Several more really epic Longo meals have been rolled into this mega post.
Several more really epic Longo meals have been rolled into this mega post.
Location: 18414 Colima Rd, Rowland Heights, CA 91748. (626) 616-1826
Date: July 31, 2022
Cuisine: Chinese BBQ
Rating: Not bad
Yarom found this BBQ joint online, and being a sucker for any kind of straight meat, put it on the list. But it turned out to be a counter tucked in a skeezy market.
Wieners in juice.
Duck or pork, that is the question.
BBQ duck we ate on the hood of our cars. Actually not bad at all.
I can’t say I’d recommend this unless one lived nearby and was grabbing some takeout. But for that, it’s actually pretty good.
Peking Duck (also more correctly known as Beijing Duck) is one of those sublime foods that’s full of contrasts. It’s always good, but rarely perfect. Seemingly common, proper versions are hard to find. And it’s poorly understood and equally poorly distinguished from it’s ducky cousins. I’ve loved it for nearly half a century, enjoyed it in America and China, and recently made an exhaustive study of the offerings in the greater Los Angeles area. Myself and my good friend and infamous fellow-glutton Jeffrey (a.k.a. @xtremefoodies_) co-organized DuQuest, the search for the best in LA. But before we get to the rankings (click here to skip to them) we need to discuss the basics.
Fundamentally, Peking Duck is a kind of Chinese roast duck. But as far as I can tell there are at least 4 broad categories of roast duck COMMONLY available in LA’s vast bounty of Chinese restaurants (and a few fusion places). They are:
For the purposes of this article, I’m focusing on this: A dish from Beijing (Peking) that has been prepared since the Imperial era. The meat is characterized by its thin, crispy skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and breast/thigh meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Ducks bred especially for the dish are slaughtered after 65 days and seasoned before being roasted in a closed or hung oven. The meat is often eaten with spring onion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce with pancakes rolled around the fillings.
There are two major sub-variants (cutting styles) we will discuss later but for the purpose of distinguishing “real” Peking duck from other types of duck the main marker is spring pancakes. When served with pancakes it’s “real” and without them it’s usually one of the following:
Because Peking Duck is a popular premium dish most restaurants in LA’s amazing Cantonese scene offer it on the menu. However, the vast majority of these, nay, perhaps all, offer what I am calling “Pseudo” Peking Duck. This dish, somewhat beyond the already bloated scope of this article, is a variant of Cantonese Roast Duck, typically cooked in the Cantonese BBQ manner and served with steamed buns, hoisin, cucumbers, and spring onions. It’s a close cousin, and often delicious, but the duck itself is prepared differently, cut differently, and served differently. The buns do not offer the sublime minimalist carbohydrate balance of the pancake. The hoisin is usually sweeter, the duck is generally plated with shrimp chips, and most importantly the skin is never quite so crispy. Pseudo Duck can be delicious, but it’s just not the same thing.
This delicious dish is offered at nearly every Cantonese, dim sum, and Chinese BBQ joint in the city. It’s great, but it’s not Peking Duck. This duck is usually rough chopped with a cleaver (Chinese knife) and soaking in jus. It’s very moist and at it’s best has a very satisfying fatty skin. If it has any condiment it’s just some sweet (orange) plum-based sauce.
I’m not sure if smoking counts as roasting, but many central Chinese restaurants, particularly from Sichuan, Hunan or Yunnan will offer a tea-smoked duck. As you can tell, I like duck, so I also find this a fabulous dish. The skin is not as crispy and the whole thing is dry with a smoked pastrami-like quality.
Nanjing Duck is salt cured and also dry, often cold, and has a lovely flavor. It’s not crispy at all.
I’ve been to Beijing several times but on my most recent visit in 2018 I enjoyed several high end Peking Ducks, most notably at Dadong and Country Kitchen. On previous trips I also ate at a different Dadong, Made in China, and some old school spots. I’ve had high end duck at various places in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and other various other Chinese cities.
Proper Beijing duck in Beijing is never quite replicated here in the states, although we have a few that come close. Over there, the duck is always dry-aged, seasoned, inflated with some kind of compressed or pumped air, often filled with a special broth, then slow roasted for 1-1.5 hours in a wood-fire oven. Here in LA they always use gas ovens. Wood-fire is just too complicated or expensive, probably because of annoying regulations. In China, a duck pit master tends the ducks, moving them around to cook them evenly. After roasting, some special bits of the belly skin are served by themselves with sugar. This is enjoyed as a crunchy snack with a sweet/salty/fatty contrast. The legs and wings are removed, and the breast meat is sliced into little ovals that contain both juicy meat and crispy/fatty skin. The meat skin pieces are combined with hoisin, cucumber, and spring onion inside a spring pancake and enjoyed rolled up. Remaining meat is often (optionally) stir-fried and the carcass is made into duck soup. Realistically, they don’t make YOUR particular duck into duck soup. Previous carcasses, probably from previous days are cooked into big batches of the soup and served on demand.
Peking Duck consists of several different components, each of which is worthy of separate evaluation:
The skin should ideally be super crispy/crunchy with just a bit of (mostly rendered) fat. It’s traditionally served by itself and often on parts of the meat. The solo skin can be eaten plain, with a bit of sugar, or dipped lightly in hoisin. It can also be placed inside the pancake roll (which I’ll call a “bing” as explained below).
The “meat” of a peking duck consists of three main sub-parts. The most important is the breast, which is served typically in one of two styles in LA (see below) with or without skin. Then there is thigh meat, and at many places the legs and occasionally the wings. The legs (and wings) are eaten mostly by themselves but the breast and thigh bits are generally designed to go inside the rolled pancake (“bing”). Ideally the meat should be juicy and delicious with a distinct duck taste but not an overwhelming gamey or barnyard quality.
A proper Peking Duck comes with ultra-thin delicate warm spring pancakes. In Chinese these are known as Chun Bing 春饼. They should be almost translucent, durable enough to wrap, and add just that touch of carbohydrate goodness to their task of binding together the contents. A “Pseudo” Peking Duck will often be served with steamed buns instead of pancakes. It’s not a Peking Duck. Even worse, some Chinese American places will attempt to serve “Pseudo” Peking Duck (it’s not roasted like a real Peking Duck either) with (store bought) Mexican Tortillas. Not only does this taste terrible, but it’s sacrilegious and offends the food gods.
Peking duck sauce isn’t a true hoisin, but we will call it that nonetheless. Peking duck sauce is a thick, fragrant sauce commonly used in as a glaze for meat, an addition to stir fry, or as dipping sauce. It is dark-coloured in appearance and sweet and salty in taste. Although regional variants exist, peking duck hoisin sauce is not exactly the same as the Cantonese hoisin, but instead is usually made from Tian Mian Jian (甜面酱), a chef specific blend of fermented yellow soybean paste, fermented wheat, sometimes fruit (like plums), and the oil from roasted ducks in additional to aromatic ingredients. Tian Mian Jian translates to sweet flour sauce and despite it often having the work “bean” in the description is not primary made from beans. It should be salty, savory, a bit sweet, medium thick, and have a hint of medicinal/herbal quality. It should not be too jammy, watery, or too sweet. Interestingly, it’s actually one of the most important elements of the pancake roll (“bing”) even though it should be used sparingly. One of the reasons “Pseudo” Peking Duck is often inferior is the use of Cantonese hoisin, which while good, is not the same. Peking duck sauce (hoisin) is used — sparingly — to flavor the rolled up pancake (bing) and and to flavor meat eaten on its own.
Accoutrements are anything else potentially added to the pancake roll (“bing”). Minimally it’s julienned cucumber and spring onion but pickles, melon, and other ingredients are frequently found in China. They make interesting and important combinations of flavor.
Since the rolled up pancake containing duck meat etc is such an important part of Peking Duck I’m going to give it a name, “bing.” Really, bing just flat cake in Chinese, and chun bing is a spring pancake, but I had to call it something. But regardless, the “bing” is the main event of any Peking Duck. It consists of the spring pancake, lightly coated in hoisin, meat, skin, and accoutrements then rolled up into a thin cigar-like shape, possibly folded over a bit at the ends. All of the above elements are required for a proper “bing” and it is very sensitive to flaws in any of them, particularly the pancake itself or hoisin. The score for this category is about the overall experience of the “bing,” not the individual components themselves. Hoisin should be used sparingly as it can overwhelm other flavors.
It’s long been possible to get a plate of the “bones” of your duck. This is the hacked up remains of the carcass. Depending on the technique and skill of the carver these can be merely a pile of roasted bones or contain quite a lot of tasty meat. More recently, LA Peking Duck restaurants will stir-fry these bones either with “spicy salt” or cumin. This last seems to be new and non traditional but it is delicious. These stir-fried versions are almost always better than the plate of hacked roasted bones, which is often inedible. One place even stir-fries the duck tails, which are fatty and delicious.
For decades it’s been an option to get parts of the meat that aren’t served on the main plates for the “bing” stir-fried or prepped in some manner. The most common are stir-fried with bean sprouts or lettuce cups. I’ve never liked the bean sprout version. The lettuce cups can be fine. Both have very minimal meat and I rarely order them. This is sometimes called “2 ways.”
Duck soup is often sold in a “3 ways” package with the main event duck, a stir-fry, and the soup. At best it’s a mild chicken-like (but duck) soup with tofu and cabbage. At best it can be pleasant and soothing. At worst the soup is very gamey and kinda nasty.
An overall score takes all the relevant above elements into account, presenting a score of Peking Duck quality at a particular restaurant.
In LA, there are three basic methods of presentation, which end up in two “on the table” styles:
In this presentation, only really performed at Chang’An in Tustin and Meizhou Dongpo, the whole duck is brought out and carved up table-side to the amusement of the guests. The breast skin is pulled off and the breast is sliced into ovals with some skin attached. It’s generally served on little white duck plates. The table-side presentation is not just for show — although it certainly is fun — but has material impact on the overall Peking Duck experience. Sliced duck meat, and particularly skin, has a lot of surface area and it cools rapidly. Ducks sliced in the kitchen often linger there for a few minutes and come to the table luke warm.
This is pretty much the same as the table-side style, but the carving is all done in the kitchen and the meat and skin are brought out on plates. It should be noted that one appears to get a lot more meat via the Beijing style carve, regardless of it being table-side or not. Generally there are two full plates of skin and meat as opposed to the bowl cut which seems to be closer to half a duck. Kitchen sliced duck will generally be cooler in temperature than table-side duck, and therefore will be drier and seem fattier (hot fat is always better).
Many “classic” LA Peking Duck restaurants bring the duck meat and skin out from the kitchen together on a single large plate. The skinless meat is packed into a soup bowl and then inverted in the center forming a dry packed meat dome. The best skin is cut into rectangular “petals” and arrayed around this dome to form a floral pattern. This system has an efficiency for the kitchen, and does seem to provide some of the crispiest skin in the city (as it’s separate) but the plate is sometimes cool by the time it arrives and the meat is usually lean and dry. Overall, I find it an inferior technique but it does have it’s advocates — namely those who prize the crispy skin above all. There is certainly less meat available via the bowl cut method as it seems to be reserved for the other dishes (that you also have to pay extra for). An additional problem with the bowl method is that there is frequently some delay between carving the duck, arranging the platter, and serving it. The net result is that bowl cut duck is usually not very warm, sometimes room temperature. Hot duck means hot duck fat and is much superior.
