Restaurant: Laurent Quenioux [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: Near Pasadena
Date: November 30, 2017
Cuisine: Modern French
Six and a half years ago Foodie Club co-organizer Erick and I put together one of our more legendary dinners, the Bistro LQ Trufflumpagus. And then two years we did it again! Now yet again, but with a slightly more dish oriented, less truffle emphasis.
Chef Laurent Quenioux grew up in Sologne, France, where he developed a passion for food. As a young boy, Quenioux and his father would hunt duck, partridge, and rabbit. Then, he and his mother would prepare her favorite recipes in the kitchen. Eventually, Quenioux left home to embark on an apprenticeship where he trained in some of Europe’s finest kitchens. Quenioux spent time at Maxim’s, Bistro De Paris and La Ciboulette in Paris, before moving on to Negresco in Nice and LaBonne Auberge in Antibe.
In the early 1980s, Quenioux made a move to the United States with a team from L‘Oasis at La Napoule to open The Regency Club in Los Angeles. In 1985, he introduced the celebrated and award-winning 7th Street Bistro in downtown Los Angeles. In the early 2000s, Quenioux debuted the cozy Bistro K in Pasadena and in 2009, Bistro LQ in Beverly Hills. At Bistro LQ, Quenioux set new standards for cuisine in Southern California with his Farmer’s Market-driven kitchen and an emphasis on value and fun.
We are back at Quenioux’s house, but this time inside in the dining room.
Tonight’s special menu. Slightly fewer dishes than our last 2 visits, but more emphasis on each dish.
From my cellar: NV Drappier Champagne Rosé Brut Nature Dosage Zero. VM 90. Pale orange. Mineral-accented red berries and citrus fruits on the nose, complemented by hints of candied rose and white pepper. Stony and precise, offering lively strawberry and orange zest flavors that expand slowly with air. Closes spicy, stony and tight, with very good clarity and floral persistence.
A little toasted bread and some flavored butters. Breads by “Bread Lounge”. Butter from Bordier Brittany France.
One of LQ’s assistants introduces the courses.
1993 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. VM 94. Among the wines of the 1990s, I especially liked the 1993 Dom Ruinart, which was beautiful, especially considering this was an original disgorgement. Layers of honeyed fruit, licorice and mint were woven together in a captivating fabric. We also caught this wine at near peak, as it was firing on all cylinders. What a beautiful wine.
1979 Drappier Champagne Carte d’Or Brut. VM 92. Pale copper color. Mature, enticing aromas of meal, toffee, brioche and melted butter. Creamy, toasty and soft on the palate; completely resolved and best suited for near-term drinking. Lacks real grip and verve but offers lovely ripeness and good depth of flavor.
Chanterelles. Chanterelles Crudo, Santa Barbara Uni, Yuzu ranch dressing, wild hare gelee, arugula, Alba white truffle.
2005 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montmains. VM 92. Pale, bright yellow. Broad aromas of citrus fruits, butter, toasted bread and minerals. Rich, ripe and nicely concentrated, with sexy stone fruit flavors nicely framed by harmonious acidity. Full and pliant but not at all heavy thanks to its lingering aftertaste of dusty minerality. A superb showing today.
2002 Peter Michael Chardonnay Point Rouge. VM 95+. Hints of superripe fruit along with lemon and coconut on the very reticent nose. Huge, sappy and solid; again, this has the body and deep core of fruit of a Burgundy grand cru. Superripe pineapple flavor is brightened by solid, harmonious acidity. Shows extraordinary expansion on the back half, finishing with exotic pineapple flavor and great persistence. “We had so many great barrels to choose from,” noted Morlet, who eventually selected just 11. The wine represents four different barrel types; 10 of the 11 barrels were new.
2008 Villa Mt. Eden Chardonnay Grand Réserve. 91 points. solid Californian Chardonnay, full of fruit, spices, soft tannins, long aftertaste
Caviar. Cannabis Santa Barbara Petit Gris Snails Raviolis. Caviar de Sologne, Alba White Truffle Nage. The snails inside had apparently been fed on cannabis. Any which way it was an amazing dish.
