During the summer it’s always hard to find people to cook and so we decided to go with a restaurant this month. The restaurant in question is Mojo’s, which is a new venture by the Maller family. Tzvi Maller has a number of restaurants under his belt – most recently Crave in Jerusalem and Nobo in Teaneck, but a number of others before that as well. Mojos though is the first time the Maller family has made it a true family affair without any other partners involved in the day-to-day operation. And the Mallers are involved in every area – both in the kitchen and front of house, augmented of course by a truly pleasant and professional staff. But the real star of the show is the food. As you can see from the menu, we sampled a wide variety of menu items. I cannot remember the last time where EVERY single items was a hit. Yes, there was a slight delay between the first 2 courses – but this is a brand new restaurant which received a glowing review the same day from the Times of Israel – and so was literally packed from the time we got there until shortly before closing. Other than that delay, the food came out like clockwork and, as mentioned, was very tasty. It is hard to even choose a favorite dish – really they were all good – from the opening Caesar salad through the appetizers like the spaetzelle (reminiscent of a similar dish I remember from Nobo in Teaneck) and the Wagyu slider through their signature meat pizzas. They were all incredible (REALLY!) and pictures can be found below. But as effusive as I am about our experience, this is a wine blog after all, and it was pretty much a hit there as well. Yes there were two wines that were misses as far as I am concerned – but everything else was really great – and that’s a VERY good percentage. The only real downer is that when we taste in restaurants, its often very difficult to get a read on the nose in a way accurate enough to write notes, as you are in close quarters with other diners, and, in this case, there were aromas of lamb bacon and sausage that were wafting through the restaurant. But other than that, all in all, a pretty exceptional night. On top of that, right across the street from the restaurant on one of the security grates we noticed graffiti with the word “RCC” in plain sight. We then saw it again on random street signs. Clearly a sign that that Mojo’s is certainly an RCC-worthy choice to dine.
Anyhow, here are my notes on the wines (minus the nose):
NV Golan Heights Winery, Gamla, Brut – Over the last couple of years there have been a number of Israeli sparkling wines that have come to market. They are all priced the same or higher as Champagne from top producers. Some are nice, some are not. None of them can compete with GHW when price is taken into account. Especially the Gamla Brut. This wine is still from the last run, I believe, and is in perfect shape with no change from previous tastings and sells for under NIS 100 (that includes a pretty hefty price increase over the last year). It’s as good as 98% of the sparkling wines released. And if you take a good vintage BdB that sells for NIS 150, it will win against pretty much any other sparkling out there. So it baffles me when I see other Israeli wineries putting out sparklers at NIS 250-NIS 350. Skip them. Buy this. 90+
2009 Ya’acov Oryah, Valley of the Hunters, Semillon – When Ya’acov’s wines work they WORK. This is probably his most celebrated regular bottle – the famed 2009 Valley of the Hunter’s. These are hit or miss for the most part – and I have found that it is really dependent on storage – as it often is with wines of this age. This bottle came from my friend Simon – whose storage is impeccable. This wine was at absolute peak and firing on all cylinders, with the fruit showing wonderfully and the acid in perfect balance – not over the top, and far from having receded to the point where the wine is fading. Having said that, I have had bottles where that is not the case – so, why risk it? Drink ’em if you got ‘em and pray that your bottle was stored as well as this one. 92
2016 Bin-Nun Winery, Blue Note – Well what can I say about this wine. I knew going in that it was from a producer whose style I don’t particularly care for. But there were two things that intrigued me about the wine, and so I thought, why not? Let’s give it a try at an RCC. First it’s 80% Sangiovese, with the remainder a mix of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. So we basically have a super Tuscan blend – which are all the rage in kosher right now. The second is the price – $118. That’s right – more than many top-end Bordeaux wines and surely more than any kosher super-Tuscan. I said to myself – maybe they did something different here that might justify such a price….. Spoiler alert – they didn’t. IMHO it is a ripe sweet mess. Mostly you get sweet cherry compote with some sweet herbs and of course, you have the oak – and a lot of it. You do have some acid that struggles valiantly to balance it out, but fails. Now – I know this wine WILL appeal to some. It has all of the things many drinkers look for including a crazy amount of oak and a perceived sweetness that seems to always appeal to certain portion of the population – and a crazy price tag so you can put it on your Shabbos table and say – here – I spent a LOT of money on this bottle. So if those things appeal to you, this is your bottle. Of course this says nothing about the person who brought the bottle and I hope doesn’t take this personally. Lovely guy who is an amateur winemaker whose wines I have tasted – all of which I enjoyed more than this. And of course, this is just my opinion – it’s worth no more than anyone else’s. 83
