Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881
Date: June 12, 2014
Cuisine: California French
Rating: Awesome in all ways
It’s always a challenge to come up with a new spot for my birthday dinner. I tried a couple new places and after struggling with annoying policies and restrictions came back to proven slam dunk Melisse. They have the private room. They have the food. They can handle all the wines effortlessly.
I brought a lot of good stuff and so did my friends.
Liz set the tone with this mag of 1995 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut. IWC 93. Medium straw, with a powerful mousse. Dense and earthy on the nose, with strong toasty and buttery tones layered on ripe apple and pear fruit. This is both very ’95 in a positive sense and very Pol Roger. Fat and round in the mouth, with extravagant flavors of buttered toast, ripe orange and poached pear, complemented by subtle notes of cinnamon and mace. A lush, velvety Champagne that completely fills the mouth with flavor and creamy texture. This would go wonderfully with absolutely anything-or on its own.
Oh, and then this 1988 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut. IWC 94. Classic, subtly complex Champagne aromas of toast, toffee, citrus peel, and yeasty fresh apple. Rich, full and ripe, with great depth of flavor and truly insinuating intensity. Complex notes of butterscotch and toasted nuts. Ripe, harmonious acids give this remarkably smooth wine excellent backbone for further aging. Extremely long. I rated this wine 93(+?) a year ago, and it has certainly delivered on its early promise. A pinnacle of the ’88 vintage.
Tomato two ways. Usually the initial amuse at Melisse is grapes, but this time, it’s tomatoes, both goat cheese and pistachio crusted and sphereized.
1979 Marquis de Laguiche (Joseph Drouhin) Chassagne-Montrachet. 85 points. The wine has seen better days, and had strong notes of sherry. But it wasn’t totally without virtue. As it sat in the glass for an hour or two it rounded out a bit.
1989 Bouchard Père et Fils Montrachet. 93 points. Soft and with classic Montrachet terrior this was a really delicious example of fully mature great white burg.
From my cellar: 1993 Maison Roche de Bellene Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières Collection Bellenum. 90 points. Other than the 79 this was the least complex of our whites, but it was still very MP and quite delicious.
Naked Cowboy Oyster. Apricot Lane Avocado, lemon cucumber, meyer lemon granite. A truly delicious and bright flavored oyster prep. The granite in particular was lovely, standing in for a squirt of lemon.
Have a few white burgs!
Egg Caviar. Soft Poached Egg, Lemon creme fraiche, american Osetra. Delicious as always. As Larry commented, “I could have eaten 3-4.”
The amazing Melisse bread, including bacon bread!
And really really rich butter.
Wild Japanese Snapper. Wild radish pods, cilantro and apple milk. Soft and bright flavored again.
Sweet Pea Veloute. Whipped Black Truffle. This is the inside of the soup.
From my cellar: 1998 Jacques Prieur Montrachet. Burghound 92. Quite closed and borderline austere on the nose with reticent aromas of fresh cut citrus followed by powerful, almost painfully intense flavors. This is completely unevolved and quite angular just now though it stops short of actually being hard. However, there is terrific sève and such solid underlying material that this should mature into a marvelous Montrachet but it will require a few years before the steel backbone softens.
agavin: 96 points. Outstanding, and oh so Monty.
From my cellar: 2000 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet. IWC 92. Complex, subtly perfumed aromas of apple, pear, minerals and nutmeg. Dry, steely and penetrating, with brisk acidity giving the wine an almost painful firmness today. Extremely closed, even dry-edged, but very long on the back end.
agavin: 93-94 really grew and grew in the glass with serious grand cru complexity.
2001 Coche-Dury Meursault. Burghound 90. Relatively deep golden. A pretty and fully mature nose of really lovely complexity, especially for a villages level wine, dissolves into intense, round and utterly delicious medium-bodied flavors that offer exceptionally good Meursault character and an abundance of minerality on the long finish. This still vibrant effort continues to pack plenty of flavor authority and one that has arrived at its peak of maturity. I would suggest drinking this up over the next 5 to 7 years or so as there is no additional upside development potential. In sum, this is a simply terrific wine for its level. Tasted twice with consistent notes.
agavin: 96 points. Meadows never gives these village Coche’s their due. Pretty much the whole table found this to be the best white Burg of the night. A lot of reduction and a long finish really sold it.
Forbidden Fruit. Apricot and Date. This is not the fatty liver of a water fowl. Definitely not.
