Location: 6001 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 466-8812
Date: August 2, 2017
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. Wednesday during summer is always tomato night, so tonight’s tasting menu is heavily tomato focused.
NV Jérôme Prévost Champagne La Closerie Extra Brut Les Beguines. VM 94. A more than worthy follow up to the spectacular 2009, the Jérôme Prévost’s NV (2010) Brut Nature Les Beguines, is stellar. Bright, clean and focused, the 2010 stands out for its delineation and energy. Some of the more slightly oxidative overtones that are often found in the Beguines are absent, at least today. Instead, the 2010 is all about mineral-infused cut. Both bottles I have tasted so far have been outstanding. Prévost describes 2010 as a very difficult year with significant disease pressure. I am not sure how he did it, but the 2010 Les Beguines is fabulous. Cellaring for another few years will only help, but the truth is that this is am impossible wine to resist today.
NV In Florescence Champagne Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut. 90 points. Not a formula Champagne. Small medium quantity bubbles. High quality. Golden yellow color. Enjoyable with or without food. A bit pricey but special.
Tomato “sushi.” Slices of heirloom tomato on Italian rice.
1989 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. BH 88. The nose offers lovely complexity followed by precise, somewhat angular flavors that unfortunately lack mid-palate density. The finish is also distressingly short and while this could still use some time to resolve itself fully, the absence of sufficient sève does not bode well for significant future improvement. In sum, this is perfectly good but hardly special.
From my cellar: 2012 Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. VM 93+. Light orange-yellow. Forward but racy aromas of tangerine, ginger, white flowers, sweet spices and medicinal herbs on the complex nose. Rich and round, but with lovely acid lift and energy to the concentrated flavors of apricot, pear and botanical herbs. Finishes long and pure. Not the most concentrated young Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Valentini, but has a rich, ripe seamless personality that is hard to resist. Good to go right now but ought to age for 15 years at least. Really lovely wine.
2006 Remoissenet Père et Fils Bâtard-Montrachet. BR 90. As a contrast to the Bienvenues, the Bâtard has deeper but much tighter aromas. In the mouth likewise, it’s hiding it’s complexity. If there is one area where this pulls rank, it is the intensity of the mid-plate, but overall this is showing in a very tight way so gives an ‘easy win’ to the Bienvenues for drinking today.
Yellowtail sashimi with, you guessed it, tomato!
1999 Maison Leroy Bourgogne. BH 85. An expressive and nicely complex nose that is now beginning to turn to secondary with earth and subtle spice nuances that complement rich, round and sweet flavors that offer good punch and while this will be capable of additional aging, it is essentially ready now despite the still moderately firm finishing tannins.
1996 Domaine Denis Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Corbeaux Vieilles Vignes. BH 88. Old vines intensity shows beautifully elegant and pure Gevrey fruit mixed with intense earth notes which lead to very rich, delineated and exquisitely long flavors. This is not an especially big or concentrated wine but it is classic Bachelet in that it is perfectly balanced.
Fresh sardine, red peppers, and tomato.
Erick brought: 1983 Domaine Jean Gros Richebourg. 96 points. Very bright, no sign of rot, very powerful but not heavy, silky texture, great length. A wonderful complex Richebourg which could last for ages but drinks well now.
1993 Jean-Pierre Mugneret Echezeaux. 92 points. Medium red color – no bricking. PNP, drank 1 glass over an hour plus. This was the second time having the pleasure to drink this beauty in a short time. This bottle was just as good as the last IMO. Just great nose, so complex, earthy, funk, horse, so much forest floor here, rose, some metals, and deep red fruits. and spices The palate has great minerality, metals, savory, sauvage, spices, horse, deep red fruits, well integrated.
From my cellar: 2002 Gros Frère et Sœur Richebourg. VM 95. Medium red. Highly perfumed, ineffably complex aromas of strawberry, currant, bacon fat, cocoa powder, gunflint, coffee and smoked meat. Dense, sappy and wonderfully intense, with exhilarating flavors of smoked meat, spices, minerals and underbrush. Conveys a powerful impression of soil tones. Builds almost freakishly on the back end, finishing with a kick of spice and a flavor of pink peppercorn. A wonderfully suave, extremely long Richebourg that offers great early appeal but has the spine to develop in bottle for 10 or 15 years.
Tomato, pork, and rapini pasta on the left. Ravioli in a candy-shaped twist-shape on the right — fresh tomato sauce.
1994 Gaja Barbaresco. 91 points. brillant red color , red fruits and spices , after half hour also come the coffee and chocolate . On the palate is round with smooth but still perceptible tannins , it seem younger , great and vibrant acidity .
1998 Gaja Barbaresco. VM 91. Good deep medium red. Deeply pitched aromas of plum, mocha, licorice and dried flowers. Dense and chewy with extract; compelling, sweet flavors of currant and licorice. Tannins are sweeter than those of the ’99 Barbaresco. Finishes with a suggestion of nutty oak.
Swordfish with tomato puree.
2000 Domenico Clerico Barolo Percristina. VM 90. The 2000 Barolo Percristina has held up well. It shows considerable freshness in its dark red fruit, leather, licorice and sweet spices. The French oak remains very much present. It’s hard to see the fruit lasting long enough for the oak to every truly integrate.
Octopus with squid ink and tomato.
1977 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. 94 points. The 1977 Montepulciano from Emidio Pepe is absolutely stunning and at its peak of brilliance at age thirty-seven, soaring from the glass in a magical aromatic blend of red and black cherries, wild fennel, botanicals, a touch of discreet tariness, roasted pigeon, a dollop of menthol and a topnote of woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and exquisitely balanced, with a rock solid core, still a bit of remaining, buried tannin, great interplay of bitter and sweet and stunning length and grip on the resolved and still very vibrant finish. A great wine that is absolutely à point today.
1983 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. 95 points. The 1983 and 1985 vintages from Emidio Pepe make great bookends, as both wines are fully mature and drinking at their peaks today. The ’85 is perhaps a touch more elegant, with the ’83 a shade deeper at the core and a bit more structured for the long haul. The stunning nose of the 1983 offers up scents of red berries, forest floor, botanicals, lovely spice tones, a fine base of soil, an autumnal touch of acorn, dried herbs and a topnote of spices meats. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, pure and complex, with a fine core, tangy acids, beautiful balance and a very, very long, poised and classy finish that closes with excellent grip and bounce. Another absolutely classic vintage for the Pepe Montepulciano.
1988 Château Rieussec. VM 90. Deep, oaky aromas of honey, coconut, vanilla and creme brulee Sweet and plump in the mouth; the flavors of coconut and tropical fruit are initially dominated by spicy oak notes. Finishes with slight heat (the alcohol is a relatively high 14.7%) but also excellent persistence of flavor. This showed more development of flavor as it opened in the glass.
Some gelati I made and brought from home: Cioccolato e Vaniglia Fiorentina “Old Fashioned” Gelati – a pair designed together with a shared double entendre. The vanilla is from a 500+ year old recipe, milk steeped with vanilla and orange peel. The chocolate is made with 100% Valrhona cacao and infused with Knob Creek bourbon and Angostura bitters.
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.
Now I’m not normally a huge raw tomato fan, but I actually managed to eat and enjoy all these dishes which is a testament to how good Sal’s cooking is.