Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881
Date: January 29, 2020
Cuisine: California French
Iconic Santa Monica Melisse has rebooted as 2 restaurants in the same space. In the front, Citrin, in a (slightly) more casual (slightly) more shared format, and a small room in the back with Melisse 2.0 — as a $300+ a head tasting menu only spot.
8 of us plus about a trillion unwelcome microbial visitors.
1982 Château Haut-Brion. VM 96. Good medium amber-edge red. Flamboyant aromas of smoked meat, leather, truffle and burnished oak. Intensely flavored and penetrating, with strong acids giving the flavors terrific cut and grip. I get an impression of strong cabernet tannins. Drink now through 2020. 94. My second bottle showed even more extravagantly expressive aromas of hot stones, tobacco, minerals and marzipan; a denser, silkier palate impression, with more obvious roasted Graves character; and an uncanny combination of sheer sweetness with structure and grip. I rated this wine even higher.
Beggar’s Purse. A mini crepe filled with caviar and Crème fraîche. Delicious, tastes just like a crepe with caviar and Crème fraîche but in a very cool dumpling shape.
Oyster with Crème fraîche. Bright and delicious.
From my cellar: 1995 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. 93 points.
From my cellar: 2014 Jean-Claude Ramonet Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly Blanc. BH 90. A soft trace of wood frames pretty and cool but ripe yeast, apple and pear scents that slide gracefully into the nicely detail, rich and relatively generously proportioned middle weight flavors that possess a lovely salinity that surfaces on the focused and persistent finale where a touch of bitter lemon appears. This is already sufficiently forward that it could be enjoyed now but I would be inclined to allow it at least 2 to 3 years of cellar time and 5 will probably prove to be ideal. (Drink starting 2019)
2002 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. VM 94. Healthy bright yellow. Classic brothy, crushed-stone Chablis nose, with lively hints of ripe citrus fruits and flowers. Wonderfully dense and tactile yet weightless, showing a sexy creaminess in the mid-palate for such a mineral-driven wine. An element of candied yellow fruits emerged with air, with a repeating floral note providing lift. Beautifully balanced, vibrant and long, finishing tactile and classically dry but not at all austere. A bit like the 2010 in style. (Drink between 2019-2033)
COUNTRY ROLL, BASIL BRIOCHE. The bread at Citrin/Melisse has always been great. I didn’t eat it tonight for diet reasons. Sigh.
Beurre de Baratte.
EGG CAVIAR. Soft Poached Egg, Cauliflower Mousseline, Lemon Chive Créme Fraiche. Total Melisse classic and always great.
CRUDO OF JAPANESE HAMACHI. Yuzu Compressed Apples, Vierge. The fish was perfect and the sweet and tangy marinate gorgeous.
HOKKAIDO SCALLOP. Sunchokes, Salsify, and Root Vegetable Consumme.
2008 Dom Pérignon Champagne Rosé. VM 97. The 2008 Dom Pérignon Rosé is magnificent. Rich and deep in the glass, the 2008 offers up an exotic mélange of aromas and flavors. Sweet red cherry, mint, orange peel and rose petal all grace this beguiling beauty. Bright acids and a little less still red Pinot (21%) than in most recent editions yields a Rosé that is delicate and light on its feet, with less of the vinous intensity that marked vintages such as 2006. There is a classic feeling of austerity in the 2018 that is mesmerizing. (Originally published in May 2021) (Drink between 2026-2048)
WILD MUSHROOM SOUP. Whipped Black Truffle Mousse. This is basically mushroom cream soup but as such is incredibly delicious.
HAMACHI COLLAR. Carrot Escabeche, Yuzu Mayo, Puffed Grains. Very nice.
Lettuce wraps for the collar.
LOBSTER BOLOGNESE. Maine Lobster, Fresh Capellini, Brown Butter Truffle Froth. Another original Melisse classic. Always fabulous with great texture and a savory lobster flavor.
Ocean Trout. Kabocha, Winter Citrus, Persimmon. Probably poached in the classic French style the fish was superbly soft.
SALADE MELISSE. Shaved Vegetables, Parmesan, Truffle Vinaigrette. This simple salad had great textures and a really appealing vinaigrette.
2005 Camille Giroud Chambertin. BH 93-96. There are actually several different cuvées of this wine and at the time of my tasting, Croix had not decided what he was going to use for the final blend. The best of them featured a reserved and very backward, indeed almost brooding nose of ripe and distinctly earth red pinot fruit plus a touch of animale that merges seamlessly into textured, powerful and pure big-bodied flavors that despite the size, richness and raw muscle are harmonious and perfectly balanced. A monument in the making but I reemphasize that this review may or may not reflect the final blend. (Drink starting 2018)
From my cellar: 1947 Moillard-Grivot Chambolle-Musigny. 90 points.
2003 Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée da Capo. VM 95-97. Deep, dark red. Multidimensional bouquet of kirsch, cassis, red plum, pipe tobacco, grilled meat, licorice pastille and roasted coffee; this has nearly all of the Chateauneuf food groups. Utterly mouthfilling in its richness, with tremendous concentration of red and dark berries, garrigue, bittersweet chocolate and aged beef. Finishes with a velvety lushness, round tannins and palate-staining persistence. A simply remarkable wine: it finished at 16.2% but the alcohol only shows in the wine’s unctuous, almost oily palate feel.
