Melisse, in Santa Monica, is widely considered the finest French-New American restaurant in the Los Angeles area, a city admittedly not surfeited with formal haute cuisine options. The plum and beige main dining room is contemporary, with a glass convex ceiling in the adjacent Olivia Room and a wood-burning fireplace in the Augustin Room. Chef Josiah Citrin describes the cuisine as “local, sustainable and product-driven.” Although tasting menus are the only option, there is a fair amount of discretion involved, with a several course prix fixe menu, a ten course tasting menu, a 15+ course “carte blanche” menu, a vegetable tasting menu, as well as the possibility of substitutions from seasonally-available game and truffle menus. The game menu, with selections such as pheasant, Scottish partridge, wood pidgeon, wild Scottish hare and roasted grouse, is especially worth exploring.
Not all of the dishes succeed. Indeed, one of Citrin’s signature dishes, the “Egg Caviar”, a cut eggshell layered with yolk, lemon-chive crème fraiche and American Osestra caviar on top, is a pale facsimile of that served at Jean Georges in New York City. Nor is the service commensurate with NYC’s finest restaurants; there were more missteps than there ought to have been for a restaurant of Melisse’s caliber (or price point). But these are relatively trivial offenses when viewed in context and they are more noticeable simply because of the high standard Melisse sets.
Some dishes at Melisse would floor even the most seasoned of gourmands: a stinging nettle soup with aerated smoked trout was so rich and flavorful we wanted nothing else for the night but a giant bowl of it; a loup de mer “en ecailles” in a broccoli velouté was, to the second, perfectly cooked; and a wood pigeon perigourdine (from the seasonal game menu), paired with a mushroom risotto and “cappuccino”, a dish where the elements more perfectly complemented each other than any we have had in a long time. The “cappuccino”, surprisingly, was the highlight of the dish: silky and smoky, like drinking concentrated mushrooms.
Melisse is a gracious restaurant, and would that there were more like it in Los Angeles.
1104 Wilshire Boulevard
(310) 395-0881 Tue-Thu, 6pm-9:30pm; Fri, 6pm-10pm; Sat, 5:45pm-10pm
- Los Angeles
- Best Service
- Best Wine Lists
- Private Dining Room Olivia Room: 32 seated, 60 standing Augustin Room: 16 seated
- Tasting Menu 16 Course Carte Blanche: $250 10 Course Ten: $150 10 Course Ten with Wine Pairings: $245 5 Course Vegetarian Tasting Menu: $125 4 Course Prix Fixe: $125
RECOMMENDED DISHES See All
- Mushroom Chestnut Soup - Truffle Mousse
- Stinging Nettle Soup - Aerated Smoked Trout
- Poisson Cru - Daikon Radish, Plantain, Black Truffle and Yuzu
- Lobster Bolognese - Fresh Capellini, Black Truffles, Basil
- Fresh Tagliatelle - Grated White Truffles, Parmesan, Brown Butter Truffle Froth
- Loup de Mer “En Ecailles” - King Oyster Mushroom, Broccoli Velouté, Roasted Walnuts
- Wood Pigeon Perigourdine - Roasted Sunchokes, Mushroom Risotto and Cappuccino
- Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Rib Eye - Sunchokes, Mustard Greens, Crisp Chimichurri
- “Cracker Jack” - Popcorn Sherbet, Peanut Butter Crunch, Caramel Water