Location: 516 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 490-0202
Date: December 3, 2019
Rating: Pretty awesome, actually
Our friends Eve and Riesa, who own Astrea Caviar wanted to do a dinner with Erick and I so we enlisted Jeffrey Merrihue and his chef Barbara Pollastrini to make a custom caviar menu at Heroic Wine Bar.
They took over the old Real Food Daily / Erven space on Santa Monica Blvd.
This is an unusual space, divided into two halves, each of which has a separate loft. The build out is attractive though.
Here’s the main side loft.
1988 Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Rare. JG 94. I love the 1988 vintage of Rare, which is a very, very fine example of this underrated, but excellent year in Champagne. The wine is now fully mature, but still bright and zesty, as it delivers a fine aromatic constellation of pear, peach, a nice dollop of honeycomb, toasted almonds, plenty of smokiness, brioche and plenty of smokiness in the upper register. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and shows off lovely mid-palate depth, with frothy mousse, fine focus and soil signature, excellent focus and grip and a very long, utterly classic and beautifully balanced finish. A superb vintage of Rare with years and years still ahead of it. (Drink between 2014-2030)
From my cellar to match: 1988 Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut. VM 97. I am blown away by the 1988 Comtes de Champagne. Still incredibly fresh, the 1988 Comtes flows with intense mineral notes that frame a vibrant core of Chardonnay fruit. The color, aromatics and flavors are all remarkably youthful, while the crystalline purity of the finish suggests the 1988 will drink well for another two decades, if not longer. Readers who enjoy mature Champagne will need to be patient. Still, I see no reason to deny gratification; this is a rock star wine! (Drink between 2013-2030)
This one, a new “breed” was just for munching on.
Here it is open.
Amuse of NONNA’S GNUDI. Ricotta & spinach, sage infused housemade brown butter, fluffy Parmigiano Reggiano. This is basically a ball of soft spinach and cheese, topped with cheese, and soaked in perfect butter sauce. It’s richly cheesy — and buttery — very rich actually. Quite yummy. But you gotta like butter and cheese at its best!
Strange Bedfellows. Live oyster with Live Santa Barbara Uni and caviar. A delicious paring of raw — caviar, oyster, and uni — with the champagne.
Mad Hatter. Crispy fried egg yolk topped with caviar and house made creme fraiche. The fried egg was delicious, but tasted strongly of both “fry” and egg yolk — big surprise — so it wasn’t quite as good a caviar showcase (although it was great).
Night and Day. Squid ink spaghetti with live Santa Barbara Stone Crab and caviar. This was a “too die for” pasta. Fabulous by itself and even better with all that caviar and even better with old champagne.
From my cellar: 2011 Coche-Dury Meursault Les Vireuils Domaine et Selection. 94 points. Wow, even the “negotiant” Coche doesn’t disappoint. The intensity of this wine was unreal. Blazing. Struck like lightening both deep into the palate and broadly across at the same time. Just unreal that this is a village wine.
Erick brought: 2005 Domaine Ramonet Chevalier-Montrachet. BH 93. This continues to show somewhat oddly because while it now appears to be much more backward than it did when I originally tasted it for review in 2007, there still isn’t the elegance or refinement that I’m used to seeing chez Ramonet with this wine. Ripe and airy white flower and citrus blossom aromas offer excellent complexity if less elegance than I’m used to seeing are followed by still tight full-bodied flavors that possess impressive volume and concentration, all wrapped in a nicely long finish that displays less depth than promised by the nose. One change that is evident though is that if this is going to come together, it will take longer than I initially imagined and thus I have extended my initial drinking window by several years. (Drink starting 2015)
Red Planet. Poached live Santa Barbara lobster with champagne and caviar and beurre blanc. Another great dish. Perfectly cooked Pacific lobster is always great with beurre blanc — then add the caviar!
Secret Garden. It’s a (healthy) secret. Zucchini with vegetables, cured egg, and crab. This was a fine dish, but not nearly as good as the other (maybe because it wasn’t nearly as rich).
Castaway. Marinated Japanese A5 Wagyu tartare with live uni, thin scallop and caviar. Again — didn’t suck. Haha. Great, although not quite as good a pairing as the all seafood dishes.
