Location: 1501 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 773-3366
Date: May 8, 2021
Rating: Solid fare, good service
Meat on Ocean replaces the old i. Cugini on Ocean Ave. That storied Italian place was around for 20+ years (I even went on an early date there with my wife). It was (and still is) owned by the Watergrill group but has rebooted as a mid/high-end steakhouse.
Tonight is the first ever “Tournament of Champions” for winners of our Dirty Dozen nights. DD is a group within the Hedonists group that does periodic blind tastings. It’s a fun but oddball but fun group as the theme varies all over the place and while we have a great time, the “pre-dinner organization” tends to be a bit low, at least on the food side.
For example tonight, while we had about a dozen people, we had two 6 person reservations that the restaurant had no idea were either together or wine tastings, so it took a bit of teeth pulling to get the tables together and get even 3 stems each. Plus they gave us two waiters (one for each table) which is always an organization distraction as stuff does not come out at the same time (or even exactly the same stuff). I my best to craft a multi flight meal from the menu that would pair against the flights of big red wines (with a starter white flight that was not included in the blind tasting).
Theme tonight was just “red.”
They have opened up the patio space which is great to see as this is one of the most appealing outside strips in the city, almost reminiscent of Miami’s South Beach.
And it continues inside.
One of their “things” is that they age their own beef and make the cuts in the morning. To that effect they have this serious aging room.
Flight 0: Champs
2006 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. VM 97. The 2006 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart is shaping up to be a jewel of a wine, but it needs time to be at its best. I am surprised by how tightly wound it is. But that only makes me think what it might develop into with time in the cellar. Lemon confit, white flowers, mint, crushed rocks and sage meld together in a bright, crystalline Champagne endowed with terrific purity. The 2006 is 60% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, mostly done in steel, with just a touch of oak, around 5%. Dosage is 6 grams per liter. (Drink between 2020-2032)
From my cellar: NV Demière-Ansiot Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut. BH 93. A beautifully yeasty nose reflects notes of apple, pear, white flowers and a hint of citrus peel. The vibrant middle weight flavors possess a positively gorgeous texture, indeed the mid-palate is almost creamy, while offering excellent depth and length on the dry but not austere finale. For my taste this is drinking perfectly now and I very much like both the style and the quality. (Drink starting 2017)
Cretans bogarted the Shrimp Cocktail before I could even get a photo.
Flight 1: Whites
From my cellar: 1996 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Charmes. 93 points. Dark yellow, straw. Honey, toasted grain, flowers, straw nose. Lemony acidity, some caramel, baked apples, rich texture. A singular and beautiful bottle.
2018 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru La Pièce-sous-le-Bois. BH 89. A subtle whiff of petrol can be found on the ripe essence of pear and apple compote that is liberally laced with hints of citrus confit. There is good energy to the more finely textured middle weight flavors that manage to be both seductive and reasonably precise on the acceptably balanced finish that also flashes a hint of warmth. (Drink starting 2025)
2019 Tenuta Mormoraia Vernaccia di San Gimignano Suavis.
Flight 2: Red 1
Yarom brought: 1996 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Red Rock Terrace. VM 87-89. Deep ruby. Aromas of spicy, crystallized dark berries. Supple and lush, with good concentration and enticing sweetness. Minerally suggestion of graphite. Finishes with dusty, even tannins and a slightly edgy quality. An expressive wine that should give early pleasure.
David P brought: 2003 Sine Qua Non Syrah Papa. VM 93+. Bright medium ruby. Minty, high-pitched aromas of black fruits, violet and licorice. Primary and penetrating in the mouth, with powerful acidity giving a somewhat clenched character to the vibrant flavors of crushed berries, flint and minerals. Very lively and very long on the aftertaste. I’d expect this extremely backward wine to rate a score in the mid-90s eight or ten years down the road.
Charcuterie Platter. Mortadella (smoking goose, emulsified pork, cured back fat, cinnamon, black peppercorns). Salami (in house, peppered). Prosciutto di Parma (Principe, DOP, traditional air-cured pork leg). Sobrasada (La Espanolo, semi-soft chorizo style, raw-cured pork sausage). Lomo (La Espanolo, marinated and cured pork loin). Manchego (La Mancha, Spain). Bayley Hazen Blue (Jasper Hills Farm, Vermont).
Flight 3: Red 2
Brian B brought: 2006 Sine Qua Non Syrah Raven Series. VM 94. Opaque purple. Succulent, mineral-driven dark berry and kirsch, with strong graphite, iron and black olive notes arriving with air. Vibrant mineral qualities add urgency to deep, sweet black and blue fruit flavors and lend an incisive character to the long, spicy finish. Picked up silky tannins with air but not at the expense of the suave fruit.
Ron G brought: 1999 Greenock Creek Shiraz Roennfeldt Road. 93 points. It had the most incredible bouquet of smoke, blackberry, dark plum, licorice and spice aromas. Unfortunately, the palate didn’t live up to that promise. It was smooth and balanced with flavors that matched the nose, but not at the same level of intensity. 92+
It should be noted that here is one of several occasions where the pair of servers got really confused with my multi staged plan. They brought out what was supposed to be the third wave of red food second, completely skipping the “red oriented hot appetizers” wave. I got them to bring it after as you shall see.
