Restaurant: Ten Raku
Location: 4177 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90020. (213) 380-8382
Date: Oct 21, 2021
Rating: Solid old school KBBQ
The menu has a decent number of options. This is good, sometimes I feel that some Korean places are too focused.
1995 Perrier-Jouët Champagne Cuvée Fleur de Champagne. VM 88+. Strong mousse. Restrained aromas of lemon rind, lime, honeysuckle and chalk. Tightly wound, firm and quite refined; almost hard today and distinctly backward. Finishes long, brisk and dry, with bracing lemony acidity. (I also tasted a far less fresh bottle, which showed tired aromas of apple and pear.) There’s been a change of importer since last year, so ask your merchant for this fall’s shipment. (Allied Domecq Wines U.S.A., Healdsburg, CA)
From my cellar: 2018 Azienda Agricola Valentini Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. VM 92. Bright pink. Minerals, fava beans, pomegranate and violet on the bright nose. Then very harmonious in its acid-fruit-tannin profile, with lively balanced acidity nicely extending the flavors similar to the aromas on the long back end. Strikes me as a rather refined, sneakily concentrated Cerasuolo. (Drink between 2019-2025)
Typical “free” salad.
Spicy pickled cucumber.
My personal favorite the chewy fish cake.
Another spicy something.
Seafood pancake. Egg batter with flour, green onions, belly peppers and octopus served with a soy vinegar dipping sauce.
Fluffy egg soufflé.
Besides beef, Ten Raku specializes in octopus, so of course we had to get some. This is some kind of Jeon Gol, a Korean Stew with octopus and various vegetables and noodles.
It all gets cooked down and then…
Served up like this for some chili flavored deliciousness.
Then they dump a bunch of rice into the broth and fry it up into spicy fried rice (with a lot of flavor).
1994 Château Haut-Brion. VM 93-95. Fabulous smoky, roasted, black fruit and tobacco nose, with a sappy urgency. Like liquid velvet in the mouth; gives a saline impression of extract. Very fresh and bright, with uncanny sweetness. Explosive finishing fruit buries the uncommonly fine tannins. One of the very few ’94s that truly stains the palate.
1996 Château Cos d’Estournel. VM 93. The 1996 Cos d’Estournel has a fragrant, Pauillac-tinged bouquet with the melted tar and graphite leitmotifs that I remarked upon in previous encounters. The palate is medium-bodied with grainy-textured tannin. I feel that the 1996 shows a tad more maturity than a few months ago, with undergrowth and peat-like notes surfacing with aeration and then a dash of white pepper streaking across the finish. However, it evinces fine persistency and embraces the classic tropes of the 1996 vintages. Though not a top tier Cos d’Estournel, it remains an excellent Saint-Estèphe. Tasted at the Cos d’Estournel vertical at the property. (Drink between 2018-2035)
1997 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon. VM 94+. Bright deep ruby. Blackberry, violet, tar, shoe polish and game on the nose, plus a light floral note; at once vibrant and surmuri. Superconcentrated, remarkably intense flavors of crystallized black cherry, cassis and licorice. An extremely persistent wine of noteworthy finesse, yet also one with a powerful structure for aging. One of the standouts of the vintage.
1997 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne. VM 93-95. Full, saturated ruby, by a wide margin the darkest of these ’97s. Spicy, high-pitched aromas of cassis, black cherry, licorice, flint and tar. Densely packed but currently tightly wound and dominated by its structure. Shows a restrained sweetness and complicating hints of leather, flint and tar. More tannic than the Mouline or Turque but here, too, the tannins are quite fine. Very long on the palate. A lovely expression of syrah from a very ripe year.
1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia. VM 94. Full ruby. Supersweet aromas of blackberry, cassis, bitter chocolate, espresso and tobacco. Thick and seamless yet bright and sharply defined. Very long and spicy on the aftertaste, with excellent grip. Sweet tannins coat the teeth. Williams says the selection for Insignia is based on quality and concentration rather than on a particular flavor profile.