DIRTY CHICKEN FOR TWO. Roasted Carrots, Potato Mousseline, Roasted Chicken Jus. Some of the best chicken I’ve had, perfectly juicy, with a nice crunchy texture to the skin, and the “jus” (gravy) really took it to the next level.
Roasted Carrots. Nice for roasted veggies.
Arugula and Radish salad. I loved the bracing acidity and texture of this simple salad.
16oz PRIME RIB EYE. Lemony Potato, Yu-Choi, Pepper Condiment. Steak!
Morels and other mushrooms in butter. These were incredible. I think I ate two entire containers of them. So buttery. So mushroomy.
1982 Château Mouton Rothschild. VM 99. This is one of the best bottles of 1982 Mouton-Rothschild that I have drunk. Intense and lavish on the nose, this bursts with blackberries, raspberry confit, wild mint and graphite aromas, yet there is a sense of calm and refinement, perhaps less VA than some examples. The palate is medium-bodied and beautifully balanced, with some of the finest tannins that I have noticed on this Mouton Rothschild. Slightly tertiary on the finish, it builds and builds and leaves you utterly smitten. My God, dare I say it almost reminds me of L* ***r? Tasted at La Trompette in London. (Drink between 2023-2050)
1982 Château Cheval Blanc. VM 96. Saturated deep red, with a hint of development at the rim. Roasted nose dominated by toffee and tobacco. Wonderfully silky but without quite the exotic ripeness of the ’90. Still, this offers uncanny retention of primary fruit. Expands inexorably on the finish and goes on and on. A wonderful bottle that still improving. (The bottle in the blind flight was slightly less impressive: Good full red, with a hint of amber at the rim. Slightly medicinal aromas of red fruits, cedar and tobacco leaf; comes across as distinctly cooler than the ’90. Dense but penetrating and still a bit closed in on itself. Less sweet and generous today than the ’90, less exotic. But finishes firm and long, with a hint of dryness. I rated this bottle 93(+?).) Drink now through 2020.
2007 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée XXL. VM 93-94. Jeffrey style (big and round!)
Snake River Farms Beef Sirloin and Braised Cheeks. Cone Cabbage, Pommes Fondant, Horseradish Jus. A very nice steak and the jus was awesome but the cabbage (with jus) was really the champion here — amazing!
Braised Beef Cheeks.
Millbrook Farms Venison. Butternut Squash, Chanterelles, Black Walnut Condiment.
Michael breathing on the chef.
16oz PRIME RIB EYE. Lemony Potato, Yu-Choi, Pepper Condiment.
1989 Château d’Yquem. VM 99. The 1989 Yquem is my favourite of the triumvirate and this bottle was stellar. It explodes from the glass with scents of quince, acacia, honeysuckle, saffron and wild heather (a trait that I have observed previously). What marks this out is the stunning delineation. The palate is medium-bodied with tangerine, fig, marmalade and quince. A livewire Yquem with enormous depth and intensity, a bit more swagger than the 1988, a bit more precision-tooled than the 1990. Fabulous. Tasted blind at a private dinner in Bordeaux. (Drink between 2022-2050)
CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE. Cocoa Nibs, Dulce de Leche.
VALRHONA CHOCOLATE TART. Coffee, Caramel.
ORANGE SOUFFLE. Ice Cream.
STICKY TOFFEE. Cream Cheese Mouse, Pomegranate Sorbet.
Passion fruit mini dessert for everyone. I nibbled this and it was so up my alley. Too bad I’m avoiding the carbs.
Chocolate bon bons.
Tropical fruit jellies. I nibbled one of these too and it was insanely good.
1982 Château d’Yquem. VM 95. The 1982 Yquem reached physiological ripeness on 16 September, though rain interrupted harvest that only really commenced on 2 November for just four days. My third encounter with this off-vintage blew me away and frankly, I was not prepared for the quality given the previous showings. Limpid gold in hue, this has a brilliantly-defined bouquet with shimmering scents of quince, saffron and honeysuckle, one of the most citrus that I can recall. The palate is built around its livewire acidity, taut and finely detailed with orange zest, quince and white peach. The 1982s focus and energy is irresistible. I suspect that I will never encounter a bottle as good as this. Tasted at the 1982 Bordeaux dinner at Hatched in London. (Drink between 2022-2045)
Overall, another epic epic night. Wow, that was a lot of food!
Service at Citrin is first class. Wine service is very good. As good as it gets in LA. There is no bottle limit too, although corkage is a bit steep.
Food was quite good. Similar to Melisse, but formatted differently. We sort of did the “fixed” menu plus a LOT of add ons and share plates here. Worked out well with the add ons. Just the normal fixed menu would be a bit light for us gluttons and a dinner like this.
Great evening. Don’t miss my coverage of the more modernist (and Asian influenced) New Melisse.