30 day aged bone-in New York and Rib Eye steaks with Bordelaise and Bearnaise sauce.
Mac & Cheese. Candied applewood bacon.
Asparagus. Grilled with gremolata.
Grilled Cauliflower. Parmesan with almonds and breadcrumbs.
Charred Shisitos. Edamame, bonito flakes. I didn’t order this (as the hot peppers would clash with the wine), someone else ordered it directly with the waiter.
Flight 4: Red 3
From my cellar: 1998 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline. VM 95+. Saturated ruby-red. Sappy raspberry, redcurrant, plum and spices on the nose, lifted by an exotic floral/apricotty viognier note and complicated by woodsmoke, pepper and mint. Penetrating and very tightly wound, with brisk acidity giving this extremely young wine almost painful intensity. A saline, sappy quality and a hint of green pepper underscore the extreme youth of this highly promising wine. This certainly calls for at least a decade of additional aging.
8th place — but crazy given how good this wine was.
Jeff M brought: 2006 Dominio Pingus Ribera del Duero. 94 points. Dark red; powerful, masculine, dark fruit, licorice; tobacco leather nose, a bit dry tannins at the end; a fine wine, but why the hype?
Sandy brought: 2003 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage. VM 98. “Now we take the monster out of his cage,” Jean-Louis warned me before pouring this. Inky, almost black in color. Elemental, hugely concentrated and powerful on the nose, which slowly unveils aromas of dark cherry liqueur, blackberry, cassis, espresso and a deep note of sweet tobacco. Impossibly rich and dense on the palate (the yields in 2003 were off by two-thirds), showing myriad dark fruit and bitter chocolate flavors, with a suggestion of tapenade and an intense licorice quality. Remarkably, this takes on a mineral tone on the finish, which has the effect of further drawing out the amazingly powerful finish.
8th place — again crazy!
Here begins what was supposed to be the wave BEFORE the above steak wave.
Smoked Kielbasa. Roasted peppers, grain mustard.
Roasted Bone Marrow. Bittersweet onion jam. I’m not a bone marrow fan at all, but Yarom insisted on this. To me, it’s just fat to smear on bread. I eat plenty of fat and I don’t need more bread. He eats it by itself (not my thing).
Flight 5: Red 4
Larry H brought: 2002 Château Mouton Rothschild. VM 94. Good saturated ruby-red. Tight nose hints at currant and smoky oak. Highly concentrated, densely packed and built to age. As young as it is, it also shows a lovely velvety texture rare for this vintage. Finishes with terrific breadth, subtle minerality and noble tannins. I’ve been a fan of this wine since the outset.
LEC brought: 2012 Screaming Eagle Second Flight. VM 94+. The 2012 Second Flight kicks things up a notch. Dense, layered and voluptuous in the glass, the Second Flight impresses for its breadth and volume. Although only recently bottled, the 2012 nevertheless shows superb depth and tons of pure personality. (Drink between 2017-2032)
Kirk C brought: 1990 Château Cheval Blanc. VM 98. The 1990 Cheval Blanc is a vintage that once upon a time I drank regularly, although I had not seen it since March 2016. Poured against the 1990 Lafite-Rothschild, this is the clear winner. Still youthful in color with modest bricking. The bouquet explodes from the glass with kirsch, mulberry, antique furniture and black truffle scents. With aeration it becomes more savory, the Cabernet Franc wanting to see more of the olfactory action. The palate is medium-bodied and comes equipped with a stunning velvety texture. This Saint-Émilion feels spherical, conveying a sense of controlled decadence but avoiding any ostentation. This is as good a bottle as I have encountered over the years. Brilliant. Tasted at Noble Rot’s “Xmas” dinner. (Drink between 2019-2045)
45 day bone-in Rib Eye. This was another confusion as for some reason they only brought it to one table, or brought both steaks to only one table, so one table went without and the other greedily packed up half the leftovers to take home. haha.
Flight D: Desserts
The food at Meat is quite good. I don’t have too much complaint with the actual taste of it. It was however a “confused” evening. Much of this was our fault because we just made the two separate table reservations without explicitly telling them that it was one party and that it was going to be a wine tasting, needing a single waiter and lots of stems. The two waiter thing really confused matters as they were separately writing down instructions and some confusion ensued. They did moderately well considering. Fighting the chaotic impulses of the group (and it’s variety of personalities) was amusing as always.
The wines were great and we were lucky that all of them were in perfect shape. My personal believes that the voting and opinions on these nights are totally random was further confirmed. I myself don’t put much effort into my “scoring” and I don’t see how most of the others do as well. The slightly disorganized format always means that we have at most 3-4 glasses and tight physical space instead of properly having a distinct glass for every wine. That means that one is constantly juggling, confusing, and mixing wines in the glass and there is little opportunity to easily taste previous wines side by side so one is reliant on ones notes. Jen as usual does a great job managing the wines themselves and there is always leftovers so revisiting is possible — it’s just that on the far side of all that wine and food I rarely have much energy for it.
A perfect example of all this is how my 1998 La Mouline, which was drinking perfectly, got zero votes (even from myself). Drinking it after the reveal it was just a stunning wine — and one among a lot of stunning wines — but has a more restrained and balanced character than some of the bolder characters.