1995 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. VM 89. Healthy dark red. Plum, coffee and chicory on the nose. Savory redcurrant fruit is complemented by well-integrated oak notes of coffee and chocolate. With good salinity and energy, there’s nothing heavy about this Cabernet. Finishes with firm, fine-grained tannins that avoid dryness. No easy sweetness but nicely ripe and persistent. À point right now. (Drink between 2016-2020)
1997 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso. VM 94. What a treat it is to taste the 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Pianrosso on this day. Medium-red in color, it offers an expressive, ethereal nose with notes of roses, tar and tobacco that float out of the glass along with soft, perfumed fruit in a delicate, captivating interplay of sensations and aromas. Although this bottle had been decanted for three hours prior to my visit to the estate it nevertheless appeared somewhat closed. Still fresh, it promises to provide memorable drinking for at least another decade although my guess is that the wine’s structure will ultimately outlast the fruit. Regardless, it is utterly irresistible right now. Anticipated maturity (Drink between 2013-2014)
Cold mustardy noodles with beef and veggies. They actually put ice in here that melts.to get it nice and chilled. They are both spicy, tangy, and mustardy.
Korean style beef tartare. Always a great take on beef tartare as it has bits of pear and a sweet and tangy marinate.
Our full spread of uncooked meat! This is the core KBBQ deal.
Spicy bean paste. You can add all the elements and some meat together to make a delicious Korean wrap.
Pork belly on the grill.
And more cooked.
Strawberries & Mascar-Creamy Gelato — A base infused with Mascarpone Cheese then blended with house-made Strawberry Curd — created by me for @sweetmilkgelato — my vain attempts to pipe a pretty decoration on top were uttery foiled by timing –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #cheesecake #mascarpone #cheese #strawberry #cream
This was a fun and solid meal. Some of the beef was a bit too “straight up” for me — aka not marinated — but there were a bunch of interesting extras like the noodles, pancake, and octopus stew. Quality was high. Service good. If you want the classic 80s/90s KBBQ style (ignoring AYCE which I always do as it’s pointless), this is a great place. There are newer glitzier places like Gwang Yang which have a much hipper vibe, but the actual meat isn’t much different.
Our wines were generally great even if there were a couple new worlds in there. Unfortunately one of mine was a bit corked. Sigh.
Location: 3003 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405. (310) 826-4737
Date: October 19, 2021
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi
Rating: First rate omakase
I’ve been going to Shunji for years in its Pico Blvd location but very recently, during the pandemic in fact, he’s moved to a new space over on Ocean Park. So of course we had to go and include him in our Sushi Series of top LA sushi places.
But inside the whole format and layout is totally different. Gone is the bigger space of tables and now there are two extremely elegant rooms with small gorgeous sushi bars. Each space has its own chef, Shunji himself in this case, and the format of the menu has been vastly simplified. No ala carte at all. Just omakase. Which is how I like it.
New Shunji was so new that all the flowery Japanese congratulation signs were still up.
Even the wood of the sushi bar is stunning.
2002 Pierre Péters Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Speciale Blanc de Blancs Les Chetillons. VM 97. The 2002 Brut Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons, the original release and aged on crown seal, is tremendous. Wow. Ample, sweeping and dramatic, the 2002 is utterly captivating. Smoke, graphite, ash, apricot jam and pastry are some of the many nuances that come alive in the glass, with a top note of reduction that is very appealing. On this day, the regular release is just a touch ahead of the Oenothèque. It’s hard to say exactly why that is, but I suspect that the post-disgorgement time is optimal. This is the finest bottle of the 2002 I have ever tasted. Disgorged July 2010. (Drink between 2018-2028)
1996 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. JG98. I had not drunk a bottle of the 1996 Krug in several years, as I had deemed the wine still in climbing mode and I am not generally in the business of drinking Krug before its time. But, a friend recently opened a bottle and I was very impressed with how the wine is evolving in the bottle since its release. The bouquet is now starting to show some lovely secondary layering of complexity in its blend of apple, peach, a touch of sweet walnut, patissière, a refined base of minerality, caraway seed and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine flavors on the attack echo the nose nicely, with the wine’s full-bodied format sporting excellent depth at the core, still plenty of the vintage’s snappy acidity, great focus and grip and a very, very long and utterly refined finish. Though this remains quite racy structurally, I really like the point it has reached in terms of aromatic and flavor complexity and it is really not a crime to be opening bottles up at this point in its evolution, though it still has room to grow with further bottle age. A great, great vintage of Krug. (Drink between 2019-2060)
Vegetable purée. Uni caviar. Egg. This wasn’t one of my favorite dishes as it had a very distinct “Shunji” vegetal taste. Sort of a mellow carby flavor that distracted a bit from the uni/caviar.
