Restaurant: Akbar [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 3115 W Washington Blvd, Marina del Rey, CA 90292. (310) 574-0666
Date: August 11, 2014
Rating: Bold and balanced flavors
It’s time for my Hedonist group to return to LA’s best Indian restaurant, Akbar (Marina Del Rey branch). Too many Indian places focus on low cost buffets of very over cooked food, but Akbar cooks everything to order — even baking their own Naan when you place the order. They are more focused on the cuisine of the Punjab (Northern India), with very good curries and kormas. You can get anything from extremely mild to blow the top of your head off. Once I had the “pepper lamb” on 5 (max heat) and my scalp sweat for hours.
Because my beloved Santa Monica branch has closed 🙁 we went to the original Marina Del Rey location. The food is just as good, but it’s a tad further (for me).
Chef Avi commands the kitchen.
The Menu can be found here, although the chef designed our feast directly.
2007 Bellavista Franciacorta Gran Cuvée Brut Rosé. 89 points. A light fruity champagne style wine from North Italy.
The chutney’s and pickles. The green one is mint, the yellow-ish coconut, the one with corn spicy-pickled vegetables (yum! and oh, so gut burning) and the back corner a tangy one.
2008 Williams Selyem Blanc de Noir Drake Estate Vineyard. 91 points. Clear with white tiny bubbles. Tight lime and flowers on the nose. Secondary tangerine and yeast. Lite body and hyper-focused on the palate. Devine, bright citrus fruit. Superb yeast integration…soft textures without the cloying baked notes. Loads of floral action on the back. Super structured. Long finish.
Chicken Kati Roll. Roti stuffed with highly spiced diced chicken, onions, and tomatoes. I love this dish, which contains a contrast between the tangy spiced meat and the sweet mango sauce.
Vina Somoza Godello Neno Godello Sobre Lias. Very interesting spanish white.
2012 Wolfgang Puck Chardonnay Master Lot Reserve. Didn’t try. I’m a white Burg whore.
Buffalo seekh kabab. Tender and lean.
2012 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Trocken. Nice dry riesling.
2006 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Felsentürmchen Spätlese. 92 points. Lovely mineral, tart grapefruit, petrol nose; tasty, ripe lime, green fruit, mineral palate; medium finish.
Shrimp Pakora. Like coconut shrimp — but not quite.
2004 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard. Burghound 89. Noticeable but not dominant wood frames ripe cherry and black raspberry aromas that introduce sweet, round and slightly sweet flavors that finish with moderate acid bite. I suspect that this will come around and harmonize with a year or so in bottle and as such, my score offers the benefit of the doubt.
agavin: too much oak!
Tandoori grilled fresh Banzino. Inside, the fish was “stuffed” with some curry. Lots of flavor and very moist!
2008 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Noir Pierre Léon. Burghound 91. A perfumed and spicy nose of black cherry and plum marries seamlessly into rich, focused and attractively supple flavors that possess both good detail and solid mid-palate concentration, all wrapped in a firm and built to age finish. This balanced effort still displays a bit of wood on the finish but the concentration is such that it should eventually absorb all of the oak. Also worth considering as this is lovely.
“Good old” Chicken Tikka. Tender morsels of chicken.
From my cellar: 1998 M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac. Parker 94-6. Chapoutier’s 1998 Barbe Rac is close to full maturity. It exhibits an abundance of Provencal herbs intermixed with new saddle leather, kirsch, framboise, and spice box. The intoxicatingly heady, complex aromatics are followed by a full-bodied, lush, succulent style of wine with a relatively high alcohol/glycerin content and loads of fruit. This wine is drinking terrifically well after going through an awkward stage about two to three years ago.
1998 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 92-95. That may explain the open-knit, complex notes of tree bark, black cherries, licorice, seaweed, pepper, and floral notes in the 1998 Beaucastel. The wine is medium to full-bodied, has nice, sweet tannins, and is surprisingly open and approachable. This wine has reached the beginning of its plateau of maturity, where it should last for at least a decade or more.
Tandoori Lamb Chops. Really flavorful.
Some of the curries in pre-heated form.
And a bunch of them being worked up.
