / coffee / honey / cocoa.
1952 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva. 94 points. Awesome, very Burgundian.
Flannery Beef HANGER STEAK. burnt onion jam / fingerling potato / bitter herb oil.
2005 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart. BH 96. n expressive and very ripe black berry fruit, spice, mocha, fresh coffee and earthy nose is surrounded by a generous blast of new oak that continues onto the rich, full, concentrated, powerful and sweet flavors that possess superb mid-palate density and huge length. This is an extremely rich wine and because of the influence of the wood, the detail that will very likely come with time in bottle has not yet developed but this is so concentrated yet balanced that it’s only a matter of time. This will live for ages and somewhat surprisingly, this is actually approachable now simply because it is so concentrated yet I suspect that when this finally shuts down, it will stay there for the better part of a decade. In a word, fantastic.
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.
One of these hands is the one you want to get slapped with.
CHOCOLATE CREMEUX. mint / cocoa soil / bitter nibs.
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 noted how in my previous visit that he’s really polished the cooking. This trend has continued, because in a few short months things have gone from great to… well greater. I don’t know anyone else in LA that’s doing this kind of ingredient focused cooking and yet nailing it with such bright pure flavors. The dishes have this balanced tension that is very sophisticated and some of them are pretty stand out amazing like the yellowtail, burrata, cod, steak, duck, and gelato — and noticed how I named a LOT of dishes because the percentage of knock outs is very high!
Service was great. We felt like family.
Really great stuff. Bravo Kevin and Drew!