Matsutaki mushroom Faux Chawanmushi. Winter melon. Eggs. King crab.
Halibut sashimi. Sauce of sake and salt. Shredded Plum. Very mild “salty” taste.
King mackerel. Seared skin side. Smoked with green tea. With sea salt and wasabi.
1999 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. VM 93. Bright, pale golden yellow. Pure but subdued nose shows sexy floral, truffle and balsamic hints, plus a hint of mocha. Juicy and delineated more than thick on the palate, with its strong citrus and floral flavors given cut and lift by brisk acidity. Boasts terrific energy for a 20-year-old white wine. Quite penetrating and long on the aftertaste, dominated by citrus fruits. Perhaps not quite as complex as the ’00 but this wine offers broader appeal. (the yield in ’99 was 60 hectoliters per hectare) (Drink between 2019-2028)
2008 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. VM 96. Bright yellow with a green tinge. Classic Montée de Tonnerre aromas of lemon ice, crushed rock, iodiney minerality and white flowers. floral, lemon ice, straight and classic. Tactile, juicy and utterly gripping–in fact still almost painful today. Powerful salty minerality and penetrating acidity currently dominate the wine’s lemon oil, grapefruit and floral flavors, with the wine showing a weightless impression. The dusty mineral-driven finish stains the palate and builds inexorably. (When I first tasted this wine from the barrel, I suggested that it might be the longest Chablis premier cru of the vintage.) Drink the 2010 for lunch now but hold this magical wine for another couple years, as its spring is still tightly coiled. This was my favorite wine of the tasting. The 2014 and 2010 vintages may be richer and deeper, as Isabelle Raveneau suggested to me three years ago, but this ’08 is utterly classic. (12.69% alcohol; 3.14 pH; 4.4 g/l acidity; the days were sunny but the nights were quite chilly during the relatively early harvest of 2008, which concentrated the sugars and acidity, noted Isabelle Raveneau) (Drink between 2021-2042)
Fall bonito. Nori.
Shunji at work.
Abalone sushi with liver sauce.
2006 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot. VM 96+. Full yellow. Broad, deep and initially quite closed on the nose, this opened to show white peach, crushed stone, and fresh hazelnut and almond. Then powerful, vibrant and palate-staining, with terrific cut to the flavors of white peach, lemon, liquid stone and white flowers. Wonderfully tactile wine with an almost painful intensity. Finishes with superb cut and length. This has only 3.8 grams of acidity yet conveys outstanding balance and verve. “If we had allowed the malolactic fermentation to finish, the wine would have ended up with less than three grams of acid,” Lardiere observed. A great 2006.
2006 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 94. Aromas of white peach and crushed stone. Sweet, dense and powerful, with strong minerality giving it a strong sappy quality. The ripeness here is almost exotic, and yet this very sweet, long wine comes off as young today. I’d wait four years. Interestingly, winemaker Philippe Prost believes that the ’06s are both riper and more primary than the saline, creamy ’05s, and that they need a bit more time in bottle than the earlier set of wines.
Sweet white miso soup with shrimp in two textures and yuzu. Lotus root for crunch.
2008 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 94. An almost completely inexpressive but relatively high-toned nose of lemon rind, acacia blossom, ripe peach and apricot gives way to almost painfully intense full-bodied and overtly muscular flavors that offer exceptional richness on the magnificently long, mouth coating and palate staining finish that is wrapped around a very firm core of ripe acidity. Chez Pernot, I typically prefer the Bienvenues but as good as it is, and it is very good, in 2008 I give the nod to the Bâtard, if only by a nose, no pun intended. (Drink starting 2016)
Monkfish liver “pate” with toast.
Prepping for the sushi.
Shima aji (Japanese Mackerel).
Blue fin tuna.
Shirako with uni rice.
Wild yellowtail from Hokaido, 10 day aged.
Salmon Eggs (Ikura).
Artsy Japanese ceramics.
Sweet shrimp cured with kelp and dusted with botarga.
Eel. Super soft. Nice Japanese flavor.
Enoki mushroom miso.
Japanese Pears and Grapes.
Roasted Tea Ice Cream.
The wine lineup.
All and all Shunji is rather fantastic, easily in the large repertoire of top LA sushi restaurants. His move to the new location and increased focus on omakase has only improved his already great food. The meal is much more precise and orchestrated now with a natural progression of different techniques and seasonal ingredients. His very fine nigiri continues to shine. Just plain excellent.
