Location: 2627 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, Ca 90403. 310-586-7469
Date: January 23, 2014
Rating: Bold and balanced flavors
It’s time for my my Hedonist group to return to LA’s best Indian restaurant, Akbar (Santa Monica 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.
This was one of those really crazy evenings where we took over half the place with 25 people and even more wines! Yarom brought Chef Avi a bunch of his hand shot meats to add into the mix.
The Menu can be found here, although the chef designed our feast directly.
From my cellar: 2000 Chave Hermitage Blanc. Parker 95. A 1,000-case blend of 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne, the profound 2000 Hermitage blanc boasts a terrific perfume of honeysuckle, white flowers, peaches, citrus, and minerals. Displaying an unctuous texture along with tremendous glycerin, richness, and depth, it will undoubtedly close down after a few years in the bottle, but for now, it is a spectacularly rich, multidimensional white Hermitage to drink young, then forget about for 5-10 years, after which it will last for 15-20 years.
Good stuff, although it took a few minutes to open. Better drinking right now than my higher rated 96 Chapoutier Blanc I brought to Boa to match with the crab.
1989 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune Vendanges Tardives. View from the cellar 96. Complex nose of honey, apricot and light kerosene, peach and orange rind. Full of flavour but there is a wonderful delicacy to the palate. Brilliant acidity that extends and lifts the fruit to another level. A superb stage between youth and maturity. Mesmerizing.
Sweet apricots and really delicious (if you like sweet wines like I do).
Fresh baked Naan, the delicious flat bread cooked in the Tandoor. They make several variants, this one being stuffed with herbs and a light cheese — delicious!
2011 Sine Qua Non The Moment. Parker 95. Starting off the tasting and a prodigious, unctuous white, the 2011 The Moment checks in as a blend of 57% Roussanne, 19% Petit Manseng, 17% Chardonnay and 7% Viognier that spent 16 months in a combination of concrete, new and used barrels, and stainless steel. Offering up notions of marzipan, citrus oil flowers, marmalade and spiced apricots, it flows onto the palate with full-bodied richness and depth that-s balanced by beautiful underlying freshness and clarity. While I would lean towards drinking bottles over the coming 2-3 years, these can absolutely age, and have upwards of 10-15+ years of longevity. Drink now-2017+.
I bet you haven’t seen this, Sine Qua Non pseudo Rhone-style white! It was somewhat similar to the Chave (Roussane) but more open, floral, and less complex.
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.
2005 Domaine Y. Clerget Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens. 93 points. Our only Burgundy (with the meal), Michael brought this to prove, “who says you can’t drink big 2005s.” Well he was right. The first few minutes were structured and closed, but it opened up nicely in the glass into a pinot with enough muscle to combat some (but not all) of the spice in the food.
1989 La Conseillante. Parker 96. Somewhat similar to the 1990, but slightly more structured, with more noticeable tannin and a meatier style, this is still a very perfumed, exotic, expansive, sensationally concentrated wine that should age effortlessly for another 10-15 years. In that sense, it might actually outlast the 1990, but what a pair these two wines make. The wine has a dark garnet/ruby color and fabulous aromatics of black raspberries, kirsch, licorice, and copious amounts of toasted new oak. Relatively full-bodied for a La Conseillante, with great purity, sweet tannin, but noticeable structure and muscle, this is a relatively large-scaled La Conseillante that has always been one of the top wines of the vintage.
Most people loved this wine, and to my taste it was very Bordeaux, with a nice nose. It was silky smooth, with a lot going on in all aspects (nose, attack, mid palette, finish). Tons of lead pencil. There was a little bit much of that Merlot bitter thing going on during the finish for my taste — but very hedonistic!
…stuffed with peas and ground lamb. The insides were scrumptious, just packed with lamby flavor.
2003 Bois de Boursan Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee des Felix. Parker 95. The 2003 Domaine Bois de Boursan Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee des Felix is superb. Showing a mature, yet still lively and fruit-driven profile of sweet currants, saddle leather, truffle, and garrigue, it stays beautifully rich and seductive on the palate, with layers of sweet fruit, no hard edges and a great finish. Certainly a ripe vintage, yet everything is perfectly proportioned, the tannins are sweet and it is a joy to drink. A blend of 65% Grenache and the balance a mix of Mourvedre and Syrah, from 90-year-old vines, it held up beautifully with air and is a raging success in the vintage. It can be consumed now or over the coming 5-8 years or more.
An extremely enjoyable Chateauneuf that had the stuffing for the food.
Tandoori grilled Chilean Sea Bass marinated in herbs. Tender and flavorful!
1985 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage la Chapelle. Parker 91. A saturated dark plum/garnet color with amber at the edge is followed by an attractive smoky, underbrush, and truffle-scented wine with coffee, smoke, cedar, and jammy cassis/plum-like fruit. As the wine sits in the glass, notes of Chinese black tea, pepper, and soy emerge. There is surprising tannin and austerity in the finish, but the aromatics and attack were convincingly rich and intense.
