Location: 602 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 587-0700
Date: May 19, 2015
Cuisine: American Tapas
Rating: The goat itself was good
Tar & Roses is a relatively new American tapas-style place in Santa Monica, loosely in the vein of Rustic Canyon or Gjelina. Despite the relative crowding of this market, it’s an extremely popular addition.
The Chef & Owner is Andrew Kirschner, a Santa Monica-native who grew up in a family with a strong appreciation for travel, food and wine, Chef Andrew Kirschner initiated his cooking education at the age of fifteen with a summer job in the kitchen of a local restaurant. Like many great chefs, his culinary journey started as a job, but quickly turned into a passion. After Kirschner became the sous chef for Chadwick in Beverly Hills, and then a chef/partner at the popular neighborhood spot Table 8 in West Hollywood, where he met and bonded with his Tar & Roses sous chef, Jacob Wildman.
One of our Hedonist founders is a part owner, and he secured us a big table for the special goat dinner.
Okay, and before we get into the food and wine like me discuss the menu. In order to get the “goat” you have to order the “goat dinner” with all its “accompaniments.” That is fine, but technically they don’t allow you to order anything else with it! And the dinner was totally insufficient in terms of course numbers (it’s a reasonable amount of food, but not balanced) for our wine consumption. We had to beg them to sell us some extra courses, to which they reluctantly agreed. The goat dinner is just 3 courses: salad, goat, and dessert.
2005 Pierre Péters Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Speciale Blanc de Blancs Les Chetillons. VM 93. The 2005 Brut Cuvée Speciale Blanc de Blancs Les Chetillons from Pierre Peters is beautifully open and expressive, which is quite unusual in young Chetillons. That is good news for those who want to catch a glimpse of one of Champagne’s most exciting wines. This is about as good as it gets in what turned out to be a very challenging vintage in Champagne.
From my cellar: 1999 Louis Jadot Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 91. Big, powerful and rich aromatics of honey, oak spice and limestone merging into intense, medium weight flavors and a penetrating, relatively fine finish. While not especially big or complex by the standards of classic Bâtard, it is quite intense with beautifully textured, luxuriant, almost opulent flavors.
agavin 94: Our bottle was drinking fabulously tonight. Fresh, but mature, and in a perfect rounded spot. Wine wine of the night for sure.
Charred gem lettuce/ dates / pancetta / gorgonzola / balsamic. We all hated this salad. It was warm, which I don’t liked, limp, and had very little flavor. Even the bacon didn’t save it. Two other tables we talked to had the same reaction.
2004 Sine Qua Non The Rejuvenators. VM 93. Pale yellow-straw color. Aromas of apricot nectar, nuts, exotic herbs and dried fruits. Dense, rich and oily, but with plenty of verve for a wine with such volume. Dominant flavors of apricot and peach nectar, complicated by talc and minerals. Wonderfully consistent, ripe, thick wine from start to palate-staining finish.
Softshell crab. A very nice lightly battered take on the thin shelled crustacean. One of the two very good appetizers.
From my cellar: 1993 Domaine Bruno Clair Vosne-Romanée Champs Perdrix. agavin 88. I was a bit disappointed. This wine wasn’t fully balanced, with a bit of an earthy/bretty tone, although it had lots of bright red fruits still.
lamb tartar / banana raita / grilled naan / za’atar. Okay, but lacked a bit of umph.
1988 Camille Giroud Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots. Burghound 90. This too is very fresh, in fact fresher than the Clos de Vougeot with a beguiling mix of spice and secondary aromas that lead to big, intense, firmly structured flavors that have plenty of sweet pinot sap to buffer the solid tannins. This is quite long, in fact the longest of these bottled wines and delivers unmistakable Vosne character. It remains a creature of its vintage and the finish is austere and masculine in style but there is plenty of volume and flavor authority. This will live for years.
agavin 93: Drinking very nice. Balanced without that austerity a lot of 88s have.
oxtail dumplings / san bai su / chili / green onion. These were great and we ordered an extra round (1 per person). Very succulent and full of flavor.
1982 Château Brane-Cantenac. VM 85. Full red-ruby. Slightly funky aromas of baked plum, cedar, meat and leather. Rich and layered in the mouth, with exotic, slightly candied red fruit and leather flavors. Finishes a bit hard-edged and green.
agavin 90: drinking pretty well right now, I wouldn’t hold though.