And the whole setting is much more pleasant and calm without the bevy of tables behind you.
Location: 1553 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024. (424) 832-7284
Date: October 16, 2021
Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi
Rating: Great neighborhood sushi
At one of our endless expensive sushi places Joe and Bonnie insisted that we try Asuka, which is a Westwood “local” or neighborhood sushi place they feel has really good quality. So of course we took them up on the offer.
2002 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut. VM 99. The 2002 Cristal is now entering its first plateau of maturity, which makes it a terrific Champagne for drinking now. Hints of apricot, brioche, lemon confit, honey, hazelnut, baked apple tart and spice give the 2002 striking layers of nuance. Rich and generous, the 2002 show plenty of the natural opulence of the year and yet retains terrific freshness as well. As always, Cristal is a blend of Pinot from Ay, Verzenay, Verzy and Beaumont sur Vesle, and Chardonnay from Mesnil, Cramant and Oger. Dosage is 9 grams per liter. This is the original 2010 disgorgement. What a wine. (Drink between 2019-2039)
2005 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut. VM 94. Bright yellow-gold. Heady floral-accented citrus and orchard fruits on the nose, with smoky mineral and floral overtones adding complexity. Velvety and chewy in texture, offering deep, juicy orange and poached pear flavors and suave honey and chamomile nuances. Blends precision with power, finishing with a distinct mineral quality and excellent persistence.
2008 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut. VM 99. The 2008 Cristal is one of the most complete, most dazzling Champagnes I have ever tasted. A stunning wine from any and all perspectives, the 2008 simply has it all. Spherical in construction, with superb persistence. The 2008 takes hold of all the senses and never gives up. One of the many things that makes the 2008 special is a combination of ripe fruit and bright, piercing acidity. Marzipan, lemon confit, dried flowers and orchard fruit all build into the explosive, resonant finish. “We learned from the mistakes of 1996, when we picked more on acid than ripeness, as was the norm in Champagne back then” Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon told me recently. “In 1996, the best fruit turned out to be the last picks, where the fruit was physiologically ripe. Today, we aim to pick all our fruit with that criteria.” (Drink between 2020-2050)
2012 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut. VM 98. The 2012 Cristal is another absolutely stellar wine this flight of recent releases. Rich, vinous and beautifully textured, the 2012 has been nothing short of magnificent on the three occasions I have tasted it so far. In the glass, the 2012 is radiant and luscious, yet it possesses remarkable transparency and striking aromatic depth. Light tropical notes develop in the glass, giving the 2012 a real feeling of exotic beauty. The 2012 is the first vintage of Cristal done with 100% organically-farmed fruit, an approach introduced gradually starting with the 2007 that has profoundly changes Cristal, especially in its aromatic breadth. Two thousand twelve is the vintage where endless trials and experiments in farming and winemaking are fully realized. The 2012 is just stunning. It’s as simple as that. Dosage is just over 7 grams per liter, the lowest it has even been for Cristal. (Drink between 2022-2052)
Oyster with yuzu-kosho. Great.
Duck and monkfish liver. Both great.
Tofu with uni.
Eggplant. Not my favorite.
Popcorn shrimp tempura. We ordered again it was so good.
1992 J.M. Boillot Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 87. Fat, rich, generous fruit laced with notes of botrytis followed by big, intense flavors that show good breed but not much cut or acid balance and as such, this has become a bit top heavy.
1990 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet.
Sashimi (toro, scallop, red snapper).
Crab Chawanmushi. Lovely.
Chilean Seabass. nice.
Octopus. Way too charred.
Red Snapper (tai).
Clam miso soup. Very nice.
2008 Louis Latour Romanée St. Vivant Les Quatre Journaux. BH 93. A subtle touch of wood sets off a strikingly elegant and very pinot nose interlaced with spice, violet and soft earth notes that can also be found on the complex and youthfully austere flavors that possess really lovely finishing balance and excellent length. This is not especially dense yet it actually is relatively powerful for RSV plus there is a beguiling sense of harmony and completeness here. (Drink starting 2013)
1964 Joseph Drouhin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. BH 91. Sweet, pure, elegant and remarkable spicy with rich, round, moderately full flavors that have not lost their focus or precision and a long, rich, velvety finish that has a bit of acid poking through now. The tannins are not fully resolved and give a certain edgy quality to the flavors though not to the point where the overall balance is seriously compromised. Drink up. Note: another recent bottle was completely oxidized and essentially undrinkable.