Overall ranking is just an order but all of the other categories are rated 1-10. Currently included are only Peking Duck specialty restaurants serving “Real” Peking Duck that I have visited recently and reviewed in detail.
|Restaurant||Overall (of 7)||Bing||Skin||Meat||Pancake||Hoisin||Accoutrements|
|Meizhou Dongpo Arcadia||2||7||6||9||8||7||8|
|Ray’s Duck House||3||8.5||9||7||10||9||3|
|NC Peking Duck||6||6||9||8||9||5||7|
Location: 13051 Newport Ave, Tustin, CA 92780. (949) 324-5558
Last visited: December 10, 2022
Location: 400 S Baldwin Ave #2045, Arcadia, CA 91007. (626) 538-4136
Last visited: December 4, 2022
Location: 4721 Chino Hills Pkwy, Chino Hills, CA 91709. (909) 606-9046
Last visited: January 26, 2022
The overall spread at Ray’s. They used the modern Beijing cut (in the kitchen) and brought it out on the usual two white duck plates. Ray’s serves a really first rate Peking Duck (even if the leg’s and wings were missing). All of the top three places (Ray’s included) are very good and slightly different. Here the skin is the best of any of the modern cut places being delightfully thick and crispy.
In addition, at lunch they have a really excellent dim sum service. Really excellent. The only problem is that the restaurant is located very far east, about 50 miles from Santa Monica! It’s a shame that 2 of the top 3 places are extremely far from LA proper. I have to come back and try the Cantonese banquet dishes and seafood.
Skin was thick, crunchy, airy, and quite spectacular, both the separate parts and the bits on the meat — it was all crunchy! = 9. I actually think this skin was even slightly better than the Happy Duck skin. The fact that the skin on the meat bits was also crunchy was incredible.
Meat was served mostly moon cut with the skin, some dark meat by itself. The wings and legs were missing. And while the meat wasn’t as juicy as MDP it was very very tasty with great duck flavor. Probably the third best meat = 7.
Accoutrements were scallion and cucumbers as usual. This was the weakest element as they had been cut the previous day (most likely) and were dry = 3. However, in the bing it was hard to tell.
Hoisin was great. It wasn’t goopy thick, nor too sweet, and had fabulous on-point flavor = 9.
Bones were on the menu, but they didn’t think we needed them = N/A.
A full review of Ray’s is in the works.
Location: 501 S Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754. (626) 284-3227
Last visited: December 22, 2022
Duck House is one of the SGV’s classic… well you guessed it… duck houses. Hostess and owner Catherine used to operate Tasty Duck but moved years ago to this location and she’s one of the best hostesses in town. Not only do they serve great Peking Duck but they have a wonderful all around menu. The decor is excellent in the height of 2000ish Monterey Park style and they have nice private rooms. They prepare the duck in the kitchen with a gas oven and then serve it using the SGV “bowl cut” style. Bones and even duck tails are available a number of ways as I’m sure are stir-fries and duck soup.
Skin was very thick and crispy, really delicious = 9.
Meat was dry without the skin, but fairly pleasant flavor = 6.
Pancake was thin and translucent, but a bit sticky = 8.
Hoisin was very good. Not too thick, sweet and savory, with a hint of medicinal tone but not off-putting = 8.
Accoutrements were scallion and cucumbers as usual plus a spread of pickles, mustard sauce, corn flakes, and raw garlic = 9. These extra four condiments were specially prepared for us by the owner, they aren’t always available, but is totally worth asking about!
The bing together was a 8/10 because the pancake/hoisin is the most important component.
Bones are very good both salty and cumin style.
The duck tails are to die for. Little bits of super crispy fat!
Duck wings are another option.
Extra bonus incredible service!
Location: 8450 Valley Blvd Suite 115, Rosemead, CA 91770. (626) 280-8600
Last visited: November 1, 2022
In recent years, Ji Rong has risen to be one of Alhambra’s “go to” places for Peking Duck. You must order ahead here and they serve using the “bowl cut” method, but it’s very dependable and they offer a vast array of modern Beijing food that is quite excellent. This includes a variety of western and Sichuan influenced dishes. It’s very popular and feels very 2010s SGV. The “private rooms” are merely separated areas to the side of the main dining room and it can be quite loud. Service is very efficient but young employees sometimes seem at the mercy of the kitchen staff. They have three ways and all that.
Ji Rong skin was very crispy and some of the pieces that were thick were about as good as Happy Duck, however there was a slight funk to it so -1. point for that = 7. Thick pieces maybe an 8.
Meat was packed in a bowl, no skin. White meat was medium dry, also with a slight funk = 4, but the dark meat was better = 7. They do offer the legs with the main dish.
Pancake was thin and resilient = 9.
Hoisin was very good with really nice balance, not perfect, but extremely good = 8.
Accoutrements were scallion and cucumbers as usual = 7.
The bing together was a 8/10 because the pancake/hoisin is the most important component of that.
Location: 17515 Colima Rd Unit A, City of Industry, CA 91748. (626) 839-0000
Last visited: October 27, 2022
In just the last few years there have been more and more great Chinese restaurant openings in the “far SGV” (Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, City of Industry). NC Peking Duck isn’t the fanciest, but it is a Peking Duck specialty place with a broad menu of Northern Chinese Cuisine and very modern Beijing Style duck. They have a couple of minimalist private rooms and excellent service as well as many great dishes. The duck itself is served in the Beijing Style, but carved in the kitchen. Ducks should be pre-ordered.
NC skin was ultra-thin and crispy, and gets an extra point for some of the pieces having some meat/fat on them = 9 for fatty pieces and 7 for regular ones.
Meat was juicy and flavorful with skin on = 8. On some occasions they plate in the really “classic” double duck dish style.
Pancake was thin and resilient = 9.
Hoisin was tasty but “goopy”, extra thick, and with a bit too much medicinal tone = 5.
Accoutrements were scallion and cucumbers as usual = 7. Before the pandemic they offered this incredible 9 way deluxe accoutrement spread, which would have earned a 10! Hopefully they bring it back.
The bing together was a 6/10, dinged mostly by the hoisin.
They offer cumin bones.
Or very meaty “chopped” bones.
Location: 18210 Gale Ave, City of Industry, CA 91748. (626) 581-4747
Last visited: October 27, 2022
Happy Duck is also located out in the far SGV. As a restaurant I’m not that much of a fan. It’s just a little mom and pop place with no atmosphere and a fairly boring mixed “duck house” and Cantonese menu. Others like it better. It’s not bad at all, just not exciting to me (no spicy dishes). However they do offer “Real” Peking Duck and it’s pretty decent. Service is very friendly. Ducks should be preordered.
Happy Duck skin is unusually crispy and delicious, almost spongy = 8.5 (some people in our group think a 9). This skin has its devotees and some people thing it’s the best skin in the city — certainly it’s very good skin. They have a special “torching” technique here that crisps up the skin.
Meat was dry and served packed into a rice bowl and served as a dome (no skin) = 5.
Pancake was house-made but chewy and uneven, really disappointing = 5.
Hoisin was very sweet but tasty, with a strong medicinal taste = 6.
Accoutrements featured fresh spring onions but flabby cucumbers = 4.
Bing with everything rolled up was a 4/10, dinged hugely for the pancake and hoisin.
Like most duck places they have duck soup.
And duck and bean-sprout stir-fry, which is pretty bland and dry.
A lot of duck houses also have eel sticky rice and this is actually the best version of this dish I’ve ever had. Eel was perfectly cooked and the rice was great too.
Location: 1039 E Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776. (626) 572-3885
Last visited: November 16, 2022
Tasty Duck was one of our “go to” duck places for around a decade and it’s located in a small, crowded, not-particularly-attractive space in the center of Alhambra. Ducks should be preordered and they traditionally served in the “bowl cut” style. The last time we went they had new owners and tried to cut table-side in the Beijing Style and made a real hack job of the duck. They offer 3 ways and we did “up the ante” by bringing half a pound of fresh caviar.
Skin was very thin, oily, and not very crispy. And there wasn’t that much of it = 4.
Meat was juicy, but was gamey, luke warm, and not particularly appealing. Attached skin was soggy = 5.
Pancake was thin and translucent = 9.
Hoisin was absolutely first rate. Not too thick, sweet and savory, with a hint of medicinal tone but not off-putting = 9.
Accoutrements were scallion and cucumbers as usual, but extra point for sugar and melon = 8.
The bing together was a 6/10 because the pancake/hoisin is the most important component of that. Caviar was BYOC so not normally available.
Duck soup was terrible with a barn-like flavor = 2.
Duck stir-fry. Bleh. I don’t get this dish.
Extra bonus for table side carving — although it was a duck massacre!
As the Southern California duck situation evolves I will continue to update this page. In addition I may list places with “Pseudo” Peking Duck and revisit fusion restaurants with Peking Duck like Merois, Mr. Chow, and Chinois. There are also a couple places I haven’t been in a long time, like Shin Beijing, which serve a Peking Duck somewhere between “real” and “pseudo” or just some places like Moon House that serve passable (real) Peking Duck but are of a lesser status so I haven’t rolled into the grid.
Last Updated: January 3, 2023.sharethis_button(); ?>
Restaurant: Happy Harbor
Location: 1015 Nogales St, West Covina, CA 91792. 626-965-2020
Date: October 30, 2021
Cuisine: Cantonese Chinese
Rating: Great cantonese
Yarom discovered this place during the day (for dim sum) not too long ago and as it was really great in that mode we decided to hit it for Sunday dinner.
Happy Harbor is a medium sized Cantonese located right next to Mandarin plaza, a “far east” (Hacienda Heights ish) area we have eaten at again and again.
The interior is classic Cantonese.
With the tanks.
And the over-decorated private room which was where we set up shop.
On table to start, cucumbers. A bit sweet.
The show off the live “creatures.”
Cold plate. Roast Pork, Roast Duck or Chicken, Jellyfish, Macau style pork belly.
Tofu with preserved egg. Oddly sweet and not one of my favorite versions.
Lobster with garlic and ginger. Very tender.
“Spot prawns” in a crunchy very fried Typhoon style. Not immensely garlicky but the prawns themselves were very well cooked.
Quail. Excellent version.
Peking duck skin. Not enough, but good. Buns unfortunately instead of pancakes.
Peking duck meat/bones. Lots of meat here, more should have been cut onto the other plate.
Duck letuce cups (from same duck). Good but no hoison at the time. Radically insufficient hoison.
The actual lettuce.
Chicken “Knees.” Great flavor!
Beef ribs and egg plant. Nice.
Vermicelli pancake with beef and eggy sauce. Delicious “pizza.”
Pork chops. Very friend. Ok.
Pistachio Cardamom Gelato — Sicilian Pistachio di Bronte with Cardamom infused milk — pretty awesome new flavor! — 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 #pistachio #cardamom #sicily
Happy Harbor was quite seriously good, definitely in the top tier of Cantonese kitchens (of the many) in the SGV. A bit further than most, but excellent.
