Location: You wish you knew!
Date: June 11, 2013
Rating: Even better than last time!
For my birthday I like to do a big wine and food blow-out with the Foodie Club. 2010 was in Spain at Calima, 2011 in Italy at Arnolfo, and 2012 was at Il Grano (spectacular) and this year, after an epic first meal at Japanese newcomer Yamakase, I decided to take over the entire restaurant: all 11 seats!
This is the kitchen. Well it’s also half the room.
And the other half. Actually, this doesn’t really show the seats itself (narrow lens) but it ain’t big.
And what would an Andy Gavin birthday be without great wines? I don’t know, because it never happens. All of the wines tonight came from my cellar except for the 1999 Grivot (which Erick brought). All except the dessert wine are Burgundies — because I love Burgundy! We begin with a couple of old white Burgs. These are Chardonnay, but not just any Chard. White Burg is the ancestral home of the grape, the only place that does it real justice, and the more or less the only place where it ages well.
1985 Bouchard Père et Fils Bâtard-Montrachet. In great shape, honeysuckle and creme brûlée.
Yamakase is the brainchild of chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and video game executive Stan Liu. Here Yama-san carves up some pig leg.
Jamón Ibérico with Caviar. I’ve had a close cousin of this dish several times at various Jose Andres restaurants. This was nice thick cuts of the ham in Spanish style. On the right is a bit of cucumber and uni (sea urchin) from Hokkaido.
Fresh sea scallop in a sweetened soy dashi with seaweed.
A fish version of the same dish.
“Spoons” are a Yama signature. These feature soft tofu with uni in the back and in the front as “caprese” with tomato and olive oil. This east/west combo is surprisingly delicious.
1989 Hospices de Beaune Meursault 1er Cru Charmes Cuvée Bahèzre de Lanlay. 94 points. Darkening toward amber. Opulent nose, butterscotch, mango, and wheat coming and going. Very rich with a penetrating intensity and a finish of near grand cru length. Probably at peak.
Halibut sashimi with 500 million year old Himalayan sea salt. The back bits are cut in the “thicker” style with a bit of a sweet sauce.
Super rare young yellowtail with a mixture of crab guts (kani miso). The gut sauce was amazing!
2001 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 90-92. The aromas are riper than the 2000 version though with a similar mix of green apple, melon and muscat notes followed by extremely fresh and wonderfully pure chardonnay fruit suffused through and through by an intense stoniness followed by relatively big and still quite tight middle weight, taut, muscular flavors of considerable tension and breed. This is a stunning effort for the vintage and may ultimately equal the excellent 2000.
This hairy crab from Hokkaido was still alive when we arrived.
Not so much half an hour later.
Served up steamed, simple, but delicious.
Bonito tuna sashimi with olive oil and sauce.
1996 Alain Hudelot-Noellat Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaumonts. 90 points. The nose is this gorgeous baking spice with fresh strawberries and white pepper. The moment you pour it into the glass it just explodes. The nose just kept going for hours as it got more and more expressive as the depth of the fruit built. On the palate you get that soft texture with concentrated dense red fruit and this wonderful minerality that persists throughout the finish. The broad structure makes me think the wine will fill out even more over time.
Another fish in a mayo / roe sauce.
Red snapper with yuzu and lemon.
1999 Domaine Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts. Burghound 90. This is a very powerful wine if not necessarily an elegant one with plenty of Vosne spice and rugged, structured, dense and punchy flavors that display solid length. The tannins are ripe and this will clearly take its time coming together but it’s a powerful and serious blessed with excellent underlying material.
Rare seasonal sea eel. Because of the bones yama-san cuts them in a special way with his sword of a knife.
Then served with three different sauces: eel sauce, honey, and a plum sauce. Really delicate and delicious.
Atlantic salmon (some special northern Salmon) served with olive oil, another sauce, and salt and pepper.
1999 Louis Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques. Burghound 91-93. Roasted ripe fruit that has a mix of red and black fruits, especially black cherry with wonderfully spicy, complex flavors that are both rich and dense. This is very ripe but the acidity is more pronounced which does a better job of balancing off the richness. Clos St. Jacques is almost always the finest Gevrey 1er chez Jadot and 99 is no exception. Grand cruquality and because of the richness, this will be approachable young but drink well for a long time.
Another round of spoons. In the back, kushi oyster with blue crab salad and quail egg. In the front, oyster with uni and quail egg.
Yama lays out the ramekins to make his signature seafood custards.
Chawanmushi, a egg custard. This one was very hot (it usually is) and included 7 kinds of seafood. Various crab, fish, lobster, uni. It was delicious, rich, and very unami.
1996 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Charmes Chambertin. Parker 92. This medium-to-dark ruby-colored wine has a fine nose of deeply ripe blackberry and cassis. On the palate, this well-concentrated, thick, complex, and harmonious wine is replete with loads of black cherries and spices. It has extremely ripe and supple tannins in its long finish.
This is a giant slab of amazing Spanish blue-fin tuna.
Watching him cut and partition it into “tuna” and “toro” sections was really interesting. Everything that doesn’t make the “cut” is tossed.
Blue fin in soy sauce with pine-nuts. Incredible, like the best Poki you ever tasted.
Another spoon, with toro, quail egg, wasabi, and some sauce. Delicious!
Served up with chives and a ponzu. Almost certainly the best akimono I ever had.
A “toast” of frozen toro, blue crab, egg, and brioche. Very interesting flavor/texture/temperature combo.
1999 Louis Jadot Echezeaux. 95 points. Wine had a beautiful, intense aroma of bark, tar and musty dark fruits. On the palatte, lots of dark fruits–blackberries, black cherries and cassis. Lots of forest floor hints, and great minerality. If I had one complaint, albeit a very minor one, this wine lacked ever-so-slightly in elegance–I guess there’s the difference between this one and a Grand Echezeaux. The wine was medium to full bodied, showing wonderfully with still a bit of soft tannins on exhibit. I think this wine is in a great spot right now. As I always say, there’s no better wine than a fine burgundy–this and the Echezeau are prime examples. An extremely enjoyable wine!
A bit of genuine Japanese wagyu beef. No fat here.
The chef makes a simple sauce of dashi, mushrooms, maui onions, flour, and a few other things for the beef.
This variant is salmon instead.
A fantastic simple piece of blue-fin tuna (Maguro).
And the best for last: toro! Melts in your mouth.
2002 Château Climens. Parker 93-94. I suspect most readers will find it hard to get excited about the 2002 vintage for the sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes after what appears to be a prodigious 2001. However, 2002 is a very fine year for this region, possibly superior to any of the vintages between 2000 and 1991. The wines possess plenty of botrytis, but neither the impressive definition nor supreme elegance of the 2001s. This is a sweet, full-bodied, fat, concentrated, intense effort that was showing well.
A “rice course” with rice, toro, wasabi, and uni (from San Diego). Lots of uni!
A dessert sorbet. Baby Japanese peach (in season) with yuzu and mint. Very light and refreshing.
This was one of my best meals in a long time — really quite excellent — and regular readers know I have more than my share of great meals. We had fantastic wines, stunning and innovative food, and a really great format. The restaurant is only 11 seats. This made for a really fun time (and I even staved off the hangover with a milk-thistle, B6, and a lot of water).
Click here for more LA sushi reviews,
Or for Foodie Club extravaganzas.