NZ Meets LA: Dinner at Tangaroa During LA Food Bowl 2017

During May 2017, The Los Angeles Times is presenting a new food festival called “Food Bowl” featuring “31 Days of Food” with special programs, dining experiences and forums as well as conversation about issues of sustainability, food waste and hunger.  L.A. area chefs and foodies as well as renown chefs from around the globe are participating in this unique Festival taking place throughout the City and LA County.

Last week, from May 10-14, a Night Market was held at Grand Park in downtown L.A. that included over 50 restaurants and food trucks plus live entertainment. For the rest of the month, there will be many more individual events in kitchens and restaurants, at bars and coffee shops, in farmers markets and even in buses. Lots to do this weekend or next and during the week too!

During the first week, on May 4, Sue and I attended the LA Food Bowl event at the New Zealand themed restaurant Tangaroa with wine from NZ Wine Navigator.

To avoid traffic, Sue and I left early and drove the coast up from Ventura — and it turned out we arrived nearly an hour early! We thought we’d have a drink and get some work done but we were happy to see that Sianne Dixon was already there — and she had travel bag with a number of different wines she was happy to let us taste! And to taste again with with the meal. (Notes follow)


This also gave us a chance to poke around before the restaurant was PACKED, and to talk with Chef Pedro Martinez as well as meet Susie and Mark, the husband and wife couple who own Tangaroa Fish Market & Raw Bar.

Tangaroa is a restaurant and fish market with a friendly neighborhood atmosphere, and in fact, there were a steady stream of  customers walking in the door just to buy the fresh seafood or orders to go. As the restaurant is so close to the ocean, you could order by phone, pick up a meal, and take it to the beach for sunset!

This is a fresh fish restaurant dedicated to quality, and Chef Pedro Martinez, originally from Mexico City, wanted us to emphasize the quality of the food in this small family owned restaurant. He used to work in a sushi bar, he told us, and knows what freshness tastes like. He believes that the freshness at this restaurant is superior to a big time sushi restaurant. He also said that Tangaroa really aims to please and that they stretch to accommodate people.

“The freshness of the fish makes the meal,” said Chef Pedro proudly.

Tangaroa purchases their fish from a local downtown fish market to ensure the best of the best. When they purchase the fish, they have to ensure that the box is dated with the distribution date. They clean the fish daily in the restaurant. The key person in the restaurant is Pedro: he stands up to his knowledge, and the owners  trust him to use his knowledge of fish freshness to quararentee the quality of the restaurant. He knows the expectations of the customers in the neighborhood hold the standards high and that he needs to deliver to carry on the great reputation of the restaurant which has been open for three years.

That Food Bowl event was the first formal dinner that Tangaroa restaurant has hosted, and hopefully it won’t be the last! While the oysters were a bit slow coming out (you try shucking that many for that many people! And no, they didn’t do any of them in advance but right then!), everyone was pleased with the food and the wine, and the restaurant was a buzz with happy patrons.

Wines from NZ Wine Navigator (notes below)

Squawking Magpie SQM Méthode Traditionnelle Brut
O:Tu  = Sauvignon Blanc – 2015 – $23
Darling – Marlborough – Chardonnay – 2013 – 13.5% alcohol – $33
Alex Gold – Alexandra Wine Company – Pinto Noir – 2014 – 13% alcohol – $34
Ceres – Pinot Noir – 2014- 14% alcohol – $33
Brennan B2 – Pinot Noir – 2014- 14.3% alcohol $35
Clearview – 2015 Cape Kidnappers Syrah – Hawke’s Bay – $30

MENU with our pairings

Oysters on the half shell with O:TU  Sauvignon Blanc (the Squawking Magpie would have been great!)
NZ Seafood Chowder with Darling Chardonnay
Ora King Salmon with Pinot Noir from Alex Gold and Ceres 
Rack of Lamb with Brennan B2 and Clearview Syrah
Key Lime Pie with Sauvignon Blanc and Squawking Magpie
Chocolate Mousse

with O:Tu  = Sauvignon Blanc – 2015 – $23

1/2 doz oysters – 3 different kinds
Fat bastard from WA –  Gwen really liked these oysters, and they were delicious with a nice meatiness to them
Calm Cove from WA – the mildest in flavor of the three – this oyster seemed to calm the wine
Balon – from Maine – these are most similar to the black oysters from New Zealand – really nice texture to this oyster, soft and sensual, super meaty finish