I agree with Parker here. This was a smooth wine, still in fine shape, but a little flabby in the middle/finish. Still, extremely enjoyable.
House specialty lamb chops. Awesomely marinated and coated in cumin. Wow, these were some tasty chops. Too bad they were so small.
From my cellar: 1990 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 96. Beaucastel made a great Chateauneuf du Pape in 1990. In stylistic terms, it is completely different from the profound 1989. The color is opaque black/ruby/purple. The perfume of smoked meats, coffee, hickory, Asian spices, and black raspberries is sensational. While concentrated, full-bodied, and extremely rich, the wine displays slightly harder tannin, higher acidity, and comes across as a more muscular, less opulent example than the 1989. It is a profound wine, but I would rate it inferior to the 1989 and 1981, yet easily equivalent to the 1983 and 1985. Both Francois and Jean-Pierre Perrin compare their 1990 to the renowned 1967, and both prefer it to their 1989 – high praise!
When I first opened this there was enough funk on the nose that I was worried about cork, but it blew off in a couple of minutes leaving a very lovely, spicy, complex wine in the glass.
A dish of fresh vegetables with a light sauce. Peas, corn, mushrooms, celery, potato.
2004 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 95. The 2004 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape has turned out to be one of the finest wines of the vintage, tipping the scales at just over 15% alcohol and actually coming a few tenths of a degree within the 2003 and 2005 in terms of power and alcoholic degrees. The wine displays gorgeously sweet black raspberries, kirsch liqueur, and resiny, loamy soil notes. Medium to full-bodied, this blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, and the rest some of the other red varietals that are permitted, is performing beautifully and is certainly one of the vintage’s superstars. The wine is full-bodied, powerful, rich, and as accessible as the 2003, but slightly fresher and not as muscular and thick. Nevertheless, this is a top effort from the father and son team of Paul and Vincent Avril. This wine can be drunk now but can be cellared for 15-20 years.
Also a lot of fun. A little closed at first (still in that phase), but it too because to crack open.
A really yummy cauliflower in a saffron sauce.
2008 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection. Parker 94. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection is the first example of this cuvee to include Merlot (about 14%) in the blend. The Merlot component has given the wine a cocoa/chocolate nuance to its black currant, licorice-infused fruit. The tannins are velvety soft and the wine is beautifully textured and full-bodied. It is ideal for drinking now and over the next 15 years.
Tasted like Cal Cab.
Akbari Biryani. Bits of lamb, chicken, and shrimp cooked with the rice.
2008 Vineyard 29 Zinfandel Aida. Parker 93. The 2008 Zinfandel Aida Vineyard Estate comes from a vineyard made famous in the early formative years of nearby Turley Cellars. A fascinating blend of 82% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it boasts a dark plum/purple color as well as a big kiss of mountain berries intermixed with garrigue, lavender, pepper and spice. Elegant yet powerful with a terrific texture, it is a sensational Zinfandel to drink over the next 7-8 years.
The first of several dishes made from Yarom’s kills: deer sausage. This was the same sausage that we had a few weeks earlier at Phong Dinh, but here cooked with onions and cilantro.
1999 Outpost Zinfandel Howell Mountain. Parker 90. An impressive offering, this 1999 Zinfandel exhibits aromas of blueberries, raspberries, minerals, and flowers. The complex aromatics are followed by deep, pure, medium to full-bodied flavors gently infused with high quality toasty oak. Drink this pure, well-balanced effort over the next 6-8 years.
I’m not normally a Zin fan, but the spicy quality here went nicely with the food.
A little curry on the plate. Not the loveliest sight, but it did taste damn good.
Rarely seen 1985 Kistler Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley. Parker 86. This tough-textured, solidly made, muscular Cabernet Sauvignon still exhibits an impressive, nearly opaque, garnet/ruby/purple color, and a reticent bouquet that opens to reveal spicy oak and vague red and black fruits aromas. Tannic, astringent, and hard, with a rough finish, my instincts suggest there is not enough fruit and extract to balance out the wine’s tough tannin and acidity.
A second tandoori fish, this time haddock. This one was smokier in flavor.
2011 Mollydooker Carnival of Love. Parker 93+. Very deep green-purple in color, the 2011 Carnival of Love flaunts a very expressive and fragrant nose with floral notes, roses and potpourri intermingled with toasty black cherries, creme de cassis, chocolate, pepper and accents of cinnamon and cloves. Rich, ripe and full-bodied, this concentrated, single-vineyard 100% Shiraz retains crisp acid, has low to medium levels of soft silky tannins before finishing very harmoniously and long.
The big palette crew loved this wine. Still way too extracted and young for my taste.
I popped back in the kitchen to catch them working the tandoori.
The result, tandoori duck. Lots and lots of flavor as usual.
