The biggest choice most diners in Los Angeles encounters when it comes to water is whether to go flat or sparkling.
So the idea of Patina Restaurant Group’s Ray’s and Stark Bar offering an extensive water menu, curated no less by a water sommelier is, to say the least, a little eccentric even by So Cal standards. But listen to the restaurant’s general manager and resident water sommelier, Martin Riese, gush on waters’ wide variety of taste profiles and health benefits, and it all begins to sound very compelling, like the trending tip of the proverbial iceberg .
Get the German-born Riese going on the topic, and he waxes eloquently about regions, soils and minerals when discussing the 42-page menu that launches this Monday at the restaurant located at LACMA. Hopscotching around the planet, the menu includes selections such as Vichy Catalan from Spain and Hawaii’s Waiakea. There are also more commonly known brands such as Perrier, with prices ranging from $8 for a bottle of Evian to $20 for Berg, which is actually harvested from Canadian icebergs.
Much more than a listing however, the menu includes a short profile of each of the 20 waters featured, including region of origin, size (most are 750 ml or one liter) and a graphic indicating flavor profiles which range from sweet to salty and smooth to complex depending on the all important mineral content. Riese, who received his certification from the German Mineral Water Association, emphasizes that it’s the unique combination of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sodium that not only give each brand its unique flavor, but make these select waters a healthy choice, as well. Known collectively as TDS, or total dissolved solids, the minerals contained in these naturally sourced waters replenish what the body loses through daily activities like exercise and stress-inducing 405 Freeway commutes.
And how does one sample these haute waters? “You swirl it in the glass just like you would a fine wine,” observes Riese. “This pushes the oxygen in and opens the full taste.” The similarity with wine tasting doesn’t stop there, as Riese drops terms like terroir -- the climactic and soil conditions that determine a wine’s profile -- when discussing his menu.
“For instance, the silica in the volcanic soil of Fiji gives a velvety, olive oil-smooth feel to Fiji water that goes perfectly with dessert. Voss on the other hand is slightly bitter, and is better for salads and vinaigrette.”
Riese is so passionate about the topic, he’s even involved in the crafting of Beverly Hills 90H20, a suitably blingy bottle ($16) which is featured on the menu and is billed as the first “sommelier-crafted water.” Using a natural spring source in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, he helped devise a proprietary blend that is high in TDS for more complexity, but very smooth on the palate. Limited edition bottles can now be found not only at the restaurant, but at the Montage Hotel, Petit Hermitage and as an option at the Bvlgari store instead of Champagne. Say goodbye to flat or sparkling and hello to designer water.