This is the second time we had this wine in one week, and definitely not tired of this vibrant intense, dramatic Sauvignon Blanc. Sue especially is in “Love, Love, Love with the aromas and flavors of this wine.” It’s very arousing: you just can’t stop sniffing and sipping on this wine. On the nose, lots of lemon, fresh cut grass, gooseberries, and ocean breeze as if you were at the beach. The flavors in this wine are bright and bold with more gooseberry, currants, and citrus with a long mineral finish.

For people who do not like super bold Sauv Blancs, this is not the wine for you. However with oysters, the bright fruit notes of the wine took some of the brininess of the oysters away and brings out some of the complexities in the oyster. It was a lovely pairing.

The tech sheets point out that “O:TU’s six vineyard blocks are found in the south-eastern Aware Valley in Marlborough, on the banks of the Otuwhero river. Unlike the more sheltered Wairau sub-region, coastal breezes make for a long, cool, growing season in the Aware Valley, allowing Jan Kux, the winemaker, to craft distinct, bold, appealing wines.”

Kiwi Chowder
with The Darling – Marlborough – Chardonnay – 2013 – 13.5% alcohol – $33

This is a very even, easy going Chardonnay with a mild nose of lemony, bright citrus and sulphur. On the palate, we found it luscious and flavorful with more citrus plus melon and white peach.   Sue also paired this wine with her last oyster and reports it paired well because of the lemon and minerals. If you were just going for one glass or bottle of wine, this might be the one to work with a wider range of foods. Tech sheets note that the fruit is sourced from organic vineyards and the wine is “made in an old world style with minimal intervention.”

I would love to find this wine on a restaurant list by the bottle or the glass; it offers something unusual because most people don’t think about chardonnay from NZ. It has a lot to offer for the price.

This cream based chowder is prepared using exclusively New Zealand shellfish, cream, butter and fish. What a great chowder!  Nice creaminess without being too rich, and they are very generous with the seafood too. The fish is not overcooked, almost as if the fish was added at the end to the soup base.  The chowder was so sublime, we just wanted to lick the bowl.

And while the Kiwi chowder and the O:TU paired fine, The Darling Chardonnay took the chowder to a whole other level of appreciation. Wow! A much better pairing.

Ora King Salmon and Rack of Lamb
with 3 NZ Pinot Noir: Alex Gold, Ceres, B2

Sue chose the Ora King Salmon on a cilantro rice cake with carrot puree. The cilantro rice cake had such complex flavors from the spices used — crazy good with the Pinot Noir it was paired with it! It just brought out this wonderful fruity goodness in the wine– plumbs and strawberries. There were very interesting spices in the cilantro rice cake that with a bite of that, a bite of the Ora King (melt in your mouth, perfectly seasoned and grilled salmon) , that made  the Brennan B2 Pinot Noir sing, not just solo, but a beautiful choir of flavors. Perfect grilled crunch where the salmon and the grill meet. The addition of the unusual seasonings made this dish just out of this world.

Both entries were served with seasonal greens – there was a little bit of corn sautéed with the greens, which brought out a nice sweetness.The greens had  nice crunch to them. They were perfectly sautéed just enough for softness and still with a bit of perfect crunch. However, they were a little too bitter to compliment the meal and the wines.

Ceres – Pinot Noir – 2014- 14% alcohol – $33

This Pinot Noir from central Otago is light and bright in color and body, and definitely the lightest and most delicate of the three we tasted. Being lighter, the mineral characteristics shined the brightest. While light, it is not lacking for complexity. This is an accessible, versatile, and pleasurable Pinot Noir– try it with fish, chicken, or other light meats or salads. It’s nice alone or pair with food.

Alex Gold – Alexandra Wine Company – Pinot Noir – 2014 – 13% alcohol – $34

This Pinot Noir is a beautiful color in the glass, and beautifully aromatic also with cranberry and violets and perfume– more fruit and florals rather than earthy mushrooms — with a light touch of spicy oak as the wine opens up. Minerals on the finish will send you back to the glass for more. I preferred this wine a little cooler; often Pinot Noir has better flavor when it is closer to cellar temperature.