Reisa brought: 1999 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Chambolle-Musigny. JG 90+. The 1999 Chambolle villages is deep, lush and powerful, with a style not dissimilar from a hypothetical blend of the 1990 and the 1995. The bouquet is quite primary, delivering notes of black cherries, herb tones, a bit of smoke, minerals, chocolate and vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is quite full-bodied (the biggest Chambolle since the 1990), with lovely freshness and shape, plenty of tannin buried in the wine’s formidable fruit, and fine length on the complex finish. Like so many Roumier village Chambolles, it deserves, nay demands, cellaring time. (Drink between 2009-2020)
Adding an item “from the regular menu”: PASTA CARBONARA. Mezzemaniche, house made guanciale, pecorino Romano. Chef Barbara shows off her Roman chops with this scrumptious carbonara. The Mezzemaniche also has a really nice bite, and the pork cheeks the perfect crunch and porcine flavor. Very roman and again maybe the best Carbonara I’ve had in a long time. It maybe could have been a touch creamier — as this is an pork and cheese forward prep, but the guanciale alone is worth the price of admission.
Bacon & Eggs. Pork belly confit and caviar and truffle. Inspired by the Republique dish this wasn’t quite as good — but was still really great — and opulent.
Again from the regular menu: TOURNEDOS ROSSINI. Central Valley Rib cap, chicken liver parfait, King Oyster mushroom, Italian summer truffles. This was rich, but boy was it good! How can you go wrong with those ingredients?
Next we sat around drinking — for a while!
Erick brought: 1973 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. JG 93. The 1973 Dom Pérignon is at a beautiful point in its evolution and is a great pleasure to drink. The deep and mature nose offers up a complex mélange of rye seed, oranges, fresh figs, honeycomb, a gentle touch of walnut, a beautiful base of soil that is both chalky and shows some signs of clay and a very gentle hint of DP’s signature herbal streak. On the palate the wine is fullish, very deep and utterly seamless, with impeccable balance, lovely focus and complexity, very gentle bubbles that frame the wine these days, rather than offer up youthful effervescence and a very long, refined and vibrant finish. I would opt for drinking the ’73 Dom Pérignon up over the next decade in regular-sized formats, while it remains at its apogee of peak drinkability, as there is not anything left in reserve at age thirty-five. Of course magnums (which should be absolutely brilliant right now) will cruise along significantly longer. A lovely bottle. (Drink between 2008-2018)
From my cellar: 2006 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut Rosé. VM 98. One of the highlights in this tasting, the 2006 Cristal Rosé is simply stunning. A vertical, towering wine, the 2006 Cristal Rosé is a thrill a minute, with a compelling interplay of aromatics and exquisitely layered fruit, all supported by a real feeling of phenolic intensity. While the 2007 is seductive, the 2006 is virile and imposing, with the statuesque lift of a Giacometti sculpture. All the elements meld together in a complete, alluring Champagne that will continue to drink beautifully for many decades. In 2006, the Pinot Noir was already being farmed biodynamically, while the Chardonnay was still under conversion. (Drink between 2016-2041)
I went nuts here and brought not one, not two, not three, but four gelato flavors:
Mint Meringue Strawberry Sorbetto — An intense dairy-free base made from Avignon Strawberries and layered with house-made Spearmint Meringue — created 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 #strawberry #sorbetto #mint #Meringue
True Tiramisu Gelato — after long hiatus, one of my best flavors remerges for a holiday party — This is a genuine tiramisu in gelato form, with a Marsala Egg Yolk Zabaione, fresh Mascarpone Cheese, and real Espresso. Then it’s layered with Valrhona Cocoa and Lady Finger’s soaked in house-made Espresso Rum Syrup — 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 #Tiramisu #Espresso #coffee #chocolate #marsala #Zabaione #Eggyolk #Rum #Mascarpone
Root Beer Float Gelato — Sarsaparilla flavored gelato base with house-made vanilla cream cheese layers — 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 #RootBeer #RootBeerFlaot #Sarsaparilla #vanilla #creamcheese
Toasted Almond Truffle Gelato — My new egg yolk based nut formulation with Toasted Sicilian Noto Romano Almond makes a sublime base stacked with layers of house-made Valrhona Almond Amaretti Ganache — 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 #Valrhona #almond #amaretti #cookie #ganache #ChocolateTruffle
This is actually some really serious Italian and in a style that is very unusual for LA. Ingredients are all either top flight Italian or really good fresh local California. It’s an interesting hybrid, but Chef Barbara’s flavors are great and really taste very Italian Italian (as opposed to Italian American) in flavor.
She’s quite a creative and flexible chef too and when tasked to make this special caviar menu came up with a bevy of really interesting and fabulous dishes.
Plus the wine, food, caviar, company, and gelato were all spectacular.