1998 Tertre Rôteboeuf. VM 94. Deep, bright ruby. Wild, highly nuanced nose combines black cherry, raspberry, roast coffee, smoked meat, exotic spices and pepper notes. Incredibly sweet and rich in the mouth; creamy, confectionery fruit caresses the palate. Finishes with lush, completely ripe tannins and explosive fruit flavors. One of the superstars of the vintage; a wine that will give pleasure early and age well.
agavin: seriously Bordy
1989 Château Palmer. Parker 96. One of the superstars of the vintage, Palmer’s 1989 retains a dark plum/purple color with some pink and a hint of amber creeping in at the rim. A big nose of charcoal, white flowers (acacia?), licorice, plums, and black currants comes from the glass of this elegant, medium to full-bodied, very concentrated, seamlessly made wine. Gorgeous and seemingly fully mature yet brilliantly balanced, this wine may well turn out to be a modern-day clone of the glorious 1953.
agavin: drinking well enough, young if anything.
braised lamb belly / minted apple chutney. Lot bad, but not standout either.
2002 Clarendon Hills Astralis (Shiraz). Parker 99. The 2002 Syrah Astralis Vineyard rivals the greatest wines Roman Bratasiuk has made in his 15-year career. This compelling, black/blue-hued offering from 75-year-old Syrah vines tastes like blood of the vine. An extraordinary perfume of flowers, creme de cassis, blackberries, roasted meat, new saddle leather, and earth is followed by a wine with sweet tannin, sensational concentration, full body, an unctuous texture, and a full-throttle, tannic finish. Yet it reveals unbelievable elegance and finesse. Too many Euro-centric elitists argue that Australian wines are too rich and over the top, but all of these offerings have been made by someone with great talent and vision who takes the extraordinary ripeness and purity of fruit available from these old vine vineyards and crafts them into wines that are quite European in style … just richer and denser. The 2002 Astralis is a tour de force. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2025+.
agavin: vanilla grape juice and hot hot hot.
2006 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 92-97. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select, which was just released, is a stunningly rich effort displaying notes of licorice, cassis, camphor and subtle toast along with a full-bodied, powerful texture and richness. Very pure with surprisingly sweet tannins for a 2006, it’s long finish lasts over 40 seconds. It should drink well for 25+ years.
2007 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 100. One of the perfect wines from Shafer is the 2007 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Think it over – in the first decade of the 21st century, Shafer scored three perfect scores and two 99s – that’s about as high a praise as I can give any producer in the world. Opaque purple in color, the 2007 has a stunning nose of sweet crème de cassis, black cherries, licorice, and toasty oak, a multilayered, full-throttle personality, and a texture that builds and builds. Great purity, fabulous fruit intensity and a richness without heaviness characterize this massive, prodigious effort from Shafer. It’s still very young, despite this vintage, which seems to be maturing precociously. I don’t believe this wine will hit its stride for at least another 5-10 years and drink well for at least 2-3 decades.
agavin: brooding monster fruit bomb
2001 Abreu Cabernet Sauvignon Madrona Ranch. Parker 100. While I am not surprised that the 2001 Thorevilos turned out to be perfect, the 2001 Madrona Ranch was more of an eye-opener in that it has become even more extraordinary than I predicted eight years ago. A prodigious wine, with complex notes of subtle barbecue smoke intermixed with blueberry pie, black currant liqueur, acacia flowers, lead pencil shavings, and sweet foresty floor notes, this wine builds incrementally with layer upon layer of fruit, glycerin and concentration. The finish goes well past a minute, and the wine is full-bodied and deep, with wonderfully sweet tannin. It is still an adolescent in terms of its total evolution, but it is irresistible simply because of the flawless nature of the wine and incredible perfume and flavor intensity. Simply amazing! Both of these wines are adolescents, and probably won’t peak for another 5-8 years and keep for 30-40.
Roasted goat. This was hands down the best goat meat I’ve ever had! Soft, juicy, tender, and full of flavor. Like a good roast lamb, but not as “spicy” (in that lamb way). This is a special advance order. Apparently, the goat is prepped with Moroccan spices and then slow cooked overnight using Controlled Vapor Technology, before being transferred to the wood burning oven.
This isn’t tired and chewy like so many goats.
Cous cous with pine-nuts and vegetables. It is what it is.
Sauces (presumably for the goat): banana raita. Would have been far better as NOT BANANA raita.
Romesco / Harissa (aren’t they really almost the same thing?). This was the best of the lot.
Tomatoes. Personal yuck.
Carrots with yogurt tzatziki and currents. Really tasty combo with a bit of a Moroccan flair to it. Not bad, but not super exciting either.
Tar bar. Hazelnuts / Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Yum!
Strawberry ricotta crostata / honeycomb ice cream. Very tasty.
Overall, this was an okay meal. The food was uneven, with certain dishes being very good (goat, crab, pasta) and some being mediocre, and the salad lousy. Service was not great, particularly given that we were a big party containing an owner. It took some pushing to get extra dishes, and when we asked for fries or potatoes later in the meal they “were out of them.” Potatoes being a rather basic kitchen ingredient, we were a little suspicious. We also had a number of fights over the heaters on the patio (which were numerous and turned up to broil). They just didn’t want to turn them off.
We can’t help but have the feeling that Tar & Roses is coasting on its momentum and success. Restaurants should never grow complacent — far far too much competition.
The wines were good though!