Ian Krupp of LA’s Anajak on Burgundy and Thai - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Ian Krupp of LA’s Anajak
on Burgundy and Thai

Ian Krupp has been at the center or behind the scenes of several wine-focused restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco, both in the top end (Providence, Kali, the Acquerello Group) and locales more down to earth (The Rose, Scopa). Each in its way prepared him for his current stint, at Anajak Thai, one of LA’s hottest restaurants and wine destinations. It was at The Rose, where he was lead sommelier, that Krupp met Justin Pichetrungsi, who had just taken over his father’s iconic restaurant in Sherman Oaks. Pichetrungsi (a regular denizen of our LA restaurant roundup, WSLA), had considerable wine chops of his own, with a strong affinity for low intervention wines, especially the white wines that worked with the restaurant’s piquant cuisine.

At Anajak, Krupp is excited to be able to sell a lot of riesling to his guests, though he says chef Pichetrungsi agrees with him that Burgundy may be the best overall match for Anajak’s menu. “Chef and I have this discussion all the time about what pairs best with Thai food,” he says. “Burgundy and simple grilled seafood is amazing. Like the pork collar, to give an example, with a glass of Pommard. It’s just amazing right off grill. Burgundy is more versatile than riesling—it can pair with more dishes on our menu,” though he suggests Burgundies that show some restraint in terms of oak.

As for riesling, Krupp is smitten with the wines of Germany’s Rheinhessen. Asked to name the other wines that he is personally following, he calls out Somló in Hungary, wines from Slovenia and Spain’s Canary Islands and, close to his heart, Piedmont, specifically Barolo. —Patrick J. Comiskey

What about Piedmont has you so smitten?

Yeah, I do think that nebbiolo is the wine of kings and the king of wines. Just because it has such intensity—how light the wines can be while having such power as well. It’s fascinating to me that they age so long. And how they express themselves depending on the site, from a different cru or hillside; it’s very much like Burgundy. I think nebbiolo is a pretty straightforward grape. It’s easy to blind-taste it, and you can guess it just by looking at it in a glass. But there is so much to explore as far as the region and soil types are concerned. I have a map of Barolo on my fridge and I can look at it for hours, you know. Really beautiful. Yeah.

And the Rheinhessen?

The Rhein is in the same vein, honestly, all of their little GG vineyards. To see one producer’s expression versus another is a very, very ethereal experience. I do these wine flights at Anajak where I’ll have a Kirchspiel or a Morstein or another vineyard or blend in a flight. I like to put together a flight of three to show people the differences and explore terroir that way. It’s fascinating because the clay and limestone relationship kind of goes inverse sometimes, just like in Burgundy. Those single-vineyard sites amaze me.

If I were going to do a wine dinner flight for a producer in the Rheinhessen, it would definitely be Katarina Wechsler. She’s been coming to Anajak even before me—to do the Thai Taco Tuesday takeover thing. We love her wines. And I have pretty much her whole lineup, and even then not all of them make it to the list. I keep a few in my back pocket for people as little surprises in the last minute.

You know, the spice in Thai food can be formidable. Any off-dry riesling works. I love that the sugar has such a cooling effect with spicy foods. If anything, a trocken can sometimes make it worse. I think feinherb and Kabinett styles are probably the sweet spot, so to speak. And the favorite pairing would be our papaya salad that we’re well known for; it’s like the most heavenly thing just side-by-side with a Kabinett or feinherb.

It’s up to the guests to figure that out for themselves—I usually have a feinherb by the glass. But some people are still shy with riesling. I’m so lucky that I’m at a Thai restaurant and can sell loads of riesling. At my last restaurant, an Italian spot, I sat on a case for a whole year. So, yeah, I’m a happy guy.

Aside from Burgundy and riesling, is there another focus for you at Anajak?

I would say Champagne. One of our star dishes is this Southern Thai fried chicken. It’s one of my favorite things about this restaurant: Despite all the accolades, people just want to come and eat fried chicken. I love the high/low thing. Fried chicken night happens at one long table laid out in the alley next to the restaurant. So you know, you’re eating fried chicken in an alley, but you’re drinking grower Champagne.

Fried chicken and Champagne is a classic pairing—everybody knows that. But to be able to curate something that’s a little more focused, with single-vineyard sites or old-vine sites or biodynamic producers, that’s one of my favorite things.

What was the most exciting bottle for you to sell this year?

I think the easy answer would be Selosse, and I do love to sell and open those. But I think honestly, it would probably have to be the Sylvain Pataille Fleur du Pinot Rosé. I’ve got some really nice wines on the list, but every time I open that, I get like a little kid. I swear, those wines are really beautiful.

Are there other beverages that are impacting wine sales?

Well, I don’t know about impacting, but I’ve been looking at non-alcoholic wines. I’ve been disappointed, mostly. They don’t really taste like grapes, and sometimes they’re really sweet. But I finally found one that I have by the glass now, a Crémant d’Alsace from Ribeauville. It’s called Reb0. I splash VIPs all the time—with Champagne or whatever is open. This month [Dry January], a lot of them are like, ‘No, no, no, don’t splash me.’ And then I just turn right around with Rib0, and they feel so welcomed.

For me, it tastes like wine. That’s what all my guests tell me, too. It’s similar in profile to a Crémant d’Alsace but doesn’t have the weight, because you’ve taken out the alcohol. So it’s a little more on the tart side, green apple, some lilac….

Yesterday, I was working on our first nonalcoholic pairings for the prix fixe and tasting menus. So now we’ll have that option for the first time.

Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.

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