A few nights ago my ex-girlfriend Janay and I decided to dine at Melisse in Santa Monica to celebrate her birthday. Given the restaurant’s consistently high ratings I knew we were in for a gastronomic journey. Oh, and what a journey it was.
We entered the doors to Melisse and a kind, welcoming host checked us in with a smile, then we were immediately escorted to a comfy booth that’s a step-up from the main dining area. Booths surround the dining room and the center houses tables for larger parties.
After sitting down we were offered beverages and presented with an assortment of bread including rye, a small French bread, olive bread, and ::drum roll:: bacon bread! Some people cheer for sports teams, though I cheer for bacon. Bacon bacon bacon! (I love this commercial).
After my fascination with the bacon bread subsided, Janay and I spoke about the excursion to be had and decided to go with the Chef’s Tasting Menu. Our waiter inquired about our likes and dislikes so the owner/chef/genious (Josiah Citrin) could prepare a tasting menu that fit our palettes. I myself will eat anything, and love seafood, whereas Janay stays away from shellfish.
From this point forward, the meal was on at full-force. One delicious course after another, each taking our taste buds to far-off places. Between the two of us, we had too many dishes to remember, but my favorites are listed below:
Hamachi – Potato blinis, leeks, salmon roe and lemon.
This dish was an excellent starter and I enjoyed the smooth texture provided by the blinis and hamachi. The touch of lemon added a nice hint of acidity.
Seasonal Vegetable Salad – Burrata cheese, pomegranate vinaigrette, roasted mushroom emulsion.
The seasonal vegetable salad was light and refreshing, which I love. The colorful, seasonal vegetables provided for an artistic spread on the plate.
Lobster Bolognese – Fresh cappelini, black truffles, basil
Since I’m a seafood fanatic, this dish is definitely for me. I’ve had a lot of Italian food in my day, but have never had lobster bolognese. I was initially expecting a heavy meat sauce, but was pleasantly surprised to find a light, creamy pasta that didn’t fill me up right away. Lobster bolognese — I’m now a fan. A big fan.
Wild Striped Bass – Braised cardoons, sugar snap peas, vanilla-balsamic reduction
The fish was cooked perfectly! I hardly ever eat fish when I go out as most restaurants, even high-end restaurants, have an issue with properly cooking fish. Luckily, Melisse is on top of their game.
Roasted Venison Loin – Braised red cabbage, yams, juniper-pecan praline, poivrade sauce
This was by far one of my favorite dishes of the night. The venison was tender enough to cut with a fork and cooked on the rare to medium side, which is how I like my venison. The spiced yam was delicious and the juniper-pecan praline cream added a smooth creamy texture to the venison. The rich poivrade sauce added nice depth.
Dry Aged “Cote De Boeuf Roti” – Potato-leek torte, wild mushrooms, summer pole beans, herb jus
This artfully prepared plate is for the real meat lover. The meat was very tender and I loved the combination of leeks, mushrooms and quality beef. Provides for a rich, organic, earthy tone.
After the above courses, Janay and I were completely stuffed and satisfied. Then, a bright light appeared above me just as the desserts began to arrive. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s vanilla bean yogurt topped with strawberry sorbet and a rich strawberry jam on the underside. For strawberry lovers, hold onto your seats, this one’s for you.
Next, I was presented with an apple tart, which is the best I have ever had. It was seated on a bed of smooth caramel and topped with creme fraiche ice cream. Janay had the “Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate” which sports a variety of mini dishes for choco lovers. I found the souffle, which was injected with silky, warm chocolate tableside, to be decadent and simply amazing. I remember being a kid and melting little chocolates in a coffee cup to get a smooth, warm, creamy syrup. I know it made my parents mad, ruining cups with a caked-on chocolatey mess, but I love that texture. For this reason, I have a new best friend named Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate.
Melisse is simply amazing. Service is top-notch, the food is precisely prepared with the best ingredients available, and the ambiance is ideal for any formal occasion whether it be a business event, birthday celebration, anniversary, date, etc. Attention to small details is very noticeable and the quality of service stands out from the rest of the crowd. I can see why Melisse has been a top ranking restaurants for many years.
I hope this review has been helpful and enjoy!
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