Restaurant: ACC Chinese Fast Food
Location: 38 S Palm Ave, Alhambra, CA 91801. (626) 281-8577
Date: June 24, 2021
Cuisine: Cantonese BBQ
On this particular lovely June day Yarom and I ventured into the SGV to try out some experimental places on our vast list.
Stop #2 was this old school Chinese BBQ joint, which has been going strong since the 80s with the same owner/managers.
Small interior, but cute in its own way.
Menu of BBQ specials. They will even do goose with some notice.
The big takeout menu.
BBQ Pork w/ Honey Sauce — excellent.
Roast Duck with Plum Sauce — very succulent and tasty.
The aforementioned Plum Sauce.
Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli with Garlic — very solid classic veg. The extremely nice “boss lady” (aka the owner) insisted that we get some greens to help with our digestion — I think she was taking us under her wing.
ACC was surprisingly excellent. I suspect that their regular Cantonese dishes are decent but very Chinese American style, but their BBQ was first rate. We are thinking to go back with a big group, take over the whole place, and get a whole bunch of roast meats.
Restaurant: Spicy Moment V2.0
Location: 1015 S Nogales St, Rowland Heights, CA 91748. (626) 581-4966
Date: March 1, 2020
Cuisine: Szechuan Chinese
Rating: check: Terrible menu, surprisingly good home-style food
Back in August we did a 6 restaurant crawl in and around the Mandarin Plaza. One of the places we visited was Spicy Moment and we agreed to come back for a full dinner, or maybe a 2-fer combined with Hunan next door.
In the meantime Spicy Moment “rebooted” with a new owner, new menu, new concept — but they kept the name, build out and sign. However, despite what the sign says, it’s no longer “modern Chinese cuisine” and is a much much smaller menu Chongqing place.
The decor is pretty much unchanged. They still have the ugly drop ceiling, but they have made a tiny effort at decorating.
This menu set me up with low expectations. It’s basically cold apps and noodle soups. Noodle soups don’t share well and I’m not that into them anyway. There is nothing here. But Yarom never likes to give up on a plan so we went anyway — and were in for a super pleasant surprise.
They have Chongqing crispy duck — we’ll come back to that later.
And an array of “attractive” cold apps. But we love cold apps. Serious, they maybe a touch scary but we love them.
Smashed garlic cucumbers. Nice and crunchy, but could have used a stronger garlic flavor.
Cold marinated pig ear and sliced pork or beef parts.
Savory sweet peanuts with little fish (delicious), pulled spicy pork, and crunchy celery with tofu.
Chongqing special tofu pudding. Soft homestyle tofu.
Spicy sauce for the tofu.
You take a scoop of tofu and add sauce — we also added peanuts. The tofu had a fascinating smokey wood-fire flavor. The chili sauce was salty and had a ton of flavor. Really interesting and great combination.
Chongqing crispy smoked duck. Very crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Tons of flavor.
I have a feeling this duck is made more or less in this manner. Check out this video — and the cook’s adorable dog!
Noodles with beans and pork and egg and veggies.
You mix it all up with the sauce and it was quite delicious.
Chicken cold dry noodles.
These had a thinner noodle. You mix it all up and it had a great texture and a wonderful slightly tangy texture.
Overall, we were blown away considering the expectations from the limited menu. Just a terrible menu that looks like all of one thing. But this was some delicious stuff and really different. Hadn’t had this exact sort of duck before and everything we tried was pretty delicious. Plus that tofu pudding was totally unique and I could just imagine eating it in some dirt floor ancient Chinese farm hut! That dish has to be like 1,000 years old!
This place was like teleporting to China. Super interesting and a whole lot of fun. Very nice people too with great hospitality.
Location: 2732 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405. (424) 330-0020
Date: January 15, 2020
Cuisine: Bistro French
Rating: Really good
Pasjoli is an elevated French bistro from award-winning chef Dave Beran. The restaurant pays homage to French cuisine utilizing the bounty of produce available in Southern California. Dave Beran is the guy behind Dialogue, which I didn’t love on my single visit (but I do need to try again). In any case, looking at the photos of Pasjoli (before I went) it looked very good: straight up but precise rich French cooking.
It’s located on Main Street, on the Venice end of Santa Monica. Rooted in classic French cuisine and inspired by the Parisian markets, Pasjoli reflects Beran’s thoughtful cooking style, showcasing his creative touches on bistro fare.
The front has been built out in a very Parisian style.
The interior is Bistro crossed with LA contemporary.
Quite attractive though.
From my cellar: 2002 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. VM 94. The 2002 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart comes across as rich, powerful and opulent. This latest release of the 2002 was disgorged in July 2015 and finished with a Chardonnay-based liqueur whereas the previous release, disgorged in May 2014, was finished with a Pinot Noir-based liqueur. This is a distinctly vinous, almost shockingly raw, visceral Champagne from Billecart-Salmon. There is no shortage of volume or intensity, that is for sure. Stylistically, this year’s release inhabits a whole other world relative to last year’s release. Dosage is 4 grams per liter. (Drink between 2018-2042)
Salade d’endives. black walnut, grapefruit, comté. Classic French endive salad with a newer presentation.
Ragoût d’oignons caramélisés. caramelized onion, gruyère, pâte brisée. Nice and rich, like a cheese onion mousse. Sort of a reconfigured onion soup — sort of.
Crabe et chou-fleur. blue crab, cauliflower cream, sorrel. Great “salad”. Bright flavors and lots of clean crabby taste.
Quenelle. scallop, caviar beurre blanc. Not your classic quenelle (the omelet-like log in lobster bisque sauce), this was a buttery feathery light mousse with lots of caviar. Nice balance of butter and briney fish eggs.
From my cellar: 1999 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Charmes-Chambertin. VM 92+. Bright, saturated ruby. Vibrant aromas of blackberry and violet. Powerful but juicy and not at all heavy. A wonderfully fresh wine of terrific verve. Still tight on the firmly tannic back end. Quite fine, though.
Truite amandine. rainbow trout, smoked roe, French beans.
Homard vol-au-vent. lobster, melted leeks, sauce béarnaise. Super rich, but fabulous. Lobster, pastry, shellfish sauce. What’s not to love?
The duck comes out on its bed of rosemary and they first cut off the breasts.
It’s semi-raw, as the breasts will be finished back in the kitchen.
The carcass is chopped up and…
Goes in the “torture device press.”
The “jus” (blood and drippings) is then pressed out and combined with wine, cognac, etc and cooked into a sauce.
Duck breast meat returning from the kitchen looking perfect.
Avec le jus. About as good a European/French style duck breast as I’ve had. Not as good as a great Peking duck, but what is?
You can see the fat / flavor emulsion here.
Gratin dauphinois. These were basically perfect potatoes layered with dairy. Really delicious.
Salad of salanova lettuce and duck leg. Delicious salad.
Each duck has it’s own unique numbered card.
The dessert menu.
Soufflé au chocolat. Bitter chocolate, vanilla ice cream.
Riz au lait. Rice pudding, 8-hour roasted pineapple, rum. Spectacular creamy rice pudding nicely complemented by the pineapple and caramel/rum sauce.
Caramel rum sauce for the rice pudding.
The check came in this cute book. Service was all built into the prices.
I really liked everything about Pasjoli. It’s not cheap, but it felt worth it. The decor is elegant/updated. The service was very friendly and efficient. Food was extremely on point. Updated French bistro fare, so nothing felt dated. Great flavors. It’s very rich. If you like “light” this probably isn’t your cup of jus.
Restaurant: Ho Kee Cafe
Location: 558 Las Tunas Dr, Arcadia, CA 91007. (626) 822-3399
Date: December 29, 2019
Cuisine: Hong Kong Chinese
Rating: Quite good
The last Sunday of 2019, the last trip to the SGV, the last (restaurant) Chinese meal of the year…
Skylar arranged this banquet at Ho Kee Cafe in Arcadia, ordering a bunch of off menu dishes.
The decor is fairly modern.
Our menu was all in Chinese.
And we had this cute private room all to ourselves.
Salty peanuts on the table.
Pork belly with tangy jellyfish — first rate jellyfish, snappy with a great marinated flavor.
Hoisin and sugar to use on the pork.
Causeway style crab — salty and garlicky. Had to crunch thru shells but they were soft enough.
The house collected the garlic afterward so we could snack on it.
House special lobster — excellent — on tasty garlic noodles.
Succulent shrimp with celery — very delicate and nice with good textural contrast.
Vegetables featuring lily roots, mushrooms, greens, and oyster mushrooms — very nice actually.
Lily Snails — but I think was actually conch — crunchy. Attractive plating.
Ginger steamed turbot — very delicate.
Sesame 100 flower chicken — layered with shrimp paste — nice.
Sliced Peking duck — served with buns.
Duck meat and sweet sauce — nice meat, not as boney as some and very moist.
French Style Beef — one of the most succulent and tender I’ve had.
A-choy with garlic — good.
Typhoon Fried rice — a touch dry. Used the same seasonings as the lobster (in theory).
I was winding down gelato production for the year and so the freezers were already off but I did have this large bowl of fresh Sweet Milk Gelato Chocolate Mousse that Jerome and I made a day or so before. This is serious chocolate mousse made with classic French technique and Valrhona chocolate.
Overall, Ho Kee Cafe was very good. Pretty similar to Cantonese. Plating was very attractive, service great, and kitchen execution excellent. A fitting way to finish out a year filled with lots of great Chinese food!
Restaurant: Nanjing Duck House
Location: 9961 East Valley Blvd
Date: December 5, 2019
Cuisine: Nanjing Chinese
Rating: Looks funny — tastes great
Lately, Yarom and I have been doing more lunch excursions — particularly to Chinese places that aren’t really going to cut it for wine dinners. I’ve named this series Lunch Quest.
Anyway, today it carried us to Najing Duck House which specializes in Nanjing style cured duck.
And we met up with Tony Lau, Kirk, and some others.
This is one of those tiny SGV places with no decor — although they don’t have a drop ceiling — and exactly one employee. She was taking orders AND prepping the food. Tony had to help her out by busing!
Much of the food is cold and cured and on display in this takeout deli cabinet.
Oh yes, Nanjing style cured Turkey Gizzard!
The very short menu.
Shredded seaweed. Pretty much as described.
Pickled cabbage with soybeans and mustard greens. I loved these. I love cabbage. I love fermented. What’s not to love?
Nanjing style beancurd. What’s brown, rich, savory, slightly sweet and has a texture like a mop sponge? All true but it was actually great. Loved it.
Turkey gizzard, Nanjing style. Sounds extreme, but once you slice this dense cured muscle with the deli-slicer it’s quite delicious with a nice firm chew and a lovely cured flavor.
Turkey liver. Foie gras it ain’t. Decent enough though, if livery.
Sliced turkey leg, Nanjing style. More deli-slicer action. This was actually a very lovely cold sliced turkey leg. Salty, but tasty.
Boiled dumplings stuffed with pork and shepherd’s purse. Great. I love these home-style dumplings.
Boiled pork dumplings. More goodness.
Wonton soup with pork wontons and egg strips. Also lovely. Reminded me a bit of a better version of the classic wonton soup I’d get in my youth.
