Location: 2627 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, Ca 90403. 310-586-7469
Date: August 28, 2013
Rating: Bold and balanced flavors
For 13 or so years Akbar has been one of my favorite Indian restaurants. Too many Indian places focus on low cost buffets of very over cooked food, but Akbar cooks everything to order — even baking their own Naan when you place the order. They are more focused on the cuisine of the Punjab (Northern India), with very good curries and kormas. You can get anything from extremely mild to blow the top of your head off. Once I had the “pepper lamb” on 5 (max heat) and my scalp sweat for hours.
This time, my Hedonist group has taken over half the restaurant for one of our blow outs.
The Menu can be found here.
NV Andre Clouet Brut Grande Reserve. Parker 90. The NV Brut Grande Reserve emerges from the glass with layers of hazelnut, pear, spice and dried flower aromas. This rich, creamy wine impresses for its balance and sheer richness. I loved it.
Papadum. A crispy slightly spicy “bread” (more like a cracker) that is traditional at the start of meals.
The chutney’s and pickles. The green one is mint, the yellow-ish coconut, the one with corn spicy-pickled vegetables (yum! and oh, so gut burning) and the back corner a tangy one.
2012 Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc.
Fresh baked Naan, the delicious flat bread cooked in the Tandoor.
From my cellar, 2001 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 96. Beaucastel has been on a terrific qualitative roll over the last four vintages, and the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape (which Francois Perrin feels is similar to the 1990, although I don’t see that as of yet) is a 15,000-case blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and the balance split among the other permitted varietals of the appellation. This inky/ruby/purple-colored cuvee offers a classic Beaucastel bouquet of new saddle leather, cigar smoke, roasted herbs, black truffles, underbrush, and blackberry as well as cherry fruit. It is a superb, earthy expression of this Mourvedre-dominated cuvee. Full-bodied and powerful, it will undoubtedly close down over the next several years, not to re-emerge for 7-8 years. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2025.
Many of us (including me) considered this the wine of the night.
A kind of chat (street food?) that basically consists of Samosas topped with chickpeas, flavored curry, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, tamarind, and yogurt. A really delicious sweet, savory, tangy combo.
2008 B. R. Silver Pinot Noir Coteau Palmer. 88 Points. Initial whiff of smoke and toasted oak, bright red berries, a faint green pepper/ leafy/ herbal note. Later, butterscotch, frangipane, more blueberry dark cherry pinot fruit notes. 25 sec finish. Nicely tart, muted tannins. Went well with (a) salmon with cafe de paris butter, and (b) grilled top blade with wild mushroom sauce. Very drinkable. The low alcohol makes this especially pleasant.
Chicken breaded with lentil flour and fried. Like Indian chicken nuggets!
Tandoori grilled Chilean Sea Bass marinated in herbs. Tender and flavorful!
2004 DuMOL Syrah Russian River Valley. IWC 88. Bright ruby-red. Superripe crushed blackberry and pepper on the nose.On the palate, intense black fruit and tar flavors are accompanied by an element of liquid pepper. This rather muscular, medicinal wine showed an increasing tannic toughness as it opened in the glass.
House specialty lamb chops. Awesomely marinated and coated in cumin. Wow, these were some tasty chops.
1994 Peter Lehmann Shiraz Stonewell. IWC 88. Ruby-red. Aromas of redcurrant, chicory and smoked meat complicated by herbal nuances. Thick, ripe and suave, with lovely fleshiness but not at all overly sweet. Finishes with dusty tannins and good length. Rather subtle, sophisticated shiraz.
Lamb with a saffron butter sauce. A delicious and rich lamb curry with a very flavorful and only slightly spicy sauce.
2008 Qupé and Verdad Syrah Classic Cuvée Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. 90 points. A very big, but tasty Syrah, well suited to these massive flavors.
FMTM. Filet Mignon Tikka Masala! An off menu special version of Akbar’s amazing Tikka Masala, this time with delicious cubes of filet mignon. The beef fat gives the sauce a stronger aromatic quality than with the tangy chicken. Really lovely.
2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Ancient Vine Bedrock Vineyard. IWC 92. Opaque ruby. Mineral-driven aromas of raspberry, cherry, Indian spices and fresh flowers. Leads with spicy red fruits, with bright, juicy acidity framing the sweet raspberry and cherry flavors. The finish repeats the floral and spice notes and leaves a tangy minerality behind. Precise and lively for a New World syrah.
Saag Paneer. Cheese in spinach. Like Indian creamed spinach to go with the “steak”.
1997 Stags’ Leap Winery Syrah. 88 points. Minty, meaty and smokey, this wine has aged well. Balanced and reasonably well structured, with firm tannins carrying the finish.
Akbari Biryani. Bits of lamb, chicken, and shrimp cooked with the rice.
2007 Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.
A very clean mix of paneer (farm cheese) and vegetables like celery, peas, etc.
2001 Vineyard 29 Aida Estate. 92 points. Blueberry, black currant, dark cherry, vanilla, some chocolate. Ripe mid palate, medium/long finish. My guess is it has some time left, but no need wait.
And special for us, on request, a super spicy lamb. I’m not sure it’s the pepper lamb I used to have (that one had a much stronger peppercorn flavor) but this sure was inferno hot. Tasty too, but the slightest touch of it to the mouth began a long searing burn. I dared not eat too much!
2008 Jonata Winery Todos. IWC 91. Dark purple. Smoky cherry and dark berry aromas are complicated by notes of pipe tobacco, musky underbrush and cola. Broad and sappy, with a dense, chewy texture and liqueur-like cherry and cassis flavors. Powerful but lively blend with a long, spicy finish and lingering smokiness.
And the classic: Chicken Tikka Masala. I asked the chef why his is so much better than the vast number of others I’ve tried, being so creamy and aromatic. Apparently, there is a careful balance of timing to avoid burning the cream and converting too much of it into butter, so as to retain the sweet proteins in balance to the acidic tomatoes. However he does it, the results are fabulous.
1997 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon. 92 points. Translucent garnet in color. No real bricking noted. Cork solid with minimal soaking. Nice aroma of aged cab, cherries, violets and hints of mushrooms. Tannins mostly dissipated, leading a light and airy mouthfeel. Finish a bit clipped but drinking very well right now. Will consume last bottle sometime this year.
From my cellar, 1998 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume. 92 points. The nose is gorgeous, lots minerality, slightly oxidative notes of bruised apple, also lemon pith and orange blossom. On the palate it’s sweet and silky but with a tart, zingy acid component. Lovely balance of flavors, part citrus but also with more of the apple, a touch of limestone, and honeyed pear. Lengthy, tapering finish that lasts for a long time. An outstanding wine.
The sweetness and fruit quality went wonderfully with the spicy dishes and the nutty desserts.
Kulfi, a kind of ice cream with raisons and nuts. Very delicate and nutty.
Kheer. Indian rice pudding. This is always one of my favorites. This particular pudding is very subtle and almond flavored. Some have a stronger cardamon and cinnamon tone.
Akbar has long been my favorite LA Indian, and this meal was probably my best yet there. The balance of items was great — and very plentiful — and the flavors incredibly bright and spot on. That filet tikka masala. Wow. The brothers Kapoor (below) are also wonderful hosts. All in all an exceedingly fun evening.
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