Location: 246 North Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, Ca 90210. 310-888-8782
Date: December 18, 2021
Cuisine: Steak House
Rating: Once a top LA Steak joint
For the fifth year (sort of, ignoring pandemic years) in a row, my friend Sebastian picked Mastro’s for his birthday dinner so we all hauled out the wines and headed across town. Wine theme: First Growth Bordeaux, focusing on early 80s and Margaux.
Usually we are in the Penthouse, but this year we were on the second floor of the main restaurant. It was jammed with the oncoming holidays, Omicron be damned.
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)
1996 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut. VM 97. As good as the 1995 Cristal (Late Disgorged) is, the 1996 may be even a touch better, as it has a bit more volume and also more layers of intensity. Taut yet wonderfully explosive, with fabulous energy, the 1996 captures all the best qualities of the vintage. In most 1996 retrospectives, Cristal makes a case for itself as one of the wines of the year, so it is not so surprising to see the Late Disgorged version show so well. Readers who can find the 1996 are in for a real treat. (Drink between 2015-2030)
2004 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut. VM 97. The 2004 Cristal is superb today. Bright and focused, the 2004 shows all of the tension and energy that has always been one of its signatures. The first hints of aromatic maturity are starting to develop, but the 2004 remains quite young and full of energy. I have always admired the 2004 (along with the best wines of the vintage) for its focus. In this bottle, the interplay of freshness from the recent 2018 disgorgement and richness gained through added time on the lees (which also results in lower dosage of 7 grams per liter) opens another window into the personality of Cristal. In 2004, the Pinot Noir is 57%, or a bit lower than normal, while the Chardonnay at 43% is correspondingly a touch higher. (Drink between 2019-2039)
Pretzel bread — gotta love it.
Mustard, cocktail sauce, atomic horseradish.
A seafood tower. The quality of the seafood here is impeccable! Amazing shrimp, claws, king crab (didn’t taste frozen), crab cocktail, and oysters. This year’s tower was a bit skimpy.
1981 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline. 93 points. Loads of freshly roasted coffee and coffee stout with notes of camp fire, damp earth, cigar wrapper, roasted almonds and faint notes of plum and black currant. The mouth is full, dense and compact, very layered and long. Still a bit tannic. Tons of sweetness on the attack, still a good amount of blackberry fruit left. Still drinking so well.
1981 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne. 92 points. Dark fruit with some good meaty spice on the nose. Still quite primary for its age with good density and power. But this didn’t show much complexity near the end, and only had a moderate length.
1981 Château Margaux. 92 points. Just a wonderful mature Margaux explosive aromatics with hints of herbaciousness mixed with flint and cedar notes. Palate is more subtle, lean, but a wonderful expression of mature bdx lengthy finish. Doesn’t have the “power” and concentration of the “big” vintages — but this is a classic year probably at peak maturity.
The birthday boy and his lovely wife.
Bone marrow and toast — have a bit of fat! Actually not my favorite as I don’t love the texture of bone marrow straight up.
Bigeye tuna tartare with avocado and spicy Sriracha.
Salad with shrimp.
Chopped iceberg wedge. Way worse for being chopped and underdressed at that.
Caesar salad. A bit too mild for my taste.
1986 Château Mouton Rothschild. VM 99. Philippe Dhalluin served the 1986 Mouton Rothschild to wrap up our vertical. The 1986 remains one of my favorite Moutons. A dark, powerful wine, the 1986 is endowed with a vertical sense of structure that is a marvel to behold. Dark stone fruit, smoke, graphite, mocha, soy and licorice are fused together in a marvelously intense, deep Mouton that promises to drink well for another few decades. Tonight, the 1986 is absolutely stunning. The blend is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Harvest started on October 2nd and wrapped up on the 16th. (Drink between 2016-2036)
1998 Château Haut-Brion. VM 96. The 1998 Haut Brion has long been a favourite vintage of mine and consumed with pleasure several times. Now at 20-years of age I feel it is one step ahead of the 1998 La Mission: there is great fruit intensity with almost precocious blackberry, raspberry coulis, pastilles, tobacco and hints of olive. It has exquisite delineation and focus. The palate is medium-bodied with fuller in the mouth than the La Mission: deeper fruit (blackberry, mulberry and a touch of strawberry) intermingling with sage, cedar and a touch of hung game. It is not quite as precocious or as glossy on the finish as I remember previous bottles, but it is certainly turning into one of the finest wines of this vintage. Tasted at the château. (Drink between 2018-2045)
1983 Château Margaux. VM 95. Deep ruby-red. Exotic aromas of cassis, meat and smoke, plus a whiff of funky wood. Then remarkably sweet, lush and suave, with a flavor of raw berries. Pure Margaux silkiness allied to firm structure. Finishes very long, with rich, sweet tannins. Remarkable wine, particularly considering that the bottle was not perfect. Pristine bottles of this wine are just now embarking on their period of peak drinkability, which should last another 20 years or more.