Nanjing style meatballs. Meaty good.
Half a Nanjing style duck. Much like the turkey, but duckier. A bit of a salted ham flavor.
Beef shank noodles with bok choy. The meat was great. The soup was simple.
Pork rib noodle soup. Again the meat was great. Rich. Soup was exactly the same.
Overall, I was surprised how interesting (and good) this place was. Service was a bit slow as there was only the one lady doing EVERYTHING. And most of the food was grey, cold, and kinda sketchy looking — but it tasted pretty good. Small menu though. We had almost everything except for the seasonal corn noodles (have to try these).
Location: 111 N Atlantic Blvd #350, Monterey Park, CA 91754. (626) 888-5188
Date: October 20, 2019
Cuisine: Cantonese Chinese
Rating: Very solid banquet Chinese
Our friend Derek has been the manager variously at Elite Seafood, World Seafood, and China Red. Tonight we return for one of those awesome Tony Lau special Cantonese feasts.
Now he’s helping open up Monterey Park newcomer, Tang Gong.
Tang Gong is upstairs in the Northwest Corner of the busy Garvey/Atlantic intersection.
In an era when the Cantonese Palaces are closing, it’s rare to have a new one opening up — including all the glitzy Hong Kong style trappings. These places cater (haha) to big Chinese weddings.
We had a nice single table private room with lots of space.
On the table to start, candied walnuts (yummy) and peanuts.
Conch with shrimp paste. Nice chew, crunch from the celery, and a bit of yummy “shrimpy” flavor from the paste.
Cantonese hot sauce and mustard.
Scallop covered in shrimp paste. One of these pan fried dishes that is related to a dimsum dish. A whole scallop covered in shrimp “macnugget” material.
Salt and pepper prawns. Super delicious huge prawns so deeply fried that you eat the whole thing shell and all.
Whole suckling pig. Awesome and porcine.
Yarom (right) and Tony Lau (left) with their bones.
Cantonese style Peking duck. Served with buns, hoisin, etc. Not as good as real Peking duck — as it’s not so crispy — but still delicious.
Roast chicken. Super moist. Some of the best chicken I’ve had in a long time.
Black pepper beef with asparagus. Always wine friendly, if a touch “boring.” Very tender.
Roast quail. Always excellent.
Garlicky Greens. Great, perfect for the colon.
Chard with egg and mushrooms. Now I’ve never had this Chinese vegetable dish before. It had a slightly sweet and sour (more sour) taste. I preferred the classic garlicky greens but this was certainly interesting.
Crispy egg noodles.
Beef topping for the noodles.
The noodles with the topping.
More noodles with beef and bean sprouts. Carby, but delicious.
Mochi-type balls with red bean (the dark ones) and custard (the light one). I LOVED the custard flavored ones. Really nice jelly consistency and rich custard inside.
Red bean and coconut jelly. Loved these too. I always like these weird smooth jiggly Chinese desserts. Some of my favorite Chinese desserts.
Nocciola Caramello Budino Gelato — Nocciola custard base made with Pure PGI Piedmont hazelnut paste, infused with house-made caramel (instead of sugar) then mixed with toffee and topped with Toffifay — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — so good it’s an instant signature flavor –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #hazelnut #nocciola #caramel #caramello #toffee #toffifay
Key Lime Pie Gelato – base is a key lime egg custard, layered with house-made frozen graham cracker and covered with house-made 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 #KeyLime #lime #custard #meringue #GrahamCracker #cookie
Overall, very solid new place. Service (thanks Derek) was of course perfect. We loved the private room. Tony always does a great job of planning the menu and tonight was no exception. Lots of classics and lots of interesting new dishes. Highlights were the crispy prawn, chicken, duck (of course), pig, scallop with shrimp and more.
Restaurant: Dha Rae Oak
Location: 1108 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006. (323) 733-2474
Date: July 20, 2018
Cuisine: Korean BBQ / Duck
Rating: The pastrami duck was awesome, others so-so
Los Angeles’ Korea Town is a gold mine of interesting Korean restaurants.
And I’ve wanted to try Dha Rae Oak and its famed “stuffed duck” for years. And so even though I returned from China only 20 hours ago I head out to meet the guys.
A very unassuming frontage on Western.
The inside is a bit nicer, with the BBQ grills and hoods all over.
Pickled mustard green or something.
Yarom’s hedonist meetup page actually drew in someone new and young and female. She’s unlikely to want to hang out with us old fat guys again despite our scintillating conversation!
Dips for the meat. Spicy oil and mustard.
Plate o’ meat ready for grilling. Most of this is beef. Most of this was very dry, seemed over cooked and bland on the grill. Nowhere near as good as the usually heavily marinated KBBQ.
Pork belly or bacon. This was one of the better regular grilled meats.
Frozen sliced duck. Decent, but a touch dry.
Big sheets of short rib. This was pretty decent too.
Purple bean rice.
Skewers (from some other table).
Pastrami duck. This was by a factor of 3X the dish of the night. Smoked pastrami/corn beef like duck.
That is then lightly grilled to sizzle up the fat. Really excellent and takes the cold smoked duck (which is also good) up to 11.
Famous clay pot stuffed duck. The inside is stuffed with all sorts of Korean grains and seasonings. But it isn’t that strong and the meat itself was a touch dry. It was nice, but nothing amazing.
Pickled vegetable noodle soup.
This was okay too, with a little bit of heat, but I’ve had much better noodle soups.
Overall, I was kinda disappointed in Dha Rae Oak. I had thought the stuffed duck would be amazing. Instead it was the smoked duck that was the real winner. And that would have been totally fine if the bulk of the other dishes had been tasty, but a lot of the meats were under-seasoned.
Chef: Andrew Greene
Date: September 27, 2015
Cuisine: New American
Rating: Awesome meats
Jake and Elizabeth’s yard has been the site of several awesome Hedonist gatherings, and tonight is no exception.
It’s a gorgeous warm night and twenty-some of us are ready to chow down.
The chef tonight is Hedonist veteran Ron’s son, Andrew Greene (with the beard), shown here with a bunch of other chefs in attendance, including Kaz from Totoraku! Andrew is the chef at Troya in San Francisco and he’s prepared some epic meaty feasting for us tonight.
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 cuvée, but with no lack of vivacity.
Salami. Out in the beginning are a few nibbles.
2004 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. VM 97.5. Racy, silky and vibrant in the glass, the 2004 Dom Pérignon is all about energy. Here the flavors are bright and delineated throughout, with veins of acidity and minerality that give the wine its sense of drive. Mint, rosemary and yellow-fleshed fruits linger on the finish with the classic DP reductive overtones that are such a signature. Once again, the 2004 Dom Pérignon truly shines. The 2004 Dom Pérignon is a wine to treasure over the next thirty or so years.
From my cellar: 2004 Henri Boillot Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 95. Knockout nose combines pineapple, orange and spices, with a subtle leesy suggestion of nuts. Wonderfully sweet, supple, fine-grained and full, with a captivating sugar/acid balance and an intriguing suggestion of exotic fruits. Extremely broad, silky, palate-saturating wine of great purity and persistence. I underrated this when I tasted it from barrel a year ago. From Domaine Caillot vines located high on the hillside. A great Batard.
hamachi with fennel, pickled with ponzu, Persian cucumbers.
This was a nice sashimi starter.
2010 Marcel Deiss Schoenenbourg. VM 94+. Bright straw-green. Spicy aromas of lime, honeyed peach, anise and quinine. Dense on entry, then spicy and vibrant in the middle, displaying juicy, fresh flavors of peach, flowers and earth. This structured, very long wine magically combines an impression of strong extract and a weightless quality. Very impressive.
Uni. Isn’t much of a looker on the plate.
But sure tasted great on crackers.
Mushroom dashi. A lovely light soup of bonito dashi and various mushrooms.
2008 Kistler Pinot Noir Cuvée Catherine. VM 94. Glass-staining ruby. Highly perfumed, precise aromas of cherry, blackberry, licorice, herbs and violet; much darker in character than the preceding wines. Sweet and firm on entry, then fresh and aromatic in the mouth, with strong cherry and dark berry fruit supported by a firm spine of minerality. Finishes sweet and long. This is built to age.
agavin: ain’t no Burgundy!
2006 Kistler Pinot Noir Cuvée Elizabeth Bodega Headlands. VM 94. Deep red. Energetic red and dark berries on the nose, with sexy notes of potpourri and blood orange adding complexity. Lively raspberry and blackberry flavors stain the palate, taking on a richer mocha quality on the back. The red fruit repeats strongly on the strikingly pure and precise finish. An impressively tangy, pure expression of pinot, with the balance and intensity to reward cellaring.
Tomato corn salad.
From my cellar: 1995 Louis Jadot Echezeaux. 92 points. Deep colour, wonderful fruit (black fruits) and sweetness. Very long. A really pleasant surprise, and a perfect companion for salmon teriyaki. A true grand cru, excellent value for money. No hurry to drink the rest.
1990 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 96. Two great back to back vintages are the 1990 and 1989. The more developed 1990 boasts an incredible perfume of hickory wood, coffee, smoked meat, Asian spices, black cherries, and blackberries. Lush, opulent, and full-bodied, it is a fully mature, profound Beaucastel that will last another 15-20 years.
Lamb bacon. Chunks of tender lamb meat reduced and smoked. Very chewy, and amazingly delicious.
2001 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 95. The classically styled 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape has plenty of the telltale kirsch and sweet spice notes that always seem to be present in Avril’s wines. Showing more mature notes of truffle, olive, licorice and garrigue as it sat in the glass, it’s medium to full-bodied, elegant and balanced, with a great texture and finish. It has solid mid-palate depth, as well as sweet tannin, so, while there’s no harm enjoying bottles today, it has another decade of longevity.
braised oxtail. Tender meaty oxtail.
1991 Beringer Chardonnay Private Reserve. Parker 96. The second largest production of Beringer’s Private Reserve, the 1991 came in just behind the 24,000 cases of the 1997. Interestingly, these are among the greatest Private Reserves made, and as Ed Sbragia told me, it was just one of those perfect vintages. One of the longest and coolest growing seasons in the history of California, it was marked by cool temperatures throughout the summer and a perfect Indian Summer. The hang time of the grapes, ranging from the date of flowering to the date of harvest, was historically long (I do not believe it has been equaled since). The Cabernet Sauvignon came from the same three sources as the 1990, Bancroft Ranch, the Home Vineyard in St. Helena, and Chabot Vineyard, and the tiny dollop of Cabernet Franc was from the Bancroft Ranch site. I’ve enjoyed many bottles of this spectacular effort, which still possesses a dense ruby/purple color as well as a sumptuous nose of spring flowers, graphite, loamy soil, creme de cassis, black cherries and blackberries. With sweet tannin, a full-bodied mouthfeel and incredible purity as well as youthfulness, this wine has another 15-20 years of life left in it. If this were a Bordeaux, one would think it was 8-10 years old, not two decades. There are no hard edges, and the seamless integration of all the component parts make it one of the prodigious Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserves to drink now as well as over the next 20 years.
fig marmalade. These four, the bacon, oxtail, humus and marmalade were served together.