From my cellar: 1988 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. JG 94. The 1988 Corton-Charlemagne from Bonneau du Martray is a superb example of the vintage and it remains at its pinnacle of peak maturity as it closes in on its thirtieth birthday. The bouquet delivers a superb, complex blend of apple, pear, a touch of fresh nutmeg, chalky soil tones, beeswax and a discreet base of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and absolutely à point, with a fine core of fruit, superb soil signature, bright acids and a very long, complex and utterly refined finish. Great juice with decades of life still to come.
2010 Faiveley Corton-Charlemagne. VM 95+. Palish bright yellow. Tight, vibrant nose offers white peach, pineapple, nut oils and brown spices. Juicy and sweet but kept under wraps today by powerful acidity. Still, this remarkably intense wine does not come across as austere owing the full ripeness of the fruit. Wonderfully classy Corton-Charlemagne with a penetrating, dusty, extremely long finish. This held up brilliantly in the recorked bottle. I suspect this wine will shut down in the next couple years.
Live Diver Scallops. Truffle Chawan Mushi, diver scallop, lardo, enoki, shiso buds. Under the scallop was a light Asian-style egg custard. The lardo added that extra punch of flavor. Great dish.
From my cellar: 2004 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 92-94. This is aromatically quite reserved with only trace amount of wood influence visible on the white flower and spiced pear suffused nose that carries into the rich, robust and powerful flavors that possess real size, weight and punch and this too displays a wonderful sense of purity and finishing linearity plus there is more minerality than one usually sees in the typical Bâtard.
From my cellar: 2006 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 90. A very ripe nose of honeysuckle and citrus blossom is trimmed in a very discreet touch of brioche that precedes rich, full, intense and less elegant flavors than I’m used to seeing but there is ample volume, dry extract and mid-palate fat that culminate in a better balanced and longer finish.
Spiny Lobster. Braised endive, jamon iberico de bellota, Alba white truffle soubise, spiny lobster. The lobster was great and the jamon wrapped thing delicious — but very salty.
From my cellar: 1994 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia. 91 points. Right out of the gate, got ripe, sweet yellow fruits on the nose along with plenty of wood and vanilla, some wax and oxidation notes. With time got some honey but more white flowers. After three hours all wood and oxidation notes was long gone, and nose seemed overall more muted. Quite fresh and smooth in the mouth. Foremost sweet, yellow fruits, a bit more dry fruits and some spices towards the finish. Pretty good concentration, though somewhat hollow on the mid palate. Medium ++ lenght. I was on 92p early on, later more a solid 91. Should have no trouble taking time in the cellar. That should do only good. At least 5-6 years.
2006 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc De L’Orée. VM 94. Deep gold. Remarkably pure peach, apricot, citrus honey and hazelnut aromas pack a huge punch, with lime and dusty minerality adding verve. Equally rich on the palate, with the pit fruit and honey qualities repeating and a whack of bitter quinine adding focus. Poses richness and weight against vivacity, finishing with superb clarity and clinging sweetness. Can’t get this off the palate.
Wild Turbot. Squid ink tuille, pea greens, truffle sabayon, chioggia beets, fennel. I’m not normally a white fish fan but this was a superb dish. One of 2-3 best of the night. The truffle butter sabayon was killer.
1995 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos Windsbuhl. 90 points. Complex aromas of papaya, pink grapefruit, banana, nutmeg, and rubber. Off-dry, but by no means sweet. Rather austere, really, with acidity and bitterness at the fore. This wine has excellent balance and power, though the flavor profile isn’t immediately delicious. The kind of a wine a sommelier would like more than an everyday wine drinker.
Foie Gras. Truffle celery root, cauliflower, quince risotto, seared foie gras, cacao nibs. My dish of the night. Incredible foie and the cauliflower “risotto” was incredible.
agavin: unfortunately badly corked.
From my cellar: 1995 Domaine Anne Gros Clos Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui. BH 91. Nice complex, still primary nose and refined, almost silky, very rich flavors with an edgy, slightly tannic finish. This offers better balance than the ’95 Richebourg as the fruit/concentration/tannin balance is superior. This is still very young and should continue to improve though it can be approached now with the right food.
1996 Louis Jadot Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. VM 94+. Bright red-ruby. Incredible nose combines blackberry, black raspberry, fraise des bois, gingerbread, mocha, soy sauce, cocoa powder, iris and sealing wax. Like liquid silk on entry, with extraordinary sweetness, but extremely vibrant and youthful. Then toughens up in the middle palate. Like the Chapelle, this has been concentrated by a rather substantial saignee, but this does not have quite the early balance of that wine. Very backward but explosively long on the finish, with firm tannins covering the entire mouth. Should be very long-lived, and among the wines of the vintage.