Spicy tuna on crispy rice.
King salmon. Ikura. Uni.
Macha custard. Lovely.
The quality here WAS really good. Service was great, and while they have a big menu everything we had, particularly the sushi was quite good. It’s not quite at the level of the mega high end places — nor does it try to be — but it’s a “real” Japanese place with very solid sushi, way better than the likes of Kantana or Roku. Very enjoyable and quite reasonable for what it is.
Restaurant: Private Chef, David Slatkin
Location: Bel Air
Date: October 15, 2021
This particular entry in my series of Friday afternoon wine themed Sauvages lunches was set at…
Member Jeff’s lovely backyard and features food by private chef David Slatkin.
We dined at this lovely table — it would be romantic except this is about a dozen old winos :-).
Korean Short Rib Taco — sweet but great.
2018 Château Cos d’Estournel Blanc. VM 92. The 2018 Cos d’Estournel Blanc is showing nicely in bottle, partly because of the increased proportion of Sémillon in the blend. That lends complexity on the nose, which displays gorgeous honeysuckle and yellow plum aromas, if perhaps more oiliness than I found from bottle. The palate has tightened up a little, feeling less rounded than before, with intense orange pith, apricot and tangy marmalade toward the finish. A lovely Cos d’Estournel Blanc that I am intrigued to see age in bottle. (Drink between 2021-2032)
2019 Château Brane-Cantenac Blanc. 90 points.
Miso Potsticker — a bit salty.
Mango and burata toast.
BBQ pork belly.
2000 Château Angélus. VM 92. The 2000 Angélus (which, incidentally, was the first vintage where the bottle was embossed with the château name) is one that I have tasted many times, though not recently. Showing minor degradation at its rim, it displays a core with a healthy deep hue. The bouquet is concentrated and intense, plenty of red fruit mingling with melted tar and leather, and perhaps a little more gourmand/animally than I was expecting. The palate is medium-bodied with a slight bitterness on the entry, and delivers good weight and girth, though compared to recent vintages it is patently clear that there is not the same clarity or tension. Quite ferrous, especially with aeration. (Drink between 2021-2032)
2000 Château La Mission Haut-Brion. VM 97. The 2000 La Mission Haut-Brion is a vintage that I have not tasted for several years. At age 21, it has retained its youthful nose of vivid black cherries, wild strawberry and iodine, and shows less of the black olive tapenade element that I noticed in its youth. The palate is medium-bodied with lithe tannins that belie that backbone of this La Mission. Beautifully balanced and quite peppery, with fine salinity, it is less sauvage than many other millennial Bordeaux, leading to a succulent, sensual finish. This is only just beginning to show what it is capable of. 13.4% alcohol. Tasted at the château with Jean-Philippe Delmas. (Drink between 2022-2050)
2000 Château Magrez Fombrauge. VM 88-90. Saturated ruby. Musky aromas of black raspberry, violet, game and burning tobacco. Intensely flavored, firmly structured and tightly wound, but seems a bit dried by the extraction. Seems rather tough today and not showing its personality. But undeniably concentrated. Finishes with somewhat gritty tannins.
Fish with cous cous and lobster.
1989 Château La Conseillante. VM 97. The 1989 La Conseillante is one of the top performers in Pomerol and arguably now one of the best values. This bottle confirms that exuberance and joie-de-vivre on the nose, displaying the telltale crushed violets in bloom, with precious but controlled red and black fruit underneath. The palate is sumptuous from the start, presenting cashmere tannin and perhaps a little more glycerine in this bottle. The bravura finish leaves you grinning from ear to ear. Stunning, and it will remain on its plateau for many years. Tasted at the 1989 Bordeaux dinner at Hatched in London. (Drink between 2019-2040)
1989 Château Montrose. VM 98. The 1989 Montrose is a magnificent wine and this represents one of the best bottles I have encountered – one that was purchased on release and not moved from Berry Brothers’ cellar since. I have encountered perfect bottles of the 1989, and this flirts with that magic figure. It is blessed with a captivating bouquet of blackberry, raspberry, sous-bois and black truffle, the veins of blue fruit just toned down a little compared to previous bottles. The palate is supremely well balanced with those filigreed tannins that in some ways are atypical of Montrose. It delivers silky-smooth texture and an intense finish that glides across the senses. I cannot give a perfect score on this occasion, but without question, this is one of the great Montrose releases. Tasted at the 1989 Bordeaux dinner at Hatched in London. (Drink between 2019-2050)
1989 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron. VM 95. The 1989 Pichon-Baron repeats its performance from the vertical tasting in May 2018. It storms from the glass, bearing copious blackberry, cedar and perhaps a little more mint than I noticed on the previous bottle. There is so much youthful zeal to this harmonious, refined Pauillac that you would barely guess it is 30 years old. Long and tender with a graphite-infused finish, this bottle might be even better than the ex-château example. Tasted at the 1989 Bordeaux dinner at Hatched in London. (Drink between 2019-2038)
Duck confit with egg.
