Location: 633 W 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071
Date: October 26, 2018
Cuisine: New American
Rating: Awesome in all ways
71Above is one of my favorite LA restaurants and I’ve been many times. Today the location plays host to a special aged Cabernet Sauvignon lunch with our Sauvages group with a special menu prepared by chef Vartan Abgaryan and a number of guest chefs.
Besides being located on the 71st floor (950 feet up!) of the US Bank building, being the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi, and showcasing the food of Chef Vartan Abgaryan, it’s owned and operated by my friend Emil Eyvazoff!
Our special menu, designed custom by Emil and Vartan.
2016 Domaine Pernot-Bélicard Beaune 1er Cru Pertuisots Blanc. 90 points.
1995 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Cuvée CH. JG 94. The 1995 Kalin Cellars “Cuvée CH” Chardonnay is a beautiful bottle of wine that has reached its apogee of maturity, wafting from the glass in a pure and classy bouquet of pear, a touch of passion fruit, delicate notes of browned butter, hazelnuts, beautiful, salty soil tones, gentle smokiness and a very deft framing of new oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, focused and perfectly balanced, with a fine core of fruit, bright framing acids, lovely complexity and a long, vibrant and very classy finish. A beautiful example sourced from the Charles Heinz vineyard, the 1995 Kalin Cuvée CH is at its apogee today, but will have no trouble cruising along for many years to come.
Amazing bread and butter.
2003 Peter Michael Chardonnay Ma Belle-Fille. VM 90+. Deeply pitched aromas of dried apricot, baked apple and vanillin oak, with a suggestion of tropical fruits. Broad and dry in the middle palate and not yet expressing itself. A bit edgy and phenolic on the finish, with slightly aggressive alcohol. Morlet says this is better than the 2002, but today it’s very closed.
Roasted Okinawan Potato. Za’atar, pomegranate, lebneh, lime. Super bright and zesty with nice Mediterranean flavors.
1968 Inglenook Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t know exactly which bottling.
1973 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County. VM 94. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County is a real oddity. Not to be confused with the more famous 1973 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the Sonoma County is a different wine, but very much compelling in its own right. Still remarkably fresh and beautifully layered in the glass, the 1973 impresses for its brightness and purity. Sweet red berries, crushed flowers and savory herbs add naunce on the sculpted finish. What a revelation this is.
1975 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection. 88 points.
Steak Tartare. Red onion, ginger, lime, toasted rice, mint, potato chips.
1981 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection. 92 points. Impeccable, almost unbelievable bottle condition. Cork looked brand new, with the penetration of a wine that was 2 years old, not 36 or 37… Caymus was misprinted on the cork and chants of “Rudy!” ensued….we started to wonder if this was fake. Lovely old California, with soft woody notes, and black tea.
1984 Sullivan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Rutherford.
1984 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23. 95 points. Aromas of candied cherry, funk, earth and dried blackberry. Still quite young on the palate with flavors of cherry, dried blackberry, earth and a touch of mint. Ends with a big fruit filled finish of 40 seconds. A great bottle of wine.
Agnolotti. Cacio e pepe with puffs of delicate cheese inside. I could have eaten 6 plates of these!
1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Buckeye Vineyard.
1995 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley. VM 87. Full ruby-red. Crushed blackberry, bitter cherry, dark chocolate, licorice and oak spice on the nose. Bright, intensely flavored and juicy, with penetrating fruit and hints of leather and fresh herbs. But rather small in scale, finishing with decent length and a faint greenness.
1996 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Gravelly Meadow. VM 89-92. Very good deep ruby color. Penetrating nose of cassis, minerals and violet; offers an almost sappy sweetness. Fat and sweet in the mouth, with nicely integrated acids and a lively hint of mint. Finishes with rather suave, tongue-coating tannins. Very nicely balanced and stuffed with fruit.
1996 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Red Rock Terrace. VM 87-89. Deep ruby. Aromas of spicy, crystallized dark berries. Supple and lush, with good concentration and enticing sweetness. Minerally suggestion of graphite. Finishes with dusty, even tannins and a slightly edgy quality. An expressive wine that should give early pleasure.
Young chicken. Smoked eggplant, za’atar, olive, pickled raisin, walnut basil.
1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate. VM 93. Bright, dark red with ruby tones. Mellow aromas of currant, raspberry, smoke, spices and earth, complemented by sexy oak-spicy perfume and emerging notes of leather and pungent minerality. Utterly pliant and fine-grained, with inviting currant and cherry fruit accented by fresh herbs, menthol and licorice. Like a traditional Médoc wine in the way its subtle green components add complexity and lift. This energetic midweight spreads out to saturate the entire palate with a fine dusting of serious tannins. Very strong juice!
1997 A. Rafanelli Cabernet Sauvignon Terrace Select. 95 points.
1998 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain. VM 97. Ironically, the 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain from a much weaker vintage than 1997 on paper, is a much more interesting wine. Huge and explosive on the palate, the 1998 boasts serious depth and concentration. Iron, smoke, anise and dark red/blackish fruit all swirl around in the glass in a striking, nuanced Cabernet that is among the wines of the year in Napa Valley. If there is a dark horse in this tasting, the 1998 is it. Beautiful.
1999 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 93. Bright, saturated medium ruby. Very ripe, sweet, aromatic nose combines bitter cherry, currant, chocolate, espresso, baking spices and licorice. Expansive, sweet and mouthfilling; almost shockingly large-scaled for this wine. Velvety and seamless, with ripe acids giving the wine shape. Subtle notes of currant leaf, maple syrup and game. Finishes rich and long, with sweet tannins. Seems riper and more textured than recent vintages of this wine. After 24 hours in the recorked bottle, this showed cassis and bitter chocolate flavors, an even firmer structure and compelling sweetness.
Pork. Parsnip puree, charred shishitos, grapes, tarragon.
Emil just “had” to have some steak too, so some hanger steak.
2018 Valdespino Manzanilla Deliciosa en Rama. Very dry sherry — not my thing despite the fact that I LOVE PX.
Cheese. Domestic selections with seasonal accompaniments.
Bread for said cheese.
Wine with a view.
My bad notes.
Half the gang.
And the other half.
Left to right: Emil, chef Vartan, and one of his assistant chefs.
Sommelier Catherine Morel with Albert in foreground photobomb.
The view of Glendale.
Overall, 71Above is just a seriously well conceived and executed one-of-a-kind restaurant. Really, it’s more like a NY, Singapore, or Tokyo kind of concept. First of all, the view is just awesome. I can’t wait to come back on a really clear day. Particularly once they begin brunch service, a nice winter day will offer an observation deck like panorama.
But then Emil and crew built out such a lovely space to capture the drama. It’s modern, but welcoming. Not too loud, you can here the conversation and the music both. And from when you enter off the double elevator ascent it folds from one experience to another: lounge, dining room, more intimate corridors, chef table, quiet and romantic view areas in the back, and a series of two adjustable private dining rooms. The attention to architectural detail is amazing.
Today’s lunch excelled on all counts. Service, food, company, and of course — despite the fact that I don’t really love California wine — the wines. It’s clear that past about 30 years these wines were really nice. The 80s in particular are in a really sweet spot. Too bad so many of them now are made in the giant extracted style.