2013 Terra di Seta, Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione – The logical wine to follow the Israeli Sangiovese was of course the real deal Italian – and this was a wonderful expression. I will say that pairing it with the mushroom spaetzelle did not hurt how this wine presented. A total winner of a pair. The base profile of red and black fruit – mostly raspberry and blackberry with the standard toasted herbs. But wonderful earthy mushroom umami notes have developed and just raise this wine to the next level. The tannin has calmed down some and this wine is likely at peak – but I don’t think it’s going anywhere either – so drink now. The finish is long and rich with herbs, tobacco coffee and earth. This really is a spectacular wine. 93+
2016 Ya’acov Oryah, Timrot Ashan – So we spoke about storage earlier. This wine was COOKED. Now, in all likelihood it was well past prime as it is, but still, heat damaged wines are not fun…. N/A
2015 Domaine Du Castel, Grand Vin – 2015 was not a great vintage – but for a 2015, the GV does the job, for the most part. You get dark ripe jammy notes of black cherries and ripe raspberry the most part balanced out by the acidity. The oak here is not overdone and you do get some nice hits of vanilla, which go with the style along with some tobacco. The finish is nice, though for me it ends a bit hot with more fruit, tobacco and rich chocolate. Still, considering the vintage, this performed above expectations. 90
2016 Domaine Du Castel, Grand Vin – What a difference a year makes. It is so nice being able to taste these one after the other. While the overall profile and descriptors are in line with the preceding vintage – the 2016 really gets it right. You get some black cherry, blackberry, and raspberry for the fruit with hints of anise and then tobacco. All of that is balanced out by the medium + acidity. The tannin is now moving into the middle of the wine but still makes its presence felt. The finish is long and extracted – but again balanced with hits of chocolate, tobacco and earth. A beautifully balanced and tasty wine. Really, really nice. 93
2010 ElviWines, Clos Mesorah – This wine was a tie for me for best wine of the night. It just had everything I was hoping for. It is finally at peak, with beautiful blackberry, blueberry, some raspberry, and dark red ripe plum, with some beautiful, toasted herbs and earth that round out the mouth. The acid is medium plus. The tannin is actually quiet until the finish where it asserts itself along with tons of mocha and tobacco, followed by more herbs, mushrooms and earth. When I had this wine four years ago, it was still relatively closed. I am SO happy that is had developed into this beauty. I STILL hold that 2009 is a little better, but this is no slouch. I would assume this is at peak now – but should hold there for a couple of years. 94
2013 Netofa, Dor, Syrah – Another wine that over performed. I was expecting a wine seriously in decline, as many have reported that this was way past prime and had sweetened up (many Israeli wines from the 2013 vintage had shorter than expected lifespans). This was NOT my experience with this particular bottle at all. Again it just shows you what good storage can do for a wine – this was another of Simon’s bottles. The fruit was there big black and blue – with blueberries, black plum, and blackberries. There was some very nice black pepper, as well as rich dark earth. The acid was nice – though I guess if there was one place that showed the wine’s age, that was it. It was sort of in the background but didn’t have the oomph I remembered. Still it was enough to balance out the fruit. Tannin was still there, but as expected had been integrated more into the center of the wine. The finish was nice with blue fruit and rich chocolate. Overall, very tasty and respectable for a ten year old Israeli Syrah. As noted though, your mileage may vary based on storage – and this one isn’t getting any better, so drink up! 91
2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Montiano, Lazio – This wine hasn’t really changed much since my last tasting a couple of years back except that it really didn’t need to be decanted. Now, I would have expected a little movement here – it’s nine years old. Maybe it’ll never really get there, in which case, it’ll remain a very nice, but very ripe and fruity Italian Merlot – that’s not a bad thing. It’s balanced and delicious. Though, I guess I am still hoping that some if the ripe fruit recedes and we get some tertiary notes. It’s still a super solid 91.
2013 Four Gates, Merlot, La Rochelle – Often times when drinking Benyo’s wines, I feel like I am getting to taste them either when they are not ready or after they have already peaked. Just never the right time. Part of this is because I live in Israel and there are fewer opportunities to taste and, therefore, people bring them out often without knowing if they are ready – and without an opportunity to taste again. I don’t know how or why, but this time the wine was PERFECT. I really can’t understand it – it should have been bottle shocked having been flown to Israel just the day before. But it was DELICIOUS. Certainly, in my top three Four Gates tastings – though that’s not saying much. Anyhow, the wine was both powerful yet elegant and perfectly balanced. We have very clear red fruit with raspberry, red bing cherry, and plum. The wine then shifts in to loads of rich earth and mushrooms. This richness is balanced out but not overpowered by the acid. The finish starts off mushroom-driven but then moves back magically in reverse to the earth and then the fruit. It’s quite an experience. Beautiful and my other obvious contender for favorite wine of the night. 93.5
2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve, Tokaji Aszú, 5 Puttonyos – This wine is a in a really nice place right now. It has gained some depth since release adding some nice nuttiness to an already beautiful flavory profile of sweet citrus and some fig. As mentioned previously, the acid here is excellent and keeps this zippy. This went beautifully with the lemon curd and pistachio crumble that we had for dessert and was a nice way to end the evening! 91.5
Well there you have it. My thanks again to Tzvi Maller and the rest of the folks at Mojo’s for such a wonderful experience. Chodesh Tov!