Restaurant: Marino Ristorante
Location: 6001 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 466-8812
Date: December 14, 2016
Rating: Awesome. One of the best Italian meals I’ve had in LA
Restaurants in Los Angeles are constantly changing, opening, closing etc. One of the recent changes I miss the most was the shuttering of Il Grano — certainly West LA’s best Italian, particularly in the fancy/modern department. I really miss it – as it was one of my favorites and has 9 write ups on the blog (I think the most of any restaurant).
But the amazing chef/owner Sal Marino has relocated (back) to his original family haunt, venerable Marino Ristorante on Melrose and continues to cook up his unique blend of amazing modern Italian. And if anything, he’s gotten even better.
The menu for tonight’s special Foodie Club year end dinner.
1996 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame. VM 95+. Deep, highly complex aromas of citrus skin, nutmeg, porcini mushroom, toasted almond and clove. Rich, dry and impressively deep; superconcentrated and oily. A chewy, spicy Champagne that seemed to grow fresher as it opened in the glass. Really explosive on the aftertaste, finishing with a clinging quality and powerful spicy, nutty flavors. A major mouthful of Champagne, at its best at the dinner table. Displays the combination of high ripeness and high acidity of this vintage at its best. This thick, rich, very powerful wine is still a bit youthfully disorganized and will be even better for a few years of additional aging. One of the standouts of my recent tastings.
Mexicola avocado and Dungeness crab. Eaten skin and all! Like a super fresh Italian California roll.
Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. VM 94. 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. This release is based on the 2005 vintage and was disgorged in winter 2012/2013.
2002 Pol Roger Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 95. Pale gold. Intense, mineral-dominated aromas of candied citrus fruits, pear, anise, smoky lees and chamomile, plus a sexy floral nuance and a hint of sweet butter. Palate-staining orchard and citrus fruit flavors show outstanding depth and energy, picking up chalky mineral and spice notes with air. Strikingly concentrated and precise wine with strong finishing punch and noteworthy persistence. This concentrated, deftly balanced Champagne is built for a long, graceful evolution.
Sawagani – wild river crab. These little fellows were live and scampering in the bowl.
Then flash fried. No longer live, they are eaten as a whole bite and had a touch of spice. Amazing crunch and flavor!
From my cellar: 2010 Borgo del Tiglio (Nicola Manferrari) Collio Friulano Ronco della Chiesa. VM 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.
Nantucket Scallop Crudo, citrus salad. Delicious bright. Awesome pairing.
Buri Crudo. Amazing Italian/Japanese slices of large Buri.
Persimmon & Burrata. Best Persimmon I’ve ever had. Sweet and soft and non of that weird dusty finish. Amazing with the cheese too.
From my cellar: 2001 i Clivi Brazan. 93 points. Geraniums and menthol on the nose. On the palate, pear, apricot, white flowers, and notes of pineapple and lemon on the medium finish, with good acidity. Unlike a previous bottle, this didn’t show any significant oxidation, and it held up well over two days without fading. Well-stored bottles with good corks should be good for at least a few more years.
Hokkaido scallop, sea urchin, caviar. Amazing combo of umami and rich flavors.
1976 Alain Hudelot-Noellat Clos Vougeot. 95 points. Amazing shape for the vintage. Lots of cherry.
1983 Domaine Pothier-Rieusset Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens. 92 points. For a Burgundy that should be over the hill it’s drinking nicely. Crystal clear and very light ruby color. Poured straight from the bottle but with a little glass time it really started to show its stuff. Quite fruity and approachable. Has notes of cranberry cocktail with a twist of lemon.
This was one amazing pizza slice. I could have eaten the whole pie. Super soft (fontina?) cheese.
1996 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart. JK 94. Fairly closed and tight nose of spicy black fruit framed in subtle new wood followed by medium weight, intense, relatively powerful flavors yet the tannins are elegant and quite fine. The overall impression is one of discreet breed and this delivers impressive if not incredible persistence. For the patient.
2003 Domaine Anne Gros Clos Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui. VM 91+. Full red-ruby. Brooding, superripe aromas of medicinal black cherry and cassis. Huge, chewy and backward; boasts impressive flesh and phenolic material but quite closed today, and not particularly sweet. This very rich but youthfully sullen wine finishes with substantial tannic spine. “Jammy but not cooked,” notes Gros.
Black Bass, stinging nettle, dehydrated olives. Great piece of light fluffy bass. As good as bass gets.