Brennan B2 – Pinot Noir – 2014- 14.3% alcohol $35

Darker in color than a typical NZ Pinot Noir, it’s ripe with cherry flavors as well as some forest floor florals of violets and mushroom plus spicy oak. With more intensity, tannins, and body, this is a rich and bold Pinot Noir, and the perfect foil for both the Ora King NZ salmon and the reach of lamb. If you are going to open just one bottle to make several people and meals happy, this one can stretch to meet a variety of needs. If you are a fan of Grenache you might want to check this Pinot Noir out — it’s bright racy fruit and acidity and flavor plus its medium body reminded me of that wine.

This wine with the salmon? Insanely good!

This Pinot Noir has a really sexy texture that worked so well with the silky texture of the salmon. We really loved the combo, and while the B2 offered many wonderful flavors to the lamb, I preferred the Syrah below with the lamb.


Rack of NZ Lamb
with Clearview – 2015 Cape Kidnappers Syrah – Hawke’s Bay – $30

While lamb is typically a New Zealand dish, it is not usually on the menu here at Tangaroa. This is generally a seafood joint that does seafood just right. They might think however to bring in New Zealand lamb as a weekly special, because it was fabulously prepared with a fascinating rub.

New Zealand Rack of lamb, basted in mustard with a high bread crumb topping with wasabi mashed potatoes, and a cauliflower puree.

Because of the seasoning, this lamb was the best rack of lamb I’ve ever had (and my husband Marshall can grill a mean rack!).

The final wine I found hidden in Sianne’s stash is this Syrah from Clearview.

Full of pepper and perfume, this Syrah rocked with the rack of lamb,

but didn’t do much for the salmon. Both Sue and I are huge fans of Syrah, and quite familiar with them, especially the Santa Barbara AVAs as made by Adam Tolmach at Ojai Vineyard.

But THIS is different. Really unusual yet authentic to the varietal character. The aromatics are off the charts, and the texture is something special as well. If you are a Syrah fan, try to find one from NZ and taste the difference. It’s definitely NOT like shiraz from AUS; if anything more like a Rhone from France. It’s very lean yet dense, refined and elegant all at the same time.

Chocolate Mousse or Key Lime Pie
with Sauvignon Blanc and Squawking Magpie

Dessert for this special tasting menu came in a beautifully whipped cream topped dish.

Chocolate Mousse While this dish was a wonderful, rich dark chocolate whipped into a light fluffy pillow of delight, it didn’t fare well with the wine or vice versa. The dessert on its own was very nice, however it fought with the wine it was paired with; it wanted coffee or maybe a bit of port to hang out with. A deep rich chocolate dessert wants a deep rich wine to go with it. Sue also found the big hunks of chocolate covered almonds to be too much but I liked them and tried them with the Syrah which worked a little better than the sparkling wine.

Key Lime Pie What an incredible dessert! Sue thought it went very nicely with the Brut, however I thought it needed the O:TU and Sue agreed I was right: the O:TU was a great pair with this tart dessert. It is difficult to pair wine with key lime. The O:TU stood up to the challenge because it married the lime in the pie with the lime in the O:TU.

Another option was the Golden Kiwi, vanilla ice cream topped with golden kiwi fruit and a cinnamon crumbleEven though the Golden Kiwi  dessert was a representation of New Zealand, we did not think that it would go as well with the wine as the Chocolate Mousse and the Key Lime Pie.

The Squawking Magpie SQM Méthode Traditionnelle Brut would have shown best with the oysters and been a great way to greet people as they arrived for the evening.

Delicate and floral when it first hits your nose with honey suckle, jasmine, and citrus blossom that’s subtle but pleasant. not the typical apple. On the palette it offers orange flower water, citrus zest, orange bread, tropical fruit, and mandarin. The bubbles are a bit large more like soda than seafoam, but delightful regardless.

Thank you to  Tangaroa Fish Market and Raw Bar and NZ Wine Navigator for hosting us! You really brought your “A” game to the table! Next time I am in the area, I intend to stop in!


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