“I love it how wine dinners start off so quietly, then halfway through people let loose and the noise level goes up,” said one of my dining companions after Russell Bevan, the gregarious winemaker of Bevan Cellars, made his introductory remarks to kickoff his wine dinner at Kuu this past Monday evening.
947 N. Gessner Rd.
Guests were conversing in somewhat hushed tones at the beginning of the sold out dinner, when a first course of seared scallop and sweet shrimp ceviche was served, paired with Bevan Cellars bright and crisp 2013 Kick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc.
Plated beautifully, the dish—which got a lot of its acidity from wedges of Texas orange—was more of a sashimi appetizer than what one would consider a ceviche, but that’s just semantics. Subtle and delicate, the flavors of the seafood, dotted with slivers of bell pepper, Asian pear, and grapes, are what chef Adison Lee and Kuu (which translates to “art of eating” in Japanese) is known for.
Just a smidgen shy of being under-seasoned, it was as if Lee was teasing you with the delicacy of it all—like an amuse bouche, he was tickling the palate, preparing it for what’s to come. In this case, it was his wowser of a second course.
Many times with multi-course wine dinners, you have to go a few courses deep before the star emerges, but Lee’s timing of the second course made the evening. Titled “cold smoked truffle albacore,” the course was presented in a simple fashion on a long rectangular white plate. Two black truffle-wrapped bites of cold-smoked albacore were sandwiched in between slices of dark green sweet pickles, sparingly garnished with one tiny, perfect edible flower.
Paired with a Bevan Cellars 2012 Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay, which by itself, had an almost strident bite on the finish, the albacore swathed in truffle was extraordinary. The aromas of the black truffle, the smooth smokiness of the albacore, the crisp sweet crunch of the pickles—all the elements and textures converged to make what was undoubtedly the showstopper of the night. Yes.
Things got meatier from there. There was a miso-glazed cod course, paired with a lovely, smooth 2012 Bevan Cellars Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir. Generously portioned, with a layer of black skin still clinging to fish, the classic Japanese preparation of the cod gave it a silky, firm texture. One of the guests at the adjacent table were heaping praise on Lee by this point, saying: “Everything is wonderful—especially the cod, and I’m from Norway.”
A grilled Berkshire pork loin marinated in miso for two days reminded me a lot of Vietnamese grilled pork, but cut in a juicier, plumper cut. It came with roasted baby tomato and a peach stone fruit reduction, pairing beautifully with 2011 Bevan Cellers Ontogeny Red (a mix of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot).
Still to come was a fine course of Akaushi ribeye, topped with a dashi-marinated burdock root over grilled fig and sour plum reduction. At this point in the dinner, everyone had loosened up, and the noise level had increased with the happy sound of glasses clinking and animated conversation. So imagine our delight when we were served not just one, but two of Bevan’s premier wines.
We had all been looking forward to the 2011 Bevan Cellars EE, a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that received a score of 98 points from Robert Parker. Elegant and refined, displaying rich fruit and notes of black currant, it was one of those glasses you can sip and savor and enjoy without food, only to find it tastes even better when food comes into play (the Akaushi pairing was nothing short of fantastic).
Our surprise wine was a Proprietary Blend, which we were only able to enjoy because the winemaker had brought it with him. Though I preferred the EE to the Proprietary Blend, it was still one of those big, luscious wines. And while I am a notoriously weak drinker, I confess that this was one of those rare occasions when I finished pretty much every single pour that was put before me (quite the hardship, I know).
The evening ended with a lovely course of fresh figs with a vanilla honey panna cotta over salted honey butterscotch, served with a late harvest dessert wine, a fitting end to a well paced, exceptionally executed meal.
At the beginning of the dinner, I’d asked Ricky Cheung, Kuu's sommelier, why he had chosen Beven Cellars to feature. He’d modestly replied that it was because he could select from a full range of white and red wines, but I'd say that’s not the real reason. Bevan Cellars is a small production winery—what some would consider a cult winery—for wine lovers in the know. Cult wineries are Cheung's thing: his first wine dinner a few months ago was with Jonata, the sister winery to Screaming Eagle, California's cult king of Cabernet.
What does this say about Kuu? First, is that if they hold a wine dinner, you shouldn’t miss it, because they go all out. Kuu shut down the entire restaurant to dedicate themselves to the dinner, focusing on execution and service as befits the occasion. Second, is that if you’re wine connoisseur who happens loves sushi and Japanese food, you’ll find a match made in heaven at Kuu.