1982 Leoville-Las Cases. Parker 95-100. I have had perfect bottles of this cuvee, but, perplexingly, the bottles from my cellar tend to be broodingly backward and require plenty of coaxing. This huge wine is, in many ways, just as massive as Leoville Barton, but it possesses a greater degree of elegance as well as unreal concentration. Classic lead pencil, cassis, kirsch, cedar, and spice characteristics are abundant in both the nose and full-bodied flavors. The tannins are still there, and, at least from my cellar, this 1982 does not appear to have changed much in the last 10-12 years. One wonders how much patience admirers of this brilliant St.-Julien will continue to exhibit. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2050.
From my cellar: 1985 Gaja Barbaresco. ? points. This was stewy and very “mature.” I liked it, but many at the table considered it totally flawed — which it probably was — I just kinda enjoyed it.
Black tagliatelle Lobster. Home made squid ink pasta with chunks of moist lobster. Amazing.
Chef Sal Marino shows off his pasta dough. Eggy!
1998 Azienda Agricola Montevertine Le Pergole Torte Toscana IGT. JG 91. The 1998 Pergole Torte is a bit deeper-pitched and more black fruity than the more vibrant and red fruity 1999, but despite its slightly “cooler” profile, this too will be a fine bottle of wine at its apogee. The nose is deep and complex, as it offers up scents of black cherries, plums, a touch of bitter chocolate, herb tones, road tar, damp earth and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and still quite tannic, with fine focus, a solid core of fruit and very good length and grip on the firm, chewy and well-balanced finish. The 1998 does not possess the same generosity of youthful fruit as the 1999 or even the 2001 for that matter, and hence would be a bit more difficult to drink before it reaches full maturity, but with its sound acids and lovely complexity, it will be a delightful drink once it reaches its peak.
Cassonetti, celery root filled ravioli, black winter truffle.
With the truffle. This was an absolutely amazing pasta. The melt in your mouth shells, and the slick buttery sauce with the truffles. 11 out of 10!
1985 Antinori Solaia Toscana IGT. VM 94. The 1985 Solaia kicks off a flight of Early Classics. I have had the 1985 twice recently and it has always been impressive. It is also very much a wine of its era, which is to say if anything, it is too polished. This was an era in which wines were squeaky-clean. Well-stored bottles still have plenty of fruit although further upside appears to be limited.
1990 Antinori Solaia Toscana . VM 94. Tasted next to so many other great wines, the 1990 Solaia actually suffers a bit. I am sure it would be magnificent on its own, but here it comes comes across as a bit one-dimensional, with less opulence than vintages like 1994 and 1997, but less structure than the 1988 tasted immediately before. Overall, the 1990 is a hugely attractive wine that stops just a touch short of being truly profound.
agavin: both were great, but I liked the 1990 better.
Chicken & Polenta. Local farm polenta and chicken. Super moist and soft. Usually chicken doesn’t have enough flavor to handle this kind of treatment, but this certainly did.
2002 Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana IGT. Parker 94. The 2002 Redigaffi is sweet and balsamic in its expression of jammy plum fruit, elegant and ample on the flow and with an expanding volume, firmness, and grip which should guarantee maximum pleasure for another decade and a half.
Lamb Ossobuco. This was bone sucking good. Super rich, stewed and fatty. Ron and I were literally gnawing on the bones.
Wagyu tagliata, sunchoke, pea tendrils. East meets west version of the New York strip, but with Japanese breed beef. Grilled bread was amazing too.
Sal through in: 2004 San Michele Appiano (St. Michael-Eppan) Sanct Valentin-Comtess Passito. 96 points. Awesome complex sticky.
Panettone. This ain’t your grandmother’s panettone. It was more like bread pudding.
Ramen Roll Gelato, made by me. I brought these in but Sal’s crew plated them. In the front is Macha White, green tea with white chocolate. In the back my amazing Hazelnut Caramel with pure traditional hazelnut (made from Italian Hazelnut Regina paste) and house made caramel.
The normal Marino menu looks great, but is certainly more classic than Sal’s special dinner fare like above. If you like adventurous modern Italian, I’d see if he can do a special tasting menu — likely he’ll be up for it. Or several people could put together something really interesting from the regular menu if they think outside the normal appetizer, entree, dessert box. But it’s with this kind of special dinner — and not to mention the great crew and our awesome wines — that Sal’s cooking really knocks your socks off. He is a nut for detail and ingredients. He grows tons of stuff at home — like over a 100 varieties of heirloom tomato — and really knows how to adapt and pair with wine.
I had a lot of great meals at Il Grano, but this was probably the most on point of all of them. Every dish was pretty much a knock out. Bright fresh ingredients coupled with bright fresh flavors. I’m still dreaming of that truffle Cassonetti.
For more LA dining reviews click here.
Or experience my gluttonous month-long food trips through Italy.
Or more crazy Foodie Club meals.