2010 Purple Angel. This is a Chilean Carmenere.
And more of Yarom’s dear, this time saddle meat spiced and seared. It was tough. Real tough, and this bothered some, but the flavor was delicious: gamey, with pepper and herbs. So I treated it like venison chewing gum and enjoyed.
1999 Delheim Shiraz Vera Cruz Estate. IWC 90. Bright, deep ruby-red. Superripe, exotic, Graves-y aromas of burning tobacco, smoke and road tar. Urgent, superconcentrated wine with a powerful saline quality and a chewy, dense texture buffered by strong acidity. A fascinating if somewhat extreme expression of syrah, with a strong element of baking road tar. Finishes with very suave, building tannins and superb persistence. A retaste of a wine sampled a year ago, and developing splendidly.
I rarely drink South African wines, and when I do, I’m not usually impressed. This, however, while thin, did have an interesting smokey thing going on, almost like an Aglianico. It went well with the food too.
Some of Yarom’s wild boar. This was more tender, but the flavor wasn’t as spectacular.
2006 Cayuse Syrah en Cerise. Parker 97 . The 2006 Syrah En Cerise Vineyard is a glass-coating opaque purple color. On the nose liquid asphalt, bacon fat, olives, and garrigue-like aromas offer much to contemplate. Intense, balanced, and totally succulent, it boasts a finish that just won’t quit. It delivers impressive immediate gratification but those who can wait for 5-7 years will be well rewarded.
Plain white bismati (Indian) rice.
2002 Lancaster Estate Meritage. Too many wines, didn’t try it.
The coco lamb, one of my favorites when I come here alone. Tender chunks of lamb are drenched in this incredibly heavy, incredibly flavorful curry laced with coconut. Awesome! It’s pretty hot too.
2004 Colgin IX Syrah Estate. Parker 96. Aubert demonstrates a superb know-how with Syrah. These wines are macerated for 35-45 days, and given frequent pump-overs as well as punch-downs. They are aged completely in French oak. The floral-filled 2004 IX Syrah Estate (486 cases) offers super-pure blue and blackberries intermixed with hints of new saddle leather and meat. High but sweet tannins, powerful flavors, and an overall sense of poise characterize this stunning effort.
And the classic: Chicken Tikka Masala. I asked the chef why his is so much better than the vast number of others I’ve tried, being so creamy and aromatic. Apparently, there is a careful balance of timing to avoid burning the cream and converting too much of it into butter, so as to retain the sweet proteins in balance to the acidic tomatoes. However he does it, the results are fabulous.
This is about 1/3 of the table!
1986 Raymond-Lafon. Parker 92. It is hard to believe the 1986 will eclipse the great 1983, but the differences in the two wines are negligible. I do not believe the 1986 makes quite the impact on the palate that the huge, massive 1983 does, but there is a great deal of botrytis, and a profound, penetrating fragrance of cooked pineapple, vanillin, toast, and honeyed peaches. The wine is streamlined, yet also lusciously rich and full-bodied, with crisp, zesty acidity, and a creamy, intense finish.
Enjoyable, but past its prime.
1999 Guiraud. Parker 90. Tasted as part of a vertical held at the chateau. There is a sense of conservatism to the Guiraud 1999, but it still retains attractive scents of dried honey, marmalade and a touch of chlorine. The palate is actually better than the nose, with a lovely seam of acidity and effervescent marmalade and quince-tinged fruit that is very precise toward the long finish. The ’99 should be looked back on as a success in an oft-forgotten vintage.
Kulfi, a kind of ice cream with raisons and nuts. Very delicate and nutty.
1995 Royal Tokaji Wine Co. Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos Mézes Maly. This has whoppingly high (67 grams per liter) dry extract, around a percent more alcohol and correspondingly less residual sugar than its ’95 stablemates. Blueberry, blue plum and honey in the nose, with a faint whiff of burnt sugar. Blueberry, honey, apricot jam and diverse flowers in the mouth. Another case of elegance and delicacy of personality and clear, rarefied flavors, in the context of a wine that is in fact extraordinarily dense and viscous. Terrific length. 2 stars.
By far the best of tonight’s dessert wines.
Kheer. Indian rice pudding. This is always one of my favorites. This particular pudding is very subtle and almond flavored. Some have a stronger cardamon and cinnamon tone.
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. That filet tikka masala. Wow. The brothers Kapoor (below) are also wonderful hosts. All in all an exceedingly fun evening.
After dinner, me and Michael, along with a few others, snuck across the street and cracked this Burgundy from my bag, guaranteeing my hangover. 🙂
From my cellar: 1996 Maison Roche de Bellene Chambolle-Musigny VV Collection Bellenum. 93 points. This village wine could easily go on for many years to come. There were a lot of bright red fruits and an almost searing acidity. It’s young and kinda lip smackingly tart. A few more years might round that out.
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