1996 Château Lafite Rothschild. VM 97+. The 1996 Lafite-Rothschild is consistent with the bottle shown at the Hong Kong vertical. It has an intense bouquet with blackberry, cedar and a pencil box of graphite. The adjective I use whilst writing this note is that the aromas are “cool”. Perhaps given its provenance, this is one of the most backward bottles of 1996 that I have tasted. There are those fine but rigid tannins that lend this Lafite such beguiling symmetry, copious cedar and graphite with vein of brine and oyster shell. I love the precision of this wine and the sappiness on the finish. At the moment, maybe more impressive than enjoyable, so if you can, cellar it for another 5 to 8 years. Tasted at the Lafite-Rothschild 150th anniversary dinner at the estate. (Drink between 2025-2055)
From my cellar: 1996 Château Haut-Brion. JG 94. The 1996 Haut Brion is less hermetically sealed than the 1998, and is beginning to hint a bit at its secondary layers of aromatic complexity, though it still remains a very young wine. The bouquet is deep and classic, as it jumps from the glass in a mélange of black cherries, dark berries, Cuban tobacco, incipient notes of the black truffles to come, and a fine base of Graves earth. I assume that the 1996 saw the same amount of new oak as the 1998, but there is little sign of the wood at the present time. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, deep and very intense, with a quite powerful profile for Haut Brion. The wine is rock solid at the core and very tannic, though the tannins are ripe and well-integrated into the wine. The finish is very, very long and soil-driven, and this will clearly be one of the most powerful vintages of Haut Brion to emerge since the 1959. It will be superb, but one will require plenty of patience. (Drink between 2025-2075)
1986 Château Léoville Las Cases. VM 97+. Saturated dark ruby. Cassis, shoe polish, camphor and rose petal on the nose; this reminded me of a great vintage of Latour. Dense and extremely concentrated; explosive yet totally backward. There nothing playful about this infant claret. Finishes with extraordinary, slow-building persistence. Very serious juice; one of the great Bordeaux of the 1980s. Drink 2010 through 2035.
Lamb ravioli with truffle. Yum!
1990 Château Montrose. VM 95. Full ruby-red. Wild, exotic aromas of crystallized redcurrant, leather, tobacco and minerals; distinctly exotic, even overripe. Then lush, sweet and opulent, with an atypically velvety texture for Montrose. But extremely young and structured, finishing with powerful tannins and great grip and length. Almost California-like in style; in Bordeaux, they’d refer to the fruit expression of this wine as “original,” which is not necessarily high praise. Drink 2008 through 2030.
1990 Château Beausejour (Duffau Lagarrosse). VM 91. Deep ruby to the rim. Extravagant aromas of black fruits, violets, and toffee. Voluptuous and sweet; this has outstanding concentration but with so much baby fat there’s little delineation on the palate. Finishes with a kick of alcohol and substantial ripe tannins. Very dense, but while a flight of other top right-bank wines were sending off fireworks in the glass, this chunky wine sat like a lump of coal.
