Restaurant: Taberna Arros y Vi
Location:1403 2nd Street. Santa Monica, CA 90401. 310.393.3663
Date: August 21, 2013
Rating: Good food, amazing service
Michael Cardenas, co-founder of Lazy Ox Canteen, has recently opened a new Spanish “tavern” right off the Promenade in Santa Monica. Given our great nights at the Ox, it’s only natural that we Hedonists should test Arros out with a big wine blowout.
From my cellar: 2009 Raul Pérez Rías Baixas Muti. IWC 91. Bright yellow-gold. Deeply pitched aromas of smoky lees, bergamot, apricot pit and salty minerals. Viscous, palate-coating orchard and pit fruit flavors are enlivened by juicy acidity and complemented by honeysuckle and a hint of spun sugar. Wild, complex and singular wine with strong finishing cut and sappy persistence. This is far removed from your classic albarino.
Roasted Garlic (Ajo Asado) w/ crisps. Just bread and roasted garlic. Great on date night.
2003 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Crianza Viña Gravonia. IWC 91. Full gold. A perfumed, complex bouquet evokes dried pit fruits, honey and toasted nuts, with floral and beeswax accents adding complexity. Deep, fleshy and broad, offering chewy peach, pear skin and candied almond flavors lifted by gentle acidity. Closes with firm grip and very good persistence, leaving floral and honey notes behind.
Spicy Potato Skins (Pieles de Patata Picante), harissa aioli, crema de queso. Kind of like a crunchy potatoes bravos.
2000 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. Burghound 90. Interesting notes of fennel¡ green Chablis fruit and straw introduce medium weight¡ slightly austere¡ understated¡ precise flavors that deliver plenty of complexity and length but lack the same density as the 2001 version. To be sure¡ this is an excellent wine and Raveneau may have been a bit too modest in his comments about the vintage as this is really lovely if not genuinely incredible. As to maturity¡ for my taste this has reached a point where it can be enjoyed now though it will certainly hold for years to come. The question is whether the finishing austerity will soften as the finish is definitely reticent. Multiple and pretty much consistent notes though I have had at least three bottles that displayed mild pre-mox issues.
Sardines in a Can (Sardina en Lata). Rocket arugula, pickled vegetables, lemon, grilled bread. Good if you make a little open-faced sandwich out of all three elements. This is a repeat off the Lazy Ox menu.
Crispy Pig Ears (Orejas Crujientes de Cerdo). Salsa verde, harissa aioli. We also had these at Lazy Ox. This particular batch had the texture of fried leather. Ick. They reminded me too much of rawhide pig ears I used to give my dog.
Shrimp Gambas (Gambas al Ajillo). Garlic paprika shrimp, grilled bread. Gambas of this sort in Spain seem to come in two varieties: with the paprika and without. I actually prefer the without, but these were quite tasty.
Mussels (Mejillones al Vino Blanco). Spicy butter, spanish queso, chorizo. Everyone agreed that the sauce under these puppies was totally badass.
Jamon Iberico de Belota Charcuteria. marcona almonds, quince paste. Two types of Spanish cheese. Fancy ham and cheese!
2003 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de mon Aïeul. Parker 97. Deep, layered and rich, the 2003 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de mon Aieul is comprised almost all of Grenache and always comes from three lieux-dits: La Crau, Guigasse and Les Serres. Aged all in tank and showing none of the negative traits of the vintage, it has a rich, meaty bouquet of semi-mature red and black fruits, wild herbs, melted licorice, dusty minerality and roasted beef. Full-bodied, gorgeously pure and seamless, with solid underlying structure and a core of sweet fruit, it is a brilliant wine. I don’t see any upside to holding bottles, yet given the balance, richness and mid-palate depth, it should continue to hold for another 5-8 years and certainly drink nicely well past that.
Croquettes (Croquetas). Folded mashed potatoes with chorizo, harissa aioli. These were tasty, but so temperature hot that I had to rush them on down.
2006 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa. Parker 90. Slightly superior to the 2005, the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa possesses a dark ruby/purple color as well as a creme de cassis, spice box, and floral-scented bouquet, and a medium to full-bodied finish.
Heirloom Tomato Salad (Tomate de la Herencia). Shallot vinaigrette, fresh mache.
Braised Baby Octopus (Pulpitos). Tomato salsa, mojo. Tasty.