1986 Château Margaux. VM 98+. The 1986 Chateau Margaux was even more emotionally moving. Still incredibly youthful, it showed incredible focus and depth, all backed up by considerable structure. As hard as it may seem to believe, on this night the 1986 appeared to still be some years away from peaking. It was striking in every way.
Rack of lamb.
Bone in Ribeye.
Norwegian Cold Water Salmon.
Rosemary Garlic Sautéed Button Mushrooms.
White Cheddar Lobster Mac & Cheese.
Creamed corn. My wife loves this (and so do I).
1982 Château Margaux. VM 98. The 1982 Château Margaux was the best bottle that I have tasted and I have been blessed with this wine over twenty times over the years. This boasts wondrous blackberry, raspberry and crushed stone scents that like recent bottles, suggesting a touch of Pauillac at its heart. The palate is defined by its filigree tannins, heavenly balance and scintillating tension that prefer not to convey the warmth of that season, not the high yields it produced. Again, that Pauillac leitmotif continues throughout, conveying a sense of linearity and focus that is unmatched by any previous bottles. On this showing, best-preserved bottles will give another 30 years of drinking pleasure without any problem. Tasted at the International Business & Wine First Growth Dinner at the Four Seasons. (Drink between 2018-2035)
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)
From my cellar: 1982 Château La Mission Haut-Brion. VM 94. The 1982 La Mission Haut-Brion is a vintage that I have tasted several times. This bottle has a gorgeous, eucalyptus-tinged bouquet of black fruit plus hints of clove and bay leaf; a light marine scent emerges with aeration. The palate has a ripe pastille-like quality, dark cherries commingling with blackberry and cranberry. A lovely saline undertow lends sapidity on the harmonious finish. This does not equal the 1982 Haut-Brion and may have reached its peak in the late 1990s, but it remains the best La Mission Haut-Brion since the 1978. Tasted at the La Mission Haut Brion dinner at Amuse Bouche in Hong Kong. (Drink between 2021-2035)
More bone in steaks.
More bone in steaks.
More bone in steaks.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts.
Wild Mushroom and Black Truffle Gnocchi. This dish was drastically worse than it usually is and very dry.
The all important Butter Cake. This is “Mastro’s signature warm butter cake ala mode.” Basically a pound cake with an extra four sticks of butter or something. It’s really sweet and really good. Goes well with the magic whipped cream (see below).
Looking a bit more tipsy and full.
This year, while the wine and company were great, the food and service at Mastro’s had declined precipitously. Many dishes just felt flat, or dry, or half hearted. Then there were the service problems…
We had a very late reservation (9pm) and a large party. The place was very busy when we came, but everyone was getting toward the end of their meals. They made us wait (a while, maybe 30 min or more) then chose to jam us in at a tiny and inconvenient table when they could easily have chosen a larger space given the openings. They then pretty much ignored us both front of house and in the kitchen until everyone else was done. For most of the meal we were the main then only active table in the huge space. Yet they continued to act like the restaurant was jammed (it clearly wasn’t anymore). A table this size needs a couple people, but they left us way understaffed, even after we were the only ones left.
When we finished up, well after midnight, and it came time to close out the check, they complained that their POS (Point of Sale) system was down and so they couldn’t generate the bill. They told us they would need 90-120 MINUTES!!! to generate one. Target for this was like 2:30am. I was incredulous. They could easily have hand calculated it in 10 minutes. Yes there were a lot of items, but not more than 30. Someone there should be capable of adding 30 numbers using a hand calculator or phone app! We were the only people left in the place (and had been for a long time). They seemed impervious to any suggestion to speed up. Most of us, including myself, just left and the “lucky” birthday boy had to wait it out (we Venmoed him the next morning). That was pretty unforgivable, no way was I going to wait around for that long, exhausted, while they tinkered with their computers. I’m not sure I’ll ever return on that basis alone — the lamer food didn’t help either.