Things are cooking!
2003 Guigal Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis. Parker 96. A wine I’ve been lucky enough to have numerous times recently, the 2003 Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis is an off-the-hook effort that gives up plenty of plum sauce, smoked duck, licorice, tar, vanilla bean and violet aromas and flavors. Never acidified, it has awesome freshness and focus to go with full-bodied richness, a hedonistic texture and a blockbuster-styled finish. While it’s not for those craving delicate-styled aromas and textures, I think it’s a gorgeous effort that will continue to drink nicely over the coming decade or more.
Salmon with tomatoes and onions.
2007 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino. Parker 95. The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino is gorgeous. Dark red cherries, plums, spices, leather and tobacco wrap around the palate as this dense, powerful wine starts to open up. Expressive aromatics are woven throughout, giving the 2007 a measure of polish and sophistication that is not always present in this wine when it is young. Finessed, suave tannins reinforce an impression of elegance. The 2007 can be enjoyed with minimum cellaring, but it will also age gracefully for many years. Readers who want to try the 2007 today should give the wine plenty of air, as the more refined qualities only emerge over time. When tasted next to the 2006, the 2007 shows redder tonalities of fruit and less sheer muscle. Hints of tobacco, crushed flowers and spices wrap around the sensual finish.
2010 Grace Family Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown. 92 points.
Seared venison. Incredibly tender slices of venison.
Some Turley Petite Syrah. I don’t usually bother with these monsters.
Served with blueberry demiglase.
2000 Pavie. Parker 100. Just beginning to come around and strut its enormous potential, this wine at age 15 has been evolving like a glacier. The wine has an inky, opaque, plum/purple color and a stunningly rich nose of mulberries, bramble berries, blackberries, licorice and incense as well as touches of toast and graphite. Fabulously concentrated and full-bodied, with a multidimensional mouthfeel, this profound Pavie is in mid-adolescence. It should evolve and continue to drink well for at least another 30-40 years. This is clearly the first compelling effort made by the Perse family.
agavin: bottle was empty before I got to it 🙁
1996 Mouton-Rothschild. Parker 94-96. This estate’s staff believes that the 1996 Mouton-Rothschild is very complex. I agree that among the first-growths, this wine is showing surprising forwardness and complexity in its aromatics. It possesses an exuberant, flamboyant bouquet of roasted coffee, cassis, smoky oak, and soy sauce. The impressive 1996 Mouton-Rothschild offers impressive aromas of black currants, framboise, coffee, and new saddle leather. This full-bodied, ripe, rich, concentrated, superbly balanced wine is paradoxical in the sense that the aromatics suggest a far more evolved wine than the flavors reveal. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2030. By the way, the 1996 blend consists of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc.
Smoked fingerling purée. These mashed potatoes were insane, particularly with the blueberry sauce. Tasted like BBQ or something.
2005 Rol Valentin. Parker 92-94. A sexy, full-bodied, very drinkable style of 2005, Eric Prissette’s 2005 Rol Valentin displays loads of black cherry fruit, licorice, Christmas fruitcake and spice. Full-bodied and opulent, it can be drunk over the next 10-15 years.
Duck confit. One of the best duck legs I’ve had — not quite Peking duck, but what is?
2001 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 100! The 2001 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is the first of these back-to-back perfect wines from Shafer that, at age 13, is still a baby, but, wow, what an amazing wine. A fabulous growing season produced a wine with inky/purple black color, stunning crème de cassis notes, with additional hints of lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, cedar wood and forest floor. It is full-bodied, sensationally concentrated, with a seamless integration of acidity, tannin, wood and alcohol. This is a great, monumental Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that is still an infant, at age 13, going on 14. This has got at least three decades of life left in it, and probably won’t hit its peak for another 5-7 years.
Veggies cooked in duck fat.
2006 Justin Vineyards & Winery Isosceles Reserve. 93 points. Massive, complex fruit, with a nice layer of tannin. This is a whopper, with plenty of time left. Highly enjoyable now with a some air. Very masculine.
From my cellar: 1973 R. López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Bosconia. 93 points. This is quite dusty but really complex. Coconut, sweat, mushroom, strawberry, cranberry and dark cherry flavours. The palate shows a strange lactic note that borders on yogurt and egg yolk which is a bit distracting but in the end, flavours of earth, mushroom, cherry, sweat, herbs, leather and cedar round this wine out and make it quite enjoyable. The finish is medium+ with moderate complexity but is really earthy which is just so captivating.
Charred fennel purée. Good stuff.
1932 Massandra Red Port. 94 points. Tawny in color, with a complex nose of smoke, caramel, butterscotch, toffee, coffee ban, banana and wild strawberries. The wine had great freshness and ample sweetness, but the nose was better than the palate, due to the shortness of the finish. But then the wine was close to 85 years of age. Massandra is not a wine I see often, making this a rare and interesting treat.
agavin: Joseph Stalin probably tasted this wine many times.
1999 Fred Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Riesling Auslese. Really nice.
Kumefe (Turkish filo dough with cheese), with Meyer lemon syrup, hazelnut crumble. I’ve had this in Turkey a number of times. Great stuff with an interesting crispy/gooey texture.
Some extra hazelnut crumble.
It should be noted that we were able to see the “super blood moon” (super moon in eclipse) right as we ate.
Overall an incredible evening of amazing food — and way way too much of it too — and tons of great wines. We rolled out of there. The meats were super flavorful and extremely well cooked. They probably “suffered” slightly too from the family style plating, as I can imagine individually plated with all the elements integrated they would be even more impressive — and they were fabulous as is. Mmmm, lamb bacon.
Restaurant: Mei Long Village
Location: 301 W Valley Blvd #112, San Gabriel, CA 91776. (626) 284-4769
Date: August 30, 2015
Cuisine: Shanghai Chinese
Mei Long Village has been around forever as far as Alhambra is concerned, maybe even 20 years!
They serve up traditional Shanghai style fare.
The mini-mall frontage on Valley Blvd is pretty typical. Across the street from Shanghai #1 and Beijing Restaurant and in the same mall as Tasty Dining.
2001 Château Lynch-Bages Blanc de Lynch-Bages. 88 points. A touch of oxidation but drinking ok. Light golden yellow with tastes of quince and wet stones.
Smoked cold fish. Nice flavor, with that slightly slimy texture and little bones.
From my cellar: 2004 Morey-Blanc Meursault 1er Cru Bouchères. Burghound 89-92. This is a good deal riper with exotic aromas of mango, melon and dried apricots that lead to textured, dense and mouth coating full-bodied flavors that are beautifully complex and despite the weight, the marked acidity keeps everything focused and well-balanced. An impressive showing for a wine that I often find to be a bit top-heavy.
Jellyfish head. The marinated bits of the “head” (the round part) of the jellyfish.
2007 Pierre Morey Meursault Les Terres Blanches. Burghound 87-89. A very Meursault nose of hazelnut, soft white flower and yellow fruit aromas leads to pretty and elegant medium-bodied flavors that are round yet detailed with a discreet mineral undercurrent, all wrapped in a tension-filled and persistent finish. Lovely and very much fashioned in Morey’s understated style.
Marinated cucumbers. Nice and crunchy.
2012 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett. VM 87. Nectarine, pine nuts and lemon oil on the nose. Delicate tropical fruit flavors are brightened by a salty twang. Refreshing acidity gives a feminine character to the finish. Nicely balanced.
Hot sweet shrimp. Really nice eat the shell shrimp.
Pork leg. Special order 2 day steamed prep. Yeah, it’s pretty frightening to look at.
And perhaps even scarier once it got cut up. There is a whole trotter there too. I went just for the straight pink meat, avoiding the jiggling skin and cartilage. The meat was pretty awesome though.
From my cellar: 1998 Domaine des Chezeaux Griotte-Chambertin Ponsot. 92 points. Med dark red. Delicate creamy red cherry, a little spice. Light body, light concentration, cherry and old wood. Tannin and acid indicate youthfulness.
Stuffed duck. Another special order. We had this all sewn up.
Inside is a mixture of grains, chestnuts, etc. The sauce was amazing and it was all a bit sweet.
2000 August Kesseler Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese. White peach and lemon aromas with hints of mint and lily flower lead to a quite delicate, refined peach, citrus and slate character on the palate. This is airy and generous in the manner of the few best 2000s, suffused with fine slate character. Says Kesseler: “Everything that came after this?and there were vintage 2000 rieslings of Auslese and Beerenauslese character?was heavy and inferior to this in comparison.” Those higher must weight wines were not retained for separate bottlings. 2 stars.
Pan fried Shanghai dumplings. The classic pan fried soup dumplings. Yummy, although there is a good bit of dough.
XLB. The steamed variant are amazing and a lot lighter.
2005 Aubert Chardonnay Lauren Vineyard. VM 96. Mark and Theresa Aubert’s 2005 Chardonnay Lauren, tasted from magnum, is every bit as special as I remembered it. Time has softened the textures and added gorgeous nuance, yet the 2005 remains fresh, perfumed and extraordinarily beautiful. Hints of orange peel, mint and sweet spices lift from the glass, but it is the wine’s balance that proves to be utterly captivating. Quite simply, this is one of the very finest California Chardonnays I have ever tasted. In magnum, the 2005 will drink well for at least another five years, while in standard bottle, the Lauren is naturally a touch more forward, although it should keep for another few years, perhaps longer. My own preference is to drink wines while the fruit retains at least some elements of freshness.
agavin: not bad for a new world, it did have acid, but way way too hot (alcoholic).
Shanghai rice cakes. A great rendition of the classic rice cakes in soy sauce. Nice chewy texture.
2009 Aubert Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast. VM 91. Dried mushroom, earth and tart cherry nose. Palate somewhat thin and acidic, dry finish. Has not really developed since last tasting.
Crystal shrimp. Light but tasty.
2008 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard. VM 92. Bright red. High-pitched aromas of raspberry, strawberry liqueur, dried flowers and Asian spices. Silky, bright and precise, but with good depth and power to its red berry and cherry flavors. Really expand with air, finishing with sweet tannins, tangy minerality and impressive length. If your impression of the K-B wines ossified around the 2004 vintage, you should check this one out.
Fried fish. Fried.
2000 Château Gazin Pomerol. GV 92. COLOR-dark; NOSE-gorgeous cranberry; chocolate; mature; a V8 juice component; PALATE-a really nice, dry and austere background; great little finish; really singing; heavy fruit coming through; really well made; big upfront fruit; really elegant tannins; I love the gravel minerality of this red fruit; a chalkiness; there’s a clear beef jerky component on the back-end; very meat; almost like an Italian meal with a tomato sauce component on this Merlot; very bright on the back-end; good long finish; this has plenty of age to it; the tannins scream baby to me; I really like it; very well made and brings a lot of character to the table; very smooth; the fruit is very bitter — more of a Sweet Tart play; I think it’s fantastic; RP-90; GV-92+.
Spareribs. Pretty much the origin dish for Panda Express red sauce fried pork, but much better. Tender and delicious and the sauce wasn’t so heavy and cloying as at some places.