1982 Château Mouton Rothschild. VM 98. The 1982 Mouton-Rothschild continues to be the extravagant Pauillac that it has always been. This has an irresistible, exotic bouquet of precocious kirsch, hoisin, graphite and blueberry scents that gain intensity in the glass. The palate is a little headier than previous bottles, sensual and almost glossy, presenting a glycerin-rich smorgasbord of dark cherries, black currant, crème de menthe and mint that almost knocks you off your feet. Fabulous. Tasted from an ex-château jeroboam at the Palace of Versailles charity dinner. (Drink between 2019-2040)
1995 Grande Maison Monbazillac Cuvée Madame.
1998 Alois Kracher Grande Cuvée TBA #10 Nouvelle Vague. 95 points. The fat and soft fruit of chardonnay are here perfectly allied with the freshness and spice of welschriesling. Caramel and pungent botrytis augment aromas of honey and tropical fruits. In the mouth, this is the most dynamic of any of Kracher’s ’98s, with insistent fruit acid and firm expression of wood allaying its formidable thickness. Flavors of quince and apple jelly, with musky notes from the welschriesling and a chardonnay-typical caramelization of tropical fruits. Mandarin orange and brown spices join the fruit parade in a formidable finish. 2 stars.
Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Coconut Cream Pie Gelato — Coconut dairy custard base, house-made GF Graham Crackers, and house-made Coconut Caramel — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #coconut #caramel #grahamCrackers #cookies
Apricot Amaro Passionfruit Mango Sorbetto – I like blending compatible fruits together — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #sorbetto #amaro #apricot #passionfruit #mango
Epic cheese plate.
Overall, a great lunch with really good food and amazing wines — all of which were drinking in great form. I don’t buy too much Bordeaux anymore, but they are really great when you give them a few years.
After the dinner proper a couple of us hung out on the lovely terrace and sipped our vast array of wines (and munched on the cheese plate).
Location: 633 W 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071
Date: October 12, 2021
Cuisine: New American
Rating: Awesome in all ways
71Above is one of my favorite LA restaurants and I’ve been many times. In fact there are 10 previous write ups! Original Chef Vartan Abgaryan has moved on to his own new place, Yours Truly (which the pandemic has sadly done in), and 71Above is now seamlessly helmed by his disciple, Chef Javier Lopez. Today the location plays host to a special old California dinner owner Emil Eyvazoff organized with an equally special menu. This dinner is the spiritual sequel to a much older Old California dinner back in 2015.
Besides being located on the 71st floor (950 feet up!) of the US Bank building, being the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi, it’s owned and operated by my friend Emil Eyvazoff!
Our special menu.
The wine list.
Bread and butter.
1984 Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay.
1985 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Cuvée L. JG 93+. The Cuvée L chardonnay hails from a warmer section of Long Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, where the sun in principally of the afternoon variety, and like the cooler section where the “Cuvée LD” comes from, this is planted with Wente clones. The 1985 Cuvée L is a lovely bottle, with a slightly more fruit-driven personality from the predominance of afternoon sun in this section of the vineyard. The bouquet delivers a fine blend of fresh apricot, baked peaches, a nice touch of soil, a bit of citrus zest and a topnote of toasted walnut. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and seamless, with a lovely core, a very refined personality, great balance and a very long, refined finish. This is more elegant than the 1986 Cuvée LD served alongside of it (differences in vintage character?), but the 1986 Cuvée LD is the slightly more complex of the two wines today. (Drink between 2016-2035)
1985 Kistler Chardonnay Kistler Vineyard.
1961 Hallcrest Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate. 91 points.
1966 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon California Mountain.
Crispy Octopus. Shishito, almond, sprouting cauliflower, polenta, meyer lemon gastrique.
1968 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve. VM 98. Medium-deep red with a greenish-amber rim. Highly complex aromas of raspberry, cherry, mocha, dark chocolate, celery seed and balsamic cedar, with a hint of volatile acidity contributing personality and lift. This legendary wine still boasts bulletproof fruit and a compellingly juicy texture, with a sexy hint of truffle adding interest with air. A wine of great class and balance, finishing subtle, fresh, firm and very long, with sweet, fine-grained tannins. André Tchelistcheff called 1968 his greatest vintage and this wine is still going strong a half century later, with no end in sight. Its balance of sweetness and acidity is stunning. This wine was full-bodied in the early going, in contrast to the initially austere ’69, according to current winemaker Trevor Durling. (12.5% alcohol) (Drink between 2019-2038)
1973 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve Alexander Valley. 88 points.
1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Red Blend.
Cavatelli. Poblano Mascarpone, corn espuma, ramps, pepita breadcrumbs, squash. Awesome.