1996 Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Parker 90. The 1996 Smith-Haut-Lafitte is the quintessentially elegant Bordeaux. With a dark ruby/purple color, it displays a beautiful presentation of blackberry and cassis fruit nicely dosed with subtle new oak. On the attack, the wine is sweet and pure, with striking symmetry, and a compellingly balanced mid-palate and finish. Although not as big as some blockbusters from this vintage, it is extremely complex (both aromatically and flavor-wise), and impressive for its restraint, subtlety, and impeccable balance.
agavin: too structured right now
1995 Sociando-Mallet. Parker 90. This accessible, yet tannic example of Sociando-Mallet possesses a deep ruby/purple color, and excellent aromatics consisting of jammy black cherries, blackberries, and cassis, as well as subtle notes of minerals, earth, and new oak. This is a deep, long, muscular, tannic wine that is structurally similar to the 1996. Patience will be required from purchasers of this high class wine.
agavin: since I’m used to drinking the likes of 89 Lynch and 85 Margaux, this third rate Bordeauxs are just so-so to my palette.
Saag Paneer. Farm cheese with spinach.
2003 Turley Wine Cellars Petite Syrah Estate. Parker 91-93. The 2003 Petite Syrah Turley Estate (200 cases; 14.2% alcohol) is a soft, civilized Petite Syrah, a varietal known for producing massive, backward, almost brutally concentrated and tannic wines that need at least a decade to become drinkable. This 2003 is a surprisingly elegant, opulent example with wonderful concentration in addition to atypical accessibility.
agavin: pretty decent actually
Prepping the giant venison kofta with curry.
Venison kofta curry. Tamarind, tomato, onion flavored. Really delicious.
2000 Joseph Phelps Insignia Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 90. The 2000 is a mid-weight, elegant effort with lots of black currant, violet, earth and forest floor characteristics. Medium-bodied with excellent ripeness and sweet tannins, it is one of the more successful wines I have tasted from this vintage. The wine is close to full maturity and should keep for another 10-12 years.
Chicken Tikka Masala. The best I’ve ever had. Deliciously rich and flavorful.
2002 D’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz. Parker 93. After re-tasting the 2002 The Dead Arm Shiraz, I believe my initial rating is correct. It still plays it close to the vest, exhibiting loads of cassis, asphalt, smoke, and barbecue spice-like aromas along with full-bodied flavors. While well-made and impressive, it remains backward and restrained, and does not appear to be up to the quality of either the 2003 or the great 2001.
agavin: not bad with the spice
Coco lamb. This is one of my favorite lamb curries. It’s very rich and usually quite hot.
2007 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain. Parker 97. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain is unlike any wine I have ever tasted from Dunn. Layer after layer of flavor saturates the palate in this opulent, full-throttle Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 possesses dazzling textural richness, depth and sheer intensity. Purists may prefer more structured vintages, but for a producer known for such slow maturing wines, the 2007 is a huge pleasure to taste today. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2037.
agavin: pretty good, despite being crazy young. Actually more than pretty good.
Dal aka lentils. Beware the consequences!
2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. Burghound 87. A high-toned raspberry and cranberry fruit nose that also displays subtle spice and menthol hints introduces round, supple and easy to like flavors up until the finish that is overtly warm if attractively sappy. Be sure to keep this cool because the warmth really comes up if the temperature rises even slightly.
1998 Chateau Saint Jean Cinq Cepages Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 89-91. Made in a light style, the medium-bodied 1998 Cinq Cepages (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit-Verdot) exhibits a sweet nose of toast, earth, cedar, licorice, black cherries, and chocolate. There is excellent concentration, but because of the vintage conditions, this wine does not possess much volume, breadth of flavor, or intensity. Drink it during its first 10-12 years of life.
1993 Yalumba Sémillon Botrytis Family Reserve. Pretty good sticky.
Galub Jamun. Fried cheese balls in syrup. When I was younger I thought these were basically donut balls, as that’s what they taste like. It’s also worth mentioning that we named a character in Way of the Warrior after this dessert.
2003 La Tour Blanche. Parker 92-96. Ex-chateau bottle tasted blind in Sauternes. The La Tour Blanche ‘03 offers yellow flowers, melted candle wax and honey on the nose with Muscat-like aromas developing in the glass. The palate is well-balanced on the entry with lemon curd and honey notes, though it needs just a little more acidity to give it tension and freshness. The finish is quite linear, springs no surprises, and just drifts a little when you seek more tautness and race. Still, this is a pleasurable, if not profound La Tour Blanche.
agavin: loved it
Rice pudding. I love rice pudding, but I like a particular consistency (relatively thick). For whatever reason, tonight’s rice pudding was more to my taste than the Santa Monica locations. Quite nice and refreshing in fact.
Akbar has long been my favorite LA Indian, and this meal was probably my best yet there. The balance of items was great — and very plentiful — and the flavors incredibly bright and spot on. The brothers Kapoor (below) are also wonderful hosts. All in all an exceedingly fun evening.
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