1998 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard. VM 90+. Full ruby. Highly aromatic, pure, Cornas-like aromas of cherry skin, pepper, iron and minerals. Quite tightly wound and penetrating, with slightly green-edged flavors of red fruits, black olive and pepper. Not especially fleshy or sweet but offers impressive precision and intensity of flavor, and the structure to reward some bottle aging.
Eggplant. Awesome and garlicky. Not spicy really like it might be at a Szechuan place.
Shrimp fried rice.
Shanghai noodles. Classic soy sauce noodles.
2000 J.L. Chave Sélection St. Joseph Offerus. 87 points. Deep red. Dull nose some black fruits and pepper. Acidic and disjointed in mouth some earthy notes. Short clipped finish.
Tomato and winter melon soup. Mostly tasted like tomato. Mild, but not my thing at all.
1994 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain Vendange Tardive. 95 points. Beautiful wine. Nose was filled with honey, orange marmalade, flowers, and orchard fruit. Palate had notes of apricot puree and marmalade, botrytis notes, and the typical Alsatian bitter at the end; in this case it added to the wine instead of taking away. This was a deep wine with a moderately thick texture. Sweet, but the acid kept it from being a dessert wine. From comments, went well with seafood appetizer and bread pudding dessert. Long finish that coated the mouth. Haunting, it just got better as the evening went on. Wonderful.
We drove a mile west to Solju dessert for some awesome snow. Above is my mango with passionfruit sauce and blackberries.
And this crazy green tea with taro, mochi, and watermelon poppers!
Overall, Mei Long Village was some yummy fare and a total deal at $27 a head (all in, including tax and tip). An “old school” SGV place with really solid food.
Restaurant: Beijing Duck House
Location: 6420 Rosemead Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91775. (626) 286-5508
Date: June 14, 2014
Cuisine: Beijing Chinese
Rating: Tasty stuff
This is my third time this week out to the SGV for scrumptious Chinese. My mother apparently ate a lot of Chinese when she was pregnant with me (true) and I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid.
2002 Delamotte Champagne Blanc de Blancs Millésimé. IWC 92. Pale yellow-gold. Fresh citrus and orchard fruit aromas are complicated by notes of gingerbread, white flowers and sweet butter. Toasty lees and mineral qualities gain power with air, adding depth to the wine’s gently sweet pear, honey and tangerine flavors. At once rich and lively, finishing with excellent clarity and alluring mineral and floral character. This Champagne, which I’ve tasted from three different disgorgements now, is proving that it’s built for the long haul.
1999 Forey Père et Fils Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Gaudichots. Burghound 88. Less expressive and open than the ’99 Les St. Georges without the forbidding firmness of the Petits Monts. This still has plenty of the pinot baby fat and the substantial tannins are completely wrapped though there is sufficient structure to permit this to improve for a decade. Pure, long and pretty.
agavin: needs a little more time to open.
2009 Maison Roche de Bellene Savigny-lès-Beaune Vieilles Vignes. BH 86-89. Here the nose is bursting with Savigny-style earth on the ripe and pretty red pinot fruit nose that introduces nicely rich, round and fleshy middle weight flavors that are also admirably delicious and while there is a touch of rusticity to the supporting tannins, the overall impression is a straightforward wine that should drink well relatively early.
agavin: surprisingly drinkable for being so young.
2005 Longoria Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard. Burghound 92. A really lovely nose of beautifully complex and deeply pitched red berry fruit complements the rich and ripe medium full flavors that display a fine sense of restraint and underlying reserve as well as a gamy hint, all wrapped in a moderately structured finish and fine balance. This will clearly be capable of mid-term aging and as I say, this is indeed ripe but it’s the restraint and focus that really sets it apart from the typical pinot. Recommended.
1999 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee. Parker 92. A powerful, concentrated 1999 Chateauneuf du Papes was produced at Chateau Pegau. The dense ruby/purple-colored 1999 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee boasts a powerful bouquet of pepper, garrigue, black fruits, and earth. Full-bodied and expansive, with sweet tannin giving it a more open-knit, accessible style than most young vintages of Pegau, this is a wine to drink while waiting for the 1998 and 1995 to become fully mature. Like all of this estate’s red wines, it was bottled with neither fining nor filtration.
agavin: This had a barnyard quality. It went well with the lamb below, but got to me after a bit.
2004 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Riesling Clos Hauserer. Parker 87. The many insufficiently attentive wine aficionados who can be heard lamenting a supposed absence chez Zind-Humbrecht of dry wine should have their mouths rinsed out repeatedly with the 2004 Riesling Clos Hauserer! (And, by the say, it is the Humbrechts, not I, who have re-introduced the Umlaut.) Mint, boxwood and lime zest on the nose suggest a Sauvignon. Firm acidity, peach pit bitterness, adamantly chalky minerality, and almost explosive acidity in the mouth make for a brash and relatively spare impression, despite palpable thickness of extract and sense of amplitude. Humbrecht imagines that if he planted Riesling in the Goldert, this is the sort of wine it would become. These grapes were very ripe – “turning blue- in fact, he says – but the deeper the roots go into the mother chalk (and these vines now average thirty years of age) the longer, he claims, the wine requires to unclench, even in a less acid-retentive vintage than this. Plan not to even revisit this wine for two or three years.
agavin: disappointingly austere
1994 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg Vendange Tardive. RJ Wine 95. I love extremely young ZH wines for their youthful vigor. As they age, some gets a bit to heavy and cloying showing a hint of alcohol. Also the beauty of a great desert wine is the airy/cotton candy like palate. This was an exceptional showing. Nicely focused nose displaying yellow peach, dry mango, apricot and sweeten ice tea. Lovely airy palate. The wine remains quite fresh and precise despite the dense fruit a la D’Yquem. Lovely showing.
I highly recommend.
2007 Nikolaihof Riesling Reserve Steiner Hund. RJ Wine 93. So serene, delicate and understated; this is a wine that really needs time and air to show its best. It’s utterly compelling though with an amazing purity to the fresh fruit flavours, greener herbal and leafy accents and a base of pure stone beneath the fruit.
1995 L’Ecole No. 41 Merlot Seven Hills Vineyard. 91 points. Immediately greeted by the rich unbelievably ripe cassis perfume which sets you up for a fruit bomb, but instead the wine was very poised and restrained on the palate. Tannins are fully integrated at this stage which rewards with a velvet mouthfeel. High quality fruit here which showcases the brilliance of Seven Hills. These should be drank now. For me I’m beginning to understand L’Ecole now because they are shy, backwards and sometimes austere in youth as they reward so much with age.
Frog hot pot. Probably close to the Wuman dry hot pot, this had a bit of heat. It was fine, but not the best dish of the night.
Overall, another highly enjoyable Chinese meal. The duck was on par with Tasty Duck and the other dishes were arguably better. I like the Beijing style and some of these dishes were fabulous. Perhaps Beijing Restaurant is a little better within this style, but then again, there is the duck!
Location: 10610 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064.
Date: October 22 & 23, 2013
Cuisine: Japanese Yakiniku
Rating: Best beef in town!
Last spring, we took the whole restaurant with 28 people, but the evening was total chaos (albeit fun chaos), and this time we decided to split it into two nights. The first night (which I attended) was 13 people, oriented toward the heavy hitters wine wise, and the second night was about 18-19 with some non drinkers. Still, there were some pretty incredible wines that night too.
Everyone brings a wine vetted by the group and the standard is very high at this event, basically close to 100 points, high pedigree, age, or some combination thereof. As you’ll see, we really tore it up and in terms of scale and wine this was the most epic Hedonist event yet.
The outside is basically a shell. The “Teriyaki House” has nothing to do with the food within, and the phone number is incorrect. The place is like a beef speakeasy!
NV Krug Grande Cuvee. Parker 91-95. The NV Brut Grande Cuvee emerges from the glass with freshly cut flowers, almonds, pastry and spices. This is a relatively floral, bright Grande Cuvee with fewer of the oxidative qualities that are typical of the house style. According to Krug’s ID Code, this bottle is based on the 2004 vintage, which explains the wine’s tense, taut personality. Another year or two on the cork will only help the wine gain expressiveness and depth. Today, the Grande Cuvee is quite reticent and not showing the full breadth of its personality.
1970 Château Haut-Brion. Parker 85. Although surprisingly light-bodied, consistently pleasant and enjoyable, this is an undistinguished effort. The 1970 Haut-Brion has always come across as angular, and lacking the exceptional perfume and complexity this estate can achieve. In this tasting, the wine displayed vegetal, tobacco scents, good spice, some fruit, and a medium ruby color with significant amber. The tannin and acidity were too high for the amount of fruit, glycerin, and extract. Drink it up.
Two kinds of beef sashimi, eaten nearly raw. On the left beef tataki (rib eye) and on the right (in the cup) beef throat sashimi. Also on the plate is a bit of Korean style hot sauce (the red stuff), some intensely strong garlic (yum) and micro julienned ginger.
The throat was very chewy, more about texture. The rib eye soft and more flavorful. All went well with the garlic and ginger — I particularly liked the garlic.
From my cellar: 1991 Chapoutier Ermitage le Pavillon. Parker 100. This is a Le Pavilion of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. The 1991 Ermitage Le Pavilion follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990-it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. Very powerful and full, yet displaying silky tannin, this is a seamless beauty! Anticipated maturity: 2001-2035.
A raw beef dish. Marinated raw beef is seen here with ginger, raw egg, cucumber, daikon, pine nuts, and something orange. Apparently, this is a Korean dish called Yukhoe. Actually, I’ve had it at Korean places, but in any case it’s delicious.
1994 Penfolds Grange. Parker 91. This is the first vintage where Grange went to a bottle with laser-etched identification numbers to preclude the possibility of fraudulent bottles. The wine, a blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, shows some toasty oak mixed with notes of root vegetables, damp earth, blackberry liqueur, prune, and licorice. The wine is dense, full-bodied, not terribly complex in the mouth, but layered and rich. I would not be surprised to see the rating on this wine improve as this youthful Grange continues to evolve.
1993 Guigal Cote Rotie la Landonne. Parker 88. The great glories of this house are its Cote Roties, of which there are now five separate offerings. The 1993s, which have just come on the marketplace, are from a troublesome vintage for everyone in Cote Rotie, rivaling 1984 in difficulty. Nevertheless, the single-vineyard wines have turned out well. As for the single vineyard wines, they are all excellent in 1993, but more herbaceous and clearly marked by the green pepper smells of slightly underripe Syrah. The most tannic of the three famous single vineyards is the 1993 Cote Rotie La Landonne. It is amazingly powerful and rich for the vintage, and reveals more fruit and intensity than it did prior to bottling. It exhibits a saturated ruby color, and copious amounts of pepper, tar, olives, licorice, and black cherry fruit in the nose. It remains the most muscular and structured of the three wines, and has managed to avoid the hollowness and vegetal character that plague so many 1993 northern Rhones. This Cote Rotie should age gracefully for a decade or more.
1996 Guigal Cote Rotie la Landonne. Parker 93-96. The 1996 Cote Rotie La Landonne is a wine with tremendous intensity and tannin, as well as a pronounced roasted herb, smoked meat, and Asian spice-scented nose with tell-tale black fruits, melted tar, and truffle notions in the background. Rich, powerful, and massive, this effort will require 3-4 years of cellaring, and will last for two decades.
