Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881
Date: October 17, 2012
Cuisine: California French
Rating: Awesome. Something the same, something different!
The Foodie Club was inaugurated at Melisse, and as such, it holds a unique place in our fatty little hearts. This week the restaurant is doing a special “guest chef” tasting menu with Michelin starred Christophe Dufau of Restaurant les Bacchanales (I approve of the name).
From my cellar as usual, Parker 96, “From this cru’s steep, riverside slopes, the Fevre 2006 Chablis Bougros Cote de Bouguerots reveals its oak in lanolin, toasted almond, and spice aromas, along with notes of chalk dust, sweet lime, and heady, lily-like floral perfume. With enveloping richness, luscious juiciness, and flattering creaminess, yet underlain by a vivid sense of crushed stone, this saturates the palate so completely and intensely and with such a palpable sense of extract, that the finishing stain seems almost severe. This remarkably concentrated and polished wine should be worth following for 15 or more years.”
The starter bread course along with some parsley pesto. Later they came around with the varied flavored breads like bacon and basil.
“Kumanto Oyster. Green Tomato Chutney and Basil Oil.” Nice fresh tomato flavor.
“Egg Caviar. Soft Poached Egg, Lemon Creme Fraiche, American Caviar.” This is the Melisse signature dish. I’ve had it countless times, but it’s still great. Really, the Creme Fraiche makes it.
“Truffled Brandade. Radish, Carrots and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” This reminds me a bit of the elfin cuisine at Red Medicine. Underneath was a very Portuguese salt cod and potato blend that was very pleasant.
“Provencal Dashi. Santa Barbara Uni, Smoked Anchovy and Yogurt.”
Then with the dashi added. This dish is very N/Naka and totally delicious. I love dashi.
This older Grand Cru Burgundy had an initially funky nose but then opened up into a lovely example of mature pinot noir. Every time I have a good Grand or Premier Cru Burg with some age on it I remember why it’s my favorite wine.
“Roasted Sunchoke Veloute. Rich Mushroom Broth.” Really nice mushroomy flavor and a great foamy texture.
“Risotto Zen. Santa Barbara Prawn, Lemongrass and Ginger.” A nice creamy risotto and we got to suck the brains out of the prawn.
And I also brought this second older Grand Cru. It also had a funky nose that quickly blew off. Fantastic stuff and pairs very well with the complex (and buttery) French flavors.
“New Zealand John Dory. Hokkaido Squash, Shellfish and Passion Fruit.” The fish was perfectly done and moist, perhaps in the sous vide. I would have expected the the passionfruit to have more kick, but it was still good.
“Four Story Hill Farms Cochon de Lait. Gremolata, Yukon Potatoes and Watercress.” Cochon is a suckling pig.
“Elysian Farms Lamb. Red Amaranth, Onions, Hibiscus and Honey.” Yum!
To go with the entrees and desert, Parker 95, “As I stated last year, there is no Hommage a Jacques Perrin in 2006, but Beaucastel’s 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape is performing even better from bottle than it did last year. Its dense plum/ruby/purple color is followed by a big, sweet perfume of black truffles, camphor, earth, incense, new saddle leather, and loads of peppery, blackberry, and herb-infused, meaty, black cherry fruit. Deep, full-bodied, and dense, with sweet tannin, this explosively rich Chateauneuf is a stronger effort than the 2005, 2004, or 2003.”
My favorite part of any Melisse meal: Le Cart de Fromage (it’s a supplement).
My personal plate. This includes Époisses de Bourgogne (the goo in the back left), Fourme d’Ambert (the blu in the middle), camembert, and several other stinky and gooey bits of goodness.
“Blu di Bufala. Quince and JuJuBe, Aged Balsamic.” The official cheese course. Really very nice, as the fruit flavors contrasted nicely with the sharp blu.
“Flavors of Banana Split.” I didn’t try this, as I hate bananas.
But I got instead this chocolate two ways. On the left a mini chocolate soufflé and on the right a chocolate cappuccino mouse.
We added in this “bonus desert,” the “sticky toffee pudding.” Not bad, but I prefer this dish pretty straight up like at Waterloo & City.
“Cracker Jack. Popcorn Sherbet, Peanut Butter Crunch, Caramel Water.” On the top is a homemade cracker jack and below was a light caramel syrup. Really pretty nice and refreshing, not to mention reminiscent of the cheap snack.
The usual petite fours. The macarons (which were cherry or strawberry) were delicious and intense.
We’ve been several times for the full on Chef Josiah Citrin treatment and it was interesting to get this variant mixed up with Chef Dufau’s take. Very similar and compatible, I suspect they alternated dishes. Melisse has two Michelin stars, and it deserves every ounce of them. The service is amazing too. The setting is not as fully formal as some French three-stars, or the service quite so orchestrated (that level is more amusement than actually pleasant), and there are no zany carts for teas and sugars, but the food and creativity demonstrate Melisse’s deserved position as one of America’s top kitchens.
For another Melisse meal, click here.