1974 Charles Krug Winery (Peter Mondavi Family) Cabernet Sauvignon. 92 points.
1974 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. JG 94. The 1974 cabernet from Merry Edwards’ first vintage at the helm at Mount Eden is drinking beautifully out of magnum today, and though it is a bit more powerful in personality than the 1973, it is still a superb example of the vintage. The bouquet is deep, complex and now wide open, offering up scents of cassis, pomegranate, a touch of mint, cigar ash, chipotle peppers, dark soil tones, a touch of spice (vaguely reminiscent of nutmeg) and cedary wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and beautifully balanced, with a rock solid core of fruit, fine focus and grip, tangy acids and a long, complex, still gently tannic finish. This is a beautiful wine with decades and decades of life still ahead of it (particularly in magnum). (Drink between 2016-2050)
1973 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 96. The heady, full-bodied style was unmistakably Napa Valley. The 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon from Mt. Eden was equally brilliant. It was perhaps a touch richer, deeper and more powerful than the Sterling, but what stood out most was the wine’s intense, brooding personality.
1978 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve. JG 86. Of all of the great cabernet producers of this era, Beaulieu Vineyards was probably one of the few wineries that did not really capture all of the potential of the vintage. I have been drinking this 1978 since the mid-1980s and while many bottles were quite tasty back in the day, I have never hit a truly exceptional example. Back in this era, I have always found that BV was more successful in the vintages of 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1980 than they were in the more famous years of 1978 and 1974. The only caveat one needs to mention about the great wines that Andre Tchelistcheff fashioned at BV in the decade of the 1970s is that their style has not proven to be quite as ageworthy as many of their contemporaries, and most of these beautiful wines are now in varying stages of decline. This most recent bottle of the ’78 Georges de Latour was okay, but starting to get fairly oxidative and was a bit past its best, offering up scents of black cherries, plums, chocolate, a nice touch of Rutherford dust and coconutty new oak underneath the touch of cookie dough-like maderization. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and plush on the attack, with a solid core and still a touch of backend tannin on the long and moderately oxidative finish. The oxidation here is not yet so bad that the wine is undrinkable, but it is ever present on both the nose and palate and detracts a tad from the enjoyment of the wine. (Drink between 2016-2025)
1982 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain. JG 92+. It had been at least a dozen years since I last tasted the 1982 Dunn Howell Mountain, and the wine remains still a tad young for primetime drinking, but it is getting closer to its apogee and has been progressing very nicely in the right direction over the last decade. The wine has dropped most of what was a fairly formidable wall of tannin while retaining its substantial core of brambly mountain fruit. The bouquet is quite complex and is now blossoming very well, as it offers up a complex mélange of black raspberry, red currant, stony minerality, woodsmoke, gentle notes of fresh sage and a bit of petroleum jelly in the upper register. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, deep and quite soil-driven, with a lovely base of minerality, still a touch of tannin to resolve and a long, complex finish with fine grip but with a slight edge of austerity. This is a very good bottle that may even move up a bit in score as it fully blossoms. If the wine eventually loses the slight edge of austerity it currently displays on the backend, then my score will seem conservative. But a fine bottle in any case. (Drink between 2009-2035)
From my cellar: 1984 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain. VM 88. Healthy full red. More reticent on the nose than the ’83, showing a touch of cardboard and an earthy quality, if not an obvious TCA smell, along with its cherry, redcurrant, plum and earth aromas. A step up in texture from the ’83, but less juicy in the middle palate and even drier on the finish. This doesn’t have the personality of the ’83 and it turned drier with aeration. (I’ve had better bottles of the ’84 in the past, although I hadn’t sampled this vintage in at least five years.) (13% alcohol) (Drink between 2018-2024)
1986 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve. 89 points.
1986 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Signature. 89 points.
Grilled Ribeye. Charred Broccolini, crispy shallot, date puree, jus.
With the jus.
Cheese Plate. Julianna, 1655 Gruyere, Ameribella, Seasonal Accompaniments.
This is a signature Sweet Milk flavor — Italian Lemon Cookie Meringue Pie — Limoncello Zabaione base with lemon cookie flavor mixed with Italian Lemon Creme Cookies and Sicilian Candied Lemon and topped with house-made toasted Meringue — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato) — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #lemon #LemonCookie #cookie #Sorento #Limoncello #Meringue #LemonMeringuePie
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 hear 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 dinner excelled on all counts. Service, food, company, and of course the wines. I’m not normally a California wine guy, but these older wines are much softer, nicer, and more Bordeaux-like.