2002 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Parker 94. One of the best wines of the vintage, this is a classic Pauillac that is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot. Dense ruby/purple in color with a glorious nose of melted licorice, lavender, barbecue smoke, black currants, and graphite, the wine is tannic, classically structured with an opaque ruby/purple color, beautiful definition, and a 1996-ish personality. This deep, full-bodied, elegant yet powerful 2002 should age handsomely for over two decades. Some patience will be required since this vintage exhibits more muscle and virility than normal.
2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto. Parker 96. Giacosa’s 2004 Barolo Falletto is so compelling it will be hard not to drink it in its youth. This gorgeous Barolo reveals a deeply structured frame layered with sweet dark fruit, mint, spice and pine. At once delicate and powerful, it is a beautifully finessed wine that is sure to provide much pleasure. A recent bottle of the 1982 is a testament to the virtues of this great site as interpreted by Bruno Giacosa.
1992 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 91. Over the next year readers should be on the lookout for some of the 1,000 case production of Don Bryant’s Cabernet Sauvignon from an old vineyard on Pritchard Hill near the Chappellet Vineyard. Bryant’s 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon offers an impressive black/purple color, rusty tannin, immense concentration, full body, and enormous richness in the finish.
1999 Greenock Creek Shiraz Roennfeldt Road. Parker 98. There are 236 cases of the 1999 Shiraz Roennfeldt Road (also from 65-year-old vines). Although it pushes ripeness to the limit, it does not reveal any raisiny/pruny characteristics. It offers wonderful freshness, good acidity, superb intensity, and copious quantities of blackberry, cassis, crushed rock, floral, and spicy new oak notes. Massive and concentrated with perfect equilibrium, it can be drunk now and over the next 25 years. Kudos to one of the world’s finest wine producers!
2002 Marquis Philips Shiraz Integrity. Parker 94-99. Deep garnet-brick colored, the 2002 Integrity is a 100% Shiraz that displays evolved leather and tobacco notes intermingled with some meaty and gamey aromas and nuances of coffee, olives and underbrush. Full bodied, it has a coffee flavors in the mouth, medium levels of velvety tannins, and a medium-high acid backbone. It finishes long with notes of eucalyptus showing through. It is drinking now.
2009 Hundred Acre Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Few And Far Between. Parker 94. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Few and Far Between Vineyard has developed beautifully since I last tasted it from barrel. Mocha, espresso, exotic spices and orange peel all come together in this inviting, multi-dimensional Cabernet Sauvignon. Totally alive in the glass, the wine is constantly changing, and reveals different sides of its personality with each taste. Hints of sweet red berries and cloves add complexity on the long, polished finish.
2009 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon RBS To Kalon Vineyard. Parker 96. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon RBS Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard comes across as dark, plush and inviting, but with greater inner focus and minerality than some of the other wines here. Graphite, smoke, tar and licorice are some of the notes that wrap around the intense, juicy finish. I especially admire the way the RBS grows in the glass as it turns more explosive over time, yet never loses its more refined shades of expression. The RBS is 100% clone 337 from the B1 and B2 blocks. According to winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, it is the addition of fruit from B2 (new this year) that gives the 2009 much of its personality.
From my cellar: 1990 Chateau d’Yquem. Parker 99. An extraordinary effort, Yquem’s 1990 is a rich and fabulously superb, sweet wine. This wine also possesses lots of elegance and finesse. The wine’s medium gold color is accompanied by an exceptionally sweet nose of honeyed tropical fruits, peaches, coconut, and apricots. High quality, subtle toasty oak is well-integrated. The wine is massive on the palate, with layers of intensely ripe botrytis-tinged, exceptionally sweet fruit. Surprisingly well-integrated acidity, and a seamless, full-bodied power and richness have created a wine of remarkable harmony and purity. Certainly it is one of the richest Yquems I have ever tasted, with 50-100 years of potential longevity. An awesome Yquem!
So chaotic was this giant night that they brought out all five flavors on each plate and just placed them about the tables. I like the ice creams better than the sorbets here. The white chocolate was fantastic. Still, it’s all great.
Chef/Owner Kaz Oyama on the right. Both parties are partaking of my D’Yquem.
And this place IS all about the beef, which is arguably some of the best I’ve ever had. Certainly the best yakiniku/Korean BBQ I’ve ever had. There is a perfect tenderness to every cut that’s fairly transcendant. I’m not even that much of a steak fan — but I’d take this stuff any time over even a spectacular cut from Mastros or Cut. The food here does not vary much from visit to visit. There is no menu. The quality however is utterly consistant. So while it isn’t an everyday sort of dining experience, perhaps once every 6-9 months, I love to return for my fix.
This was a spectacular evening — really, truly, deeply epic. It was about 5 hours of mind boggling wines and crazy beef.
The next day a further 18 or so Hedonists returned for the exact same meal, but as they brought their own wines (ours being liver food at that point), I light them here too. I didn’t catch 100% of the wines. Missing are the 96 Sassicia, 01 Gaja , 97 Solaia and probably more.
1986 Ducru Beaucaillou. Parker 90-92. At 16 years of age, this wine continues to taste more like a 5 to7-year-old Bordeaux. The color is a handsome dark ruby with just a bit of pink at the edge. The wine exhibits sweet red and black currant fruit intermixed with wet stones, spice, and flowers. Medium-bodied and still moderately tannic, but very concentrated, this firmly structured, slightly austere wine has tremendous upside to it. By the way, this was the first vintage where I began to notice on some bottles the wet cement/damp cardboard aromas that were far more increasingly evident in the subsequent vintages, 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990. Interestingly, the last five times I have tasted the 1986 Ducru-Beaucaillou, they were totally pristine bottles.
1990 Figeac. Parker 91-94. One of Bordeaux’s most schizophrenic properties, as disappointing as Figeac’s 1989 has turned out, the 1990 is fabulous. This property has not made a wine as rich as the 1990 since 1982. In contrast to the 1989, the 1990 is a great Figeac, potentially a richer, more complete and complex wine than the 1982. The 1990 exhibits a saturated dark purple color (somewhat atypical for Figeac), and a gorgeous nose of olives, fruitcake, jammy black fruits, minerals, and licorice. Medium to full-bodied, with gobs of glycerin-imbued, sweet, jammy fruit, this wine is nicely buttressed by moderate tannin and adequate acidity. Fleshy and rich, as well as elegant and complex, it is approachable because of the wine’s sweet fruit, but it promises even more pleasure with 2-4 more years of bottle age; it will last for 20 years. I predict the 1990 Figeac will have one of the most exotic and compelling aromatic profiles of the 1990s. It is a terrific wine!
1982 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Parker 100. One of the monumental wines of the last century is the 1982 Pichon Lalande. Since bottling, it has flirted with perfection, and was a sprinter out of the gate, which gave rise to questions about how quickly it would begin its decline. However, at age 27, it retains all its glossy, rich, flamboyant cassis fruit, chocolaty, berry jam-like notes, and plenty of earthy, foresty flavors. This is a full-bodied, extravagantly rich Pichon Lalande seemingly devoid of acidity and tannin, but the wine is incredibly well-balanced and pure. It is an amazing effort!
1985 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Parker 90-91. Fully mature, this wine shows some pink at the edge, a sweet nose of herb-tinged cherries and black currants intermixed with dusty notes and new oak. The wine is medium-bodied, elegant, very flattering, and perfumed. It does not have the weight, depth, or dimensions of the top vintages, but is quite seductive.
1982 Certan de May. Parker 92-98. A murky, dense, opaque garnet color is followed by spectacular aromatics of roasted herbs, smoked meats, cedar, prunes, black cherries, and black currants. Rich, powerful, and full-bodied, with a thick, unctuous texture, considerable fat and glycerin, and dazzling concentration, Certan de May has not produced a wine of such intensity, thickness, and aging potential since their 1949, 1948, 1947, and 1945.
1961 Château Brane-Cantenac. RJ Wine 93. This looks fully mature. Initially there are some sandalwood notes on the nose, then some high tones. The palate is open, and nice and clean with some acidity lending a freshness, but nowhere near that of the Giscours. It’s a tiny bit dried out, but there is still some good black fruit in there on the palate. Returning to this later, it was becoming very secondary and faded on both the nose and the palate.
2000 Du Tertre. Parker 91. A dense purple color is followed by layers of concentrated blackberry fruit intertwined with damp earth, mushroom, and sweet, toasty barrique smells. With ripe tannin, medium to full body, a layered texture, and a concentrated, impressively endowed finish, this is the finest Du Tertre since their 1979. This is a property on the move … up!
1995 Chateau Rayas Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone. Parker 90. The 1995 Chateau Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone is a twenty-year wine that requires 4-5 years of cellaring. It exhibits a black/purple color, good acidity and tannin, a closed, dense, moderately tannic personality, exceptional richness, and a powerful, full-bodied finish. Yields of 30 hectoliters per hectare were slightly higher than the 15-20 achieved in 1996. This is a wine for those who cannot find or afford to purchase Rayas.
1996 Chapoutier Ermitage l’Ermite. Parker 99-100. One of the candidates for France’s wine of the vintage is unquestionably Chapoutier’s 1996 Hermitage l’Ermite. In October, 1997 I reported that this was a virtually perfect wine made from a small parcel of vines, believed to be over 100 years old, located close to the tiny white chapel owned by the Jaboulets on the highest part of the Hermitage Hill. Yields were a minuscule 9 hectoliters per hectare. Now that this wine is in bottle, it is unbelievable! Unfortunately, only 30 cases were exported to the United States. The wine boasts a saturated black/purple color, as well as a phenomenal nose of rose petals, violets, blackberries, cassis, and pain grille. In the mouth, it is phenomenally rich, with a viscous texture, and a multidimensional, layered finish that lasts for over a minute. Its purity, perfect equilibrium, and unbelievable volume and richness are the stuff of legends.
2010 Saxum Terry Hoage Vineyard. Parker 94+. Here in its first vintage, the 2010 Terry Hoage Vineyard bursts onto the palate with rich, dark fruit. The weight power and richness of Syrah comes through beautifully in the layered, sumptuous wine. Flowers, licorice, mint, tobacco and grilled herbs wrap around the finish. The 2010 boasts serious density and fabulous overall balance. It is terrific first effort. The blend is 46% Syrah, 33% Grenache and 21% Mourvedre.
1976 De Suduiraut. Parker 92. For me, the 1976 is the greatest Suduiraut of the seventies, and the only wine other than the 1989 that resembles the magnificent 1959 this property produced. Medium to dark amber/gold, this full-bodied, massive wine has a very intense bouquet of vanillin oak, ripe pineapples, and melted caramel. Very deep and viscous, this is a decadently opulent Suduiraut with enormous presence in the mouth.
Location: 1039 E Valley Blvd. Ste B102. San Gabriel, CA 91776. (626) 572-3885
Date: September 28, 2013
Rating: Great Duck!