Wild Goose. Date cumin puree, persimmon chips, huckleberry infusion, crosnes, peppercorn.
1994 Guigal. Cote Rotie la Turque. RP 96-98. 1994 appears to be another great vintage for Guigal’s La Turque. It is already amazingly sexy, with a sweet, creamy texture, a dark ruby/purple color, fabulous ripeness, and a layered inner core of sweet juice packed with extract, glycerin, and flavor. It should drink well young and keep for 12-15 years. Last tasted 6/96.
Bellota Loin Cassoulet, iberico de Bellota loin, Tarbais beans, Toulouse sausage, “Cassoulet Style.” Another standout dish. Really awesome pork and beans stew.
The chef himself, Laurent Quenioux.
1994 Bodegas Alejandro Fernández Ribera del Duero Janus Gran Reserva Pesquera. 93 points. 23 years old and it has plenty of fruit and tannic grip. Cherry, cedar and tobacco, lots of ripe cherry. Beautiful from attack to finish, nice long finish and a nice acidity.
Coturnix Quail. Fresh Quail from Vermont light fried. Braised cipollini, spicy Tokyo turnips pico de gallo, sweet onion jus & liver emulsion.
With the liver sauce.
1994 Vega Sicilia. Único. RP 98. The 1994 Unico is a blend of 80% Tinto Fino, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot (presumably 2% is unknown varieties) that was picked from September 28. It is very intense with notes of raspberry, wild strawberry and mulberry with sensational minerality and vigor. There is a Margaux-like florality to the 1994 that blossom with aeration. The palate is rounded and supple on the entry with great weight and backbone. There is real substance here, similar to the 1996. It expands in the mouth with ravishing notes of blackberry, strawberry, citrus lemon, orange peel and a touch of cedar. There is enormous weight on the finish, a behemoth of a Unico. This is very potent, but it still requires several years in bottle. 96,280 bottles produced. Drink 2019-2040.
1989 Vega Sicilia. Único. RP 93-98. The 1989 Unico, a blend of 80% Tinto Fino and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon picked early from 30th September, has a gorgeous, minty bouquet with blackberry, a touch of blueberry, crushed violets and a little strawberry jam. It blossoms with aeration in the glass. The palate is smooth and rounded on the entry: caressing and voluminous in the mouth. The fruit is very pure with notes of strawberry, Tiptree raspberry jam, marmalade and quince. It has great weight towards the finish with orange cordial and a hint of mango. However, it does not have the tension or focus of the 1994 or the 1996. 105,860 bottles produced. Drink now-2035.
Rib Eye Cap. SRF Rib Eye Cap Served Rare. Alba White Truffle mash potatoes, porcini ragu, passion fruit.
2000 Château d’Yquem. RJ 93. Medium golden color; botrytis, ripe apricot, baked pear nose; intense, concentrated, silky textured, baked apple, baked apricot, lemon cream, honey palate with medium acidity; long finish
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. Pale orange. High-pitched red berry, orange zest and jasmine aromas, with suave mineral and smoky lees notes adding complexity. Spicy and precise on the palate, showing very good punch to its strawberry and bitter cherry flavors. Opens up smoothly with air and picks up a bitter rhubarb quality that lingers onto the long, tightly focused finish. This bottling showed more brawny character than many past renditions of this <em>cuvée</em>, but with no lack of vivacity.
Baba. Geranium griotte sirup, pistachio mascarpone creme fraiche, chocolate ganache. Awesome chocolate nut flavor.
Apple Gratin hazelnut praline rose. Red kuri ice cream, muscadine grapes. A nice modernized tart.
Overall, this was just a stunning meal on all levels and one of the best of the year.
The atmosphere was great. A nice private room — truly private and actually quiet (except for us). LQ’s team provided great service (we mostly did the wine service but we are used to that). Walker was busy posing as sommelier. Wines were very good. I prefer these full arrangement of wines where we have a broad range of types across the meal.
And the food was just stellar. The foie, the the custard, the ravioli, the turbot, and the cassoulet were all standouts and amazing. I’ll remember them for years!