Maybe because it’s Spring, restaurants are popping up all over. And they all seem to be doing great business. Trolling for dinner on a Friday night all of our usual haunts were packed, with diners checking their cell phones as they waited on the street for tables both inside and out. Thanks to covid, out is the new in, increasing capacity for the restaurants; depriving we diners of parking spaces.
We lucked out at kali, the Michelin-starred sanctuary for inspired dishes in a blessedly quiet space on Melrose, just a stone’s throw from Paramount Pictures.
For this meal, I would have awarded chef Kevin Meehan and Kali’s co-owner/wine steward Drew Langley a second star. Meehan and Langley warmly embrace the California locavore/organic ethos with locally-sourced produce, meat, poultry, and fish.
Meehan knows not to get in the way of those top-of-the-line ingredients. So the Spring pop of English peas in the agnolotti is underlined with the salty-sour bite of preserved lemon, mint and the crunch of toasted hazelnuts. My disk of yellowtail crudo had tiny slices of radish, cucumber, citrus, and seaweed interwoven with the fish. Lynn’s magret de canard had a depth of flavor that only develops through aging and kali does indeed age a lot of its meat and poultry. Steaks, racks of lamb, whole ducks, squab and a whole pig’s head are displayed in a vitrine, although I couldn’t find pig’s head on the menu. Sea scallops are ubiquitous in L.A. though they generally come from the east coast. Meehan found bay scallops from Baja, which arrive on a pool of puréed potatoes with a scattering of toasted almonds and mint. The scallops are slightly caramelized yet tender and sweet – no mean feat. We were too full to order more than one dessert, but the panna cotta with shaved sugar-cured egg yolk is hard to beat.
Drew’s wine collection is international and reasonably-priced. I usually order wines I don’t recognize from the middle of the list, figuring that the sommelier loves these obscure labels and prices them to lure curious diners like myself. Drew is a riesling fan and Kali has an excellent 2017 California Riesling from Seabold Zabalo in Arroyo Secco. But it’s rare to find silvaner on a wine list. Drew’s enthusiasm for a Hans Wirsching 2019 Iphöfer Kalb Silvaner was understandable. The wine was velvety with a lushness offset by a fruity acidity. And our enjoyment was only enhanced when Drew helpfully informed us that the unusual bottle shape was inspired by a goat’s scrotum. Prost!
KALI 5722 Melrose Avenue, L.A. 90068. (323) 871-4160 Open for Dinner Wednesday through Sunday