The Fifth Floor, San Francisco
Astunning meal prepared by French Chef Laurent Gras, accompanied by the knowledgeable as well as impeccable wine service of Belinda Chang made for a super evening at this high-class restaurant just off of Union Square. The meal began with gorgeous kumomoto oysters from the Hog Island oyster farm north of San Francisco, and gooey duck clams (which were good, but not especially memorable). A striped bass sushi style was terrific, as was the balance of the meal, including fabulous pibales, baby eels that resemble angel hair pasta, the lobster and foie gras, and the pigeon and raviolis.
It was a Burgundy evening, except for a gorgeous bottle of Salon Champagne. The somewhat oily 2000 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard Montrachet did not have the finish I expected from this grand cru producer, but the wine was outstanding. However, it was blown away by Leroy's 1995 Chevalier Montrachet, a sumptuous, still young, remarkable white Burgundy loaded with intensity and underlying acidity. It appears to have another 15-20 years of life ahead of it. Ampeau's 1979 Meursault Perrières was also beautiful. Although fully mature, it revealed no oxidation in its hazelnut, honeysuckle, and buttered citrus personality.
The red wines included a delicious, elegant, light, fruity, fully mature 2000 Roumier Chambolle Musigny Les Amourouses that was pure cherries, strawberries, and underbrush. That was followed by a hard, dry, angular, medium ruby-colored 1998 Richebourg from A. Gros. The finish was pinched and compressed, with rather nasty tannin (which I suspect will never age out). While the 1995 Mazis Chambertin from Leroy was spectacular, it was almost painfully young to drink. Nevertheless, it was concentrated and powerful, almost like the blood of the grape. It's an impressive effort, but requires another 5-10 years of cellaring.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...