My Hedonist food and wine club loves the SGV. This community 20 minutes East of Downtown LA boasts a staggering array of good Chinese restaurants and Tasty Duck is one of our regular spots. Even though its intensely crowded, we shoe horned 23 people in on a busy Saturday night. Of course this meant 11-12 people at tables meant for 8-10, but what’s a little elbow in your pancake among friends?
NV Pierre Péters Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve. Burghound 93. A stunningly elegant nose of pure floral, Granny Smith apples, spice and freshly sliced lemon complements to perfection the intense and equally pure flavors that possess excellent punch like remain delicate and ultra-refined on the balanced and persistent finish. The supporting mousse displays a very find bead and the overall impression is one of subtlety and grace. Not only is this a wonderful effort but the value it offers it beyond stunning.
Here are the traditional accompaniments. Excellent pancakes, hoison sauce, and scallions and apple/pear. One mystery question I must ask: why do Chinese restaurants insist on putting far too few pancakes and too little hoison sauce on the table? We had to ask for refills about four times (which they happily brought).
2006 Sine Qua Non Autrement Dit. 90 points. Very nice blueberry/strawberry nose. not hot on the nose. really nice full palate and mouthfeel with a nice mix of red and blue fruits, and integrated earthiness. did not noticably detect any heat or wood on this. certainly a bigger and different type of rose, but this bottle was nicely restrained and seemed in good balance tonight.
The best American rose I’ve yet had. Rather wonderful.
2010 Samuel Billaud Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. Burghound 92. While there is a trace of exotic fruit to the otherwise very pure aromas of white flower, citrus, wet stone and seaweed, this offers ample Chablis character. There is an attractive succulence to the fleshy middle weight flavors that exude a fine minerality on the clean, dry, linear and overtly saline-infused finish. Like the straight Chablis, this too evidences a hint of bitterness though it should pass in time.
1994 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Heimbourg Vendange Tardive. Parker 99! These wines are made in frightfully tiny quantities, and are so rich that they make Chateau d’Yquem look like an under-nourished wine. Truly the stuff of legends, these possess 15%-18% residual sugar. All three will age for 40-50 years, but will anyone wait that long? They are “off the charts” in terms of flavor extraction, balance, quality, and the lavish quantity of extract and intensity they possess.
Wine of the night for sure!
1990 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux. Burghound 90. Still deeply colored. An expressive, dense, indeed huge nose of roasted, ever-so-slightly stewed fruit that is already showing a great deal of secondary and even tertiary development while the muscular, rich, extracted and solidly complex flavors are underpinned by a tough, firm and very prominent tannic backbone. This is a dramatic bruiser of a wine but it’s not clear that it’s ever going to harmonize as the finish is completely dominated by the structure and given that the fruit is presently much more advanced than the evolution of the tannins, it’s a tough call to say whether the fruit will be able to stand the test of time and this most recent bottle gave no cause for optimism in this regard, indeed it seemed to confirm that this is probably a lost cause. Optimists will continue to hold the ’90 Epeneaux in the cellar as it will certainly be around 30 years from now though whether it will be any more balanced than it is now is the essential question.
The proverbial, “duck soup” that is the last part of “duck three ways.” Mild and pleasant with some tofu and cabbage. I can also vouch that it was served hot, as a ladleful was poured across my hand and I had to soak my thumb in ice water all night.
Eye ball surprise anyone? Actually a very unusual dish. Like egg drop soup but sweet with these big tapioca balls. Pleasant, although continuing the general trend in which Chinese desserts bat about 50.
Overall, another fantastic meal. The total damage, including tax and a whopping 30% tip was $35 a person! “Inflated” because of our multiple ducks. The service was great (for Chinese). They were very friendly and willing to serve us the dishes one at a time over a long period . This is actually fairly unusual as a lot of Chinese restaurants like to slam you out in 45 minutes by dropping everything on the table at once. The duck was first rate, as good as Peking duck gets — more or less. The other dishes were good too, with almost all of them being very well executed and not greasy.
Restaurant: Shin Beijing
Location: 3101 W Olympic Blvd – Los Angeles, CA 90006. 213-381-3003
Date: April 1, 2013
Rating: very solid electric Chinese
Hedonist regular, Penny, wanted to go out for her birthday, so 15-18 of us descended on Korea Town Chinese restaurant Shin Beijing. As far as I can tell, except for the Kimchi, Korean Chinese is pretty much Chinese (food wise).
From my cellar, Parker 90, “With respect to Saint-Cosme’s white wine offerings, readers should check out the 2007 Cotes du Rhone blanc, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Picpoul, and Viognier. Flamboyant scents of melon, tropical fruit, and honeysuckle jump from the glass of this beauty. It offers amazing richness, a dry, medium-bodied mouthfeel, superb freshness, and far more quality and complexity than one would expect from a white Cotes du Rhone. Luckily, there are over 1,000 cases of this cuvee.”
Parker 91, “The Monchof 2007 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese Mosel Slate is scented with fresh tangerine, heliotrope, wisteria, and mint. Lush and brimming with ripe pineapple, musk melon, and tangerine, it spreads a creamy fruit concentrate over the palate yet remains infectiously refreshing in its long, sappy finish. Once again, this high-volume Eymael calling card represents an exceptional value and should go right on pleasing for a decade or more, provided anyone both thinks to cellar it and can resist temptation in the interim.”
2008 Domaine Macle Cotes du Jura. This old fashioned wine is made in a manner a little like Sherry where a layer of bacteria is used to prevent oxidation. It was very dry and hot with sherry fino like notes.
Crab w/ ginger and onion sauce. This sauce was delicious. Some wonderful crabs. Almost as good as the ones I had in Singapore.
2010 Domaine Gauby Côtes du Roussillon Villages Les Calcinaires. A little funky, with a distinct barnyard taste that someone described as “dirty piggy.” I liked it quite a bit though, as did many others.
Parker 95, “Peter Michael’s Bordeaux program is built around their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine, Les Pavots. The 2008 Les Pavots, a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc and 11% Merlot, offers up notes of roasted coffee, cocoa, chocolate fudge, black currants, licorice and a hint of truffles. This full-bodied, beautifully rich red boasts an opulent texture, impressive purity and a long finish. Impressively made with impeccable attention to detail (it is sorted berry by berry rather than grape bunch by grape bunch), this 3,500-case cuvee should drink well for two decades or more.”
2002 Domaine Weinbach Tokay Pinot Gris Altenbourg Cuvée Laurence. Parker 95, “Among the few slightly older wines from Weinbach that I tasted recently, the 2002 Pinot Gris Altenbourg Selection de Grains Nobles was especially notable. Black tea, citrus zest, musk, white truffle and honey aromas lead intoxicatingly to a plate the combine delicacy with density and richness, Like mandarins marinated in honey, tea, and grapefruit juice on the palate, on which 166 grams of residual sugar are tossed off and practically forgotten. This finishes with unquenchable refreshment rare for an S.G.N., and the sort of complexity and clarity that accrue to the best wines of this under-rated vintage.”
Overall, this was a great evening. Shin Beijing turned out to be a great find with a nice ambiance (as far as Chinese restaurants go) and terrific food. They really treated us well too. It’s not so easy to handle a boisterous group of this size and they managed perfectly. The price was very reasonable too, $60 a person all inclusive of tip and tax, considering the number of dishes and the fact that we had several lobsters, several crabs, and two peking ducks.
Location: 6184 Arlington Blvd # A, Falls Church, VA 22044 703-532-2125
Date: November 30, 2011 & November 25, 2017
Cuisine: Cantonese Chinese
Rating: Very very good cantonese.
Mark’s Duck house is an amazing Cantonese place I go to when I’m home in Washington D.C.. There’s nothing fancy about them other than the food but they make a lot of stuff, and they make it all really well.
Below is the menu to end all menus.
Picking from that menu can be a bit of a challenge!
The whole peking duck and a glimpse of the green onions and hoisin.
The pecking duck here is incredible. They make the pancakes for you if you want, but the whole assembly was brought out to the table. I had photos of it the last time I was here.
We had way way too much food as usual here. Seven people and this could have fed twelve. I rolled on out very satisfied, indeed.
Restaurant: Bibou BYOB
Location: 1009 South 8th street, Philadelphia PA 19147. 215.965.8290
Date: November 23, 2011
Rating: Very good meal
And with a blast the ThanksGavin 2011 is off. Canonically, in a tradition developed over the last twenty years, the gavin Thanksgiving weekend is defined by four major meals. The Wednesday night dinner (out somewhere, usually in downtown Philly), the main event on Thursday, the Friday night dinner at my cousin Abbe’s, and the Saturday deli brunch. For this year’s kickoff a downtown intimate French restaurant was chosen.
NOTE: Technically, this is the ThanksGavin/Flitter as my grandparents had two daughters and so they have different married names. But for simplicity I’ll usually just say ThanksGavin.
Every year I drag out at least a case of wine from my cellar. My favorite opener varietal, real Pinot Noir. the Parker 93. “An assortment of candied cherries explode from the glass of the 2002 Nuits-St.-Georges Les Perrieres. This seductive wine’s character is drenched in black cherry syrup, rocks, and earth. Medium-bodied, it has outstanding depth, concentration, and a long, expressive finish that reveals copious quantities of ripe tannin. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2018.”
A blockbuster Spanish wine. Parker 94. “The 2007 Valdemuz is 100% Prieto Picudo from vines ranging in age from 100-115 years. For this cuvee 20% whole bunches were utilized with aging for 18 months in new French oak. A glass-coating opaque purple color, it offers up a splendid aromatic array of pain grille, graphite, espresso, truffle, black cherry, and blackberry. Dense, ripe, and concentrated, on the palate it is velvety textured and virtually seamless. This lengthy offering will evolve for another 5-7 years and provide big-time pleasure through 2027 if not longer.”
“Foie gras Duo. Foie gras crème brulée & Seared foie gras with caramelized Seckel pear flavored with lavender.” The left hand side was a fairly traditional prep for foie — but excellent with great texture and a nice meaty / slightly spiced flavor to the fruit. The right had good texture, and was nice, but was more like a custard.
“Gravlax. Arctic char gravlax flavored with rosemary & Meyer lemon, Cucumber & apple brunoise, white lentil hummus.”
Parker gives this a 92, but I’d put it more like at 95-96. “The 1995 Hermitage La Sizeranne is performing even better out of bottle than it did immediately prior to bottling. It is a full-bodied, dense ruby/purple-colored wine with a sweet, smoky, chocolate, cassis, and tar-scented nose, great fruit intensity, full body, a layered texture, sweet tannin, and good grip. It should be cellared for a minimum of 4-5 years, and will keep for 15-20.”
A blockbuster argentine wine. As good as I’ve had from there. Parker 94. “Flechas de Los Andes’ 2006 Gran Corte spent 17 months in new French oak. It is opaque purple-colored with legs that ooze down the glass. The aromatics are brooding but expressive with notes of pain grille, pencil lead, spice box, lavender, black cherry, and plum. Opulent, with glossy fruit, this dense, rich effort conceals significant underlying structure. This intense, powerful, lengthy wine demands a minimum of 5-7 years of cellaring and will be at its best from 2015 to 2030.”
This was a very good meal. Classically French, yet with a slightly updated palette and a deft touch. If you are in Philadelphia I highly recommend.