Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881
Date: March 21, 2013
Cuisine: California French
Rating: Awesome in all ways
Melisse is a real standout in LA for many reasons. It’s almost the last of the European style haut cuisine restaurants and it maintains an ever evolving cuisine at the highest level. Food, presentation, and service here are all top notch. Tonight, I returned (for what must be the 20th time) with a bunch of Burgundy loving friends. Melisse provided the food and we provided the wines. Joining us were two reps from London wine merchant Justerini & Brooks and they brought along a number of excellent bottles.
We settled on the “10” a good sized tasting menu, but not quite as crazy as the carte blanche (my usual favorite).
The first amuse is a Melisse staple. Grapes two ways. Out of the spoon are half grapes coated in goat cheese and pistachio. On the spoon sphereized grapes dusted with pistachio. The first has a nice contrast of the sharp cheese and the fruit, the second is an explosion of grapeness.
And the bread arrives. I went for a piece of bacon, and a basil brioche.
Domaine Bachelet-Monnot Puligny-Montrachet “Les Refèrts” 1er 1er Cru White.
Burghound 88. Very mild reduction that didn’t blow off even after 24 hours does not completely hide the otherwise fresh and pretty citrus and floral aromas that give way to precise, racy and intense middle weight flavors that possess a very firm, indeed one could safely call this assertive, acid framework on the dry, persistent and solidly complex finish. Like the Folatières, some will find this to be overly austere as the finish is bone dry.
IWC 91+. Bright yellow. Exotic aromas of apricot and grilled nuts. Quite powerful and concentrated, with sweet fruit countered by strong acidity. In a rather muscular style for this cuvee Alexandre told me these vines were picked very slowly and that the 13.4% natural alcohol was high for 2008. The yield here, he says, was just 30 hectoliters per hectare.
Kumanto Oyster, avocado. I don’t remember all the details of this amuse, but it was lovely.
No trip to Melisse would be complete without the classic, “Egg Caviar, Lemon Creme Fraiche, American Osetra Caviar.” It’s a classic for a reason. The Creme Fraiche is so good, and there is raw egg yolk at the bottom. Amazing combo, particularly with the little toast stick.
Almond, caramel, Nice long finish. True and excellent meursault.
Poisson Cru. Crysanthemum, Pistachio, Breakfast Radish and Black Mustard.
Very much fusing Japanese influences with the french, this was a nice sashimi meets pesto dish.
Sweet Pea Soup. English Peas and Whipped Porcini.
With the soup itself poured in. A typical lovely vegetable creme soup Melisse style.
1999 Domaine d’Auvenay (Lalou Bize-Leroy) Meursault Les Chaumes des Perrières
Nice mature white burg with plenty of fruit and firm, racy acidity. A very enjoyable wine, and paired excellently (as suggested by master Sommelier Brian Kalliel) with:
White Asparagus Cocotte. Morel Mushrooms, Savagnin Sauce.
It’s white asparagus season, and these were done up to perfection with my favorite mushroom and a nice oxidized butter reduction. All sauce was mopped up afterward.
1978 Robert Ampeau & Fils Blagny 1er Cru La Pièce-sous-le-Bois
From my cellar. Dark red with a brown hue. Scents of prunes and raisins with strong cherry scents underneath. Medium bodied with nice intensity and mouth feel. Interesting, but delicious, taste of brown sugar with a nice consistent aftertaste.
This was slightly cloudy, not bitter at all, but not quite as good as the 1978 Ampeau Volnay I opened a couple weeks before.
Truffle Pasta. Fresh Tagliatelle, Perigord Truffle.
Have a little truffle. Always too small a portion (of the pasta)!
Domaine Henri Jayer Echézeaux Grand Cru Red
Burghound 93. Knock out aromas of kirsch, blackberry extract and ripe earth lead to big, robust, quite structured, deep and sappy flavors of incredible depth and complexity and as grand as those characteristics are, it is the simply mindbending length that really sets this apart from the average Jayer Ech. A wine that should last for 25 years if well stored.
The 1990 Henri Jayer Echezeaux had a lot going on in its nose. It was heavy and thick, beefy, brothy and foresty, with that citrus pitch and spice. It was like a forest sledgehammer, so thick and sweet, displaying that purple signature style. The palate was rich with endless acidity that was still somehow reined in. The palate was so rich, so saucy, so concentrated, so spectacular. It also had that cedary, foresty edge to its flavors. If the 1991 was a girlfriend, the 1990 was a bodyguard.
1990 Louis Jadot Musigny
Parker 93. The Musigny (75 cases produced) is a textbook example of this vineyard. The color is deep ruby. The nose consists primarily of sweet black-cherries and new oak. In the mouth, there is a soft, velvety texture, medium to full body, low acidity, and gentle tannins in the long finish.
My favorite wine of the night.
Dry Aged Sonoma Duck. Forono Beets, Mustard, Orange Scented Duck Jus.
This duck was aged for 28 days (I think) and had a wonderful “aged” complexity.
1988 Domaine Maume Charmes-Chambertin
From my cellar. John Gilman 91 points.
This was drinking nicely, but wasn’t quite as bright and balanced as the other three grand cru reds. If I’d had it without such stellar competition, I’d have thought better of it :-).
Windrose Farms Lamb. Violet Artichoke, Young Garlic, Camelina Seeds.
Aged for 5-6 weeks! Delightfully gamey.
1988 Emmanuel Rouget Echezeaux
Burghound 94. Intense and penetrating nose of spices and high-toned pinot fruit with remarkably youthful, rich flavors that completely buffer the still substantial tannins. The extract is sweet and seamless and renders the tannins almost invisible. This is extremely impressive Echézeaux.
Fourme d’Ambert. Pear Tart, Wild Watercress, Peppered Honey.
I’m always good with blue.
1995 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese
Wine Spectator 89. One of the sweeter auslese of ’95, its melon, peach and botrytis flavors are wrapped around a core of racy acidity. Concentrated and long. Drink now through 2000. 350 cases made.
Golden color, honeyed fruits with a touch of petrol. great body that expands on the finish. Loads of honey and mango.
Molten Chocolate Tart, peppermint Sorbet.
Not your average “molten chocolate cake”!
Sangria. Moro Blood Orange, Pineapple and Mugwort.
Light and refreshing.
Macarons, cookies, and canelles.
Orange slices and pate de fruits.
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. I ‘ve gone several times a year for a decade and it keeps getting better and better!
For another Melisse meal, click here.
Or for other Foodie Club meals, click here.