Sometimes you know a restaurant is going to be a success because of the people involved with it. This is certainly the case with Los Angeles’ new darling, Bestia. I was invited to try it out the other night by by Erik Sun, one of my favorite food bloggers. Erik is a fellow Italian wine lover and one serious-bad-ass-chef/hunter/fisherman. He is also a gentleman with a serious passion for teaching people about food.
Bestiahas a veritable super-team of food and wine geeks behind it… don’t even get me started on Wine Director Maxwell Leer’s uber-geeky wine program.
And Chef Ori Menashe’s heavily Italian-inspired, carnivorous menu? For me there is a particularly emotional kind of anticipation wrapped up in waiting for a restaurant like Bestia to open… LA will never be the same again.
Knowing Maxwell Leer’s bent towards esoteric, authentic, sometimes “orange” wines, we brought a bottle of Damijan’s Kaplja with us to dinner. The wine was brilliant in the glass- much more clear and vibrant than I would expect of such an unfiltered, minimally-processed wine. On the nose it was all Carso– musky, black tea, muted white flowers and crushed jasmine petals.
For me these are the aromatics that define this moonscaped-wonderland of terroir between Friuli and Slovenia.
On the palate the wine was bright, balanced, and edged by those fuzzy tannins that develop from some kind of extended skin contact. The wine was just structured enough to bracket the briny, saltwater tang of Chef Ori’s Spaghetti Bottarghe– a perfect harmony of dried squid ink and mullet bottarga clinging to perfectly toothsome strands of the most sublime Mancini Spaghetti.
We asked Maxwell to choose a bottle of red from Bestia’s cellar to go with a few other dishes. He promptly appeared, with a huge grin on his face, bearing a bottle of Terrano from Čotar. You have to admire a man who can stick to a theme- Maxwell was matching us, geeky wine-by-wine. The Čotarwas inky- saturated with tongue-staining purple, and oozing acidity. This particular expression of Terrano (a local name for Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso), was electric. The wine was so vibrantly acidic on the palate that it was almost unbalanced- until you combined it with food. More specifically, until you tasted it with Chef Ori’s masterful Angolotti.
These cacao-laced packets were filled with luscious braised beef cheeks. The pasta was magic- bursting like soup dumplings in your mouth. And as if the unctuous braised beef wasn’t enough, the pasta was dressed in some kind of brown-butter alchemy. With a sip of Čotar Terrano to cut through the lovely animal fat coating my palate, I was in heaven.
Thanks Erik, for the invitation. And bravo, Bestia. Bravo.