2006 Artadi Rioja Viña el Pisón. IWC 95. Glass-staining purple. Darker fruits on the nose than the Pagos Viejos, offering a heady bouquet of blackberry, mulberry, smoky bacon, anise and mocha. Explodes on the palate, showing sweet, concentrated cherry and dark berry flavors and exotic Asian spice and candied floral qualities. The tannins are completely absorbed by the fruit, which is enlivened by slow-mounting minerals. Finishes on an expansive dark fruit liqueur note, with excellent clarity and persistence. I couldn’t get this off my palate, not that I tried very hard.
Paella Valenciana (bomba rice). Chorizo, chicken, lima beans, saffron, lemon. A solid paella attempt.
2001 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah Rattlesnake Acres. This was the first release from this vineyard for Vincent Arroyo. The color is dark an brooding, the fruit like a bowl of blueberries. The tannins have softened, giving firm structure without any hints of oak. Ample acids keep the bottle lively, coating the palate to deliver a great mouthfeel and long finish. Many PS have a hollow mid palate; this one delivers the full package. This is a food wine, best paired with grilled meats. THere’s plenty of depth and complexity in this bottle, with lots of life left.
Tuna Crudo (Atun Crudo). Olive relish, cucumber, peppers, dill infused oil.
2005 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Aquilon. IWC 94. Dark purple. The nose offers surreal, room-filling perfume of ripe raspberry, blackberry, incense, vanilla and dried flowers. Shockingly understated on the palate, with vibrant red berry, smoked meat and baking spice flavors, silky tannins and crisp mineral bite. There’s no excess fat or sweetness here. Finishes with palate-staining intensity and superb focus. I’d love to see this lined up with some mega-bucks Napa cult wines costing twice the price of this admittedly luxe-priced bottle. If you play in this sandbox, you’ll flip.
Rack of Lamb (Carré de Cordero). Garlic pea tendrils, black beans, rice. Tender.
Chocolate Torte. Pine nuts, market strawberries.
Almond Torte. With Amaretto Syrup, Caramel Sauce. Nice refreshing taste.
Overall, this was a super fun night. The service was A+++. They really went all out to take care of us. And the food was very tasty. It’s a bit similar to Lazy Ox, and not nearly as old school Spanish as La Paella, but it’s also super local! I’ll be back soon.
They do need to add anchovies in vinegar and flan to the menu. No self respecting Spanish restaurant should be without them.
After dinner we retired to Michael’s nearby house to raid his gigantic wine cellar. It’s not that much physically larger than mine, but by stacking cases and cases of wine to the ceiling he probably has at least 5x as much wine as me :-). And I thought I had a lot at roughly 2,000 bottles!
1988 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage la Chapelle. Parker 92-93. This was the first vintage in the vertical tasting of La Chapelle that is beginning to reveal considerable secondary nuances and color development. Opaque purple/garnet with a touch of amber at the edge, this sexy, rich effort is more pleasurable aromatically than on the palate. However, it possesses multiple dimensions as well as abundant aromas of cedar, damp forest, spice box, and Asian spices.
2001 Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes. Parker 96-100. A singular, profound offering, the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is a tour de force in purity, concentration, and balance. Its dense ruby/purple color is not dissimilar from the traditional cuvee. A sweet nose of acacias, violets, blackberry liqueur, Asian spices, and licorice soars from the glass of this unctuously-textured, full-bodied, majestically concentrated wine. This exuberant, expressionistic effort coats the palate with glycerin, flavor, and character. A stunning, potentially perfect wine, it should drink well young yet age gracefully for 15+ years.
2002 Joseph Drouhin Griotte-Chambertin. Burghound 94. The nose here is completely different after the fireworks delivered by the Grands Ech with its reserved, backward, discreet red fruit aromas framed by a subtle touch of oak spice. Intriguing notes of game, leather and earth nuances can be found on the sappy, long, precise and focused flavors of indescribable complexity and what is perhaps the best acid/fruit balance of these ’02s. Understated and supremely classy juice that is indisputably of reference standard quality. A simply gorgeous Drouhin Griotte and worth a special search to find.
2003 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Boudots. Burghound 92. Reductive notes and exuberant black pinot fruit aromas nuanced with background notes of earth, coffee and cassis lead to sweet, intense and mouth coating full-bodied flavors that offer excellent power and plenty of extract. It’s interesting because despite the firm, almost muscular character, this is actually more a wine of finesse in ’03 than it usually is.
This is one of those cases where the review is off, as this wine was pretty stunning. It was a touch young, but full of power with a long long lovely finish. Really a hedonistic wine.