Wagyu Beef Tartare. Black Olives, capers, cornichon and smoked tomato. Here one smeared some meat on a crisp, and then added some of the aioli-like orange stuff. Delicious!
We began to run low on white so Liz opened this! 2011 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. Burghound 93. This is also highly perfumed with a pronounced floral component dominating the other aromas that are composed of citrus, seaweed, iodine and mineral reduction while leaving no doubt that this could be nothing other than Chablis. There is excellent size, weight and muscle to the overtly powerful and well-concentrated flavors that exude a fine minerality on the extract rich finish. This explosive effort is almost aggressively saline and should improve for up to a decade in bottle.
Santa Barbara Spot Prawn. Fava beans, morel mushrooms, young garlic.
And with a bit of “jus.” Delicious!
From my cellar: 1969 Maison Roche de Bellene Volnay 1er Cru Santenots Collection Bellenum. 86 points. Interesting but the fruit was pretty faded and it had this vegetal menthol red pepper taste that wasn’t very pleasant. Bummer. The 66 I had of same was awesome.
From my cellar: 1983 Domaine Clair-Daü Bonnes Mares. John Kapon 94. The 1983 Clair Dau Bonnes Mares was excellent, and another solid 1983, which I have been enjoying here and there over the past couple years. Black licorice dominated initially, opening up into nutty, Burgundian fruit. The flavors were also licorice, and the wine was fleshy and tasty with a nice finish, in a good spot and a good showing for this oft forgotten vintage in Burgundy.
agavin: This was my third bottle of this wine, and while it was still good, it didn’t have nearly as much fruit as the others.
Lobster Bolognese. Perfect, just so small!
From my cellar: 1985 Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots. Burghound 91. Pale ruby but not yet bricking. A lovely and expressive mix of now mostly secondary aromas yet with traces of primary and still fresh fruit, spice and subtle earth aromas that are very Vosne in basic character. The sweet, rich and still quite precise middle weight flavors offer a mouth coating and culminate in a still somewhat firm finish that suggests ample minerality just below the surface. This is an impeccably balanced and understated wine that is classic Drouhin and classic ’85 that is drinking perfectly now and should continue to do so for another decade, perhaps a bit longer.
agavin: 90 points. This wine had a touch of funk or unbalance to it, but was still very vosne and quite enjoyable.
From my cellar: 1990 Georges Lignier et Fils Clos de la Roche. Burghound 88. A pretty cherry-fruit infused nose that is still relatively fresh leads to rich and vibrant medium full flavors that are bit edge and tannic on the now slightly astringent finish. While the mildly rustic tannins are not resolved, I would be drinking this anyway as it risks drying out with extended bottle age. No other recent notes.
agavin: 93 points. Lots of fruit, fully mature, delicious.
Oregon Porcini. Asparagus, young garlic and parsley
Sockeye salmon. with mushrooms and beure blanc.
Stonington Maine Halibut. Courgettes and Lemon basil.
1994 Domaine Jean Gros Richebourg. 92 points. Nice.
1996 Bouchard Père et Fils La Romanée. Burghound 93. Medium ruby color. Fresh and still entirely primary, elegantly perfumed violet and black fruit aromas introduce round, sweet, brilliantly delineated middle weight flavors of considerable breed and class deliver a racy, long and stunningly pure finish. The basic character here is interesting as the strikingly seductive nose is wonderfully expressive yet the flavors, and especially the finish, are somewhat somber and reserved though notably less so than they used to be when I last tasted this four years ago. While with 60 minutes or so of aeration this can be enjoyed now, it’s clear that several more years of cellar time is in order first. Tasted thrice with consistent notes.
agavin: 94 points. Deeper colored than the other red burgs and really fab.
Aged liberty duck. The meat had that gamey aged quality and was delicious.
With the serious meats, a few “beefier” reds.
1990 Lafite-Rothschild. Parker 96-97. Medium garnet-brick colour. Earthy, Provence herb seasoned aromas of warm cassis and stewed plum with nuances of smoked duck, cracked black pepper and dark soy. The palate leads with structure – medium to high, finely grained tannins and medium to high acid. Plenty of complex fruit to flesh out the mid-palate with a long, layered finish.
1982 Leoville-Las Cases. Parker 100! Still stubbornly backward, yet beginning to budge from its pre-adolescent stage, this dense, murky ruby/purple-colored wine offers up notes of graphite, sweet caramel, black cherry jam, cassis, and minerals. The nose takes some coaxing, and the decanting of 2-4 hours prior to service is highly recommended. For such a low acid wine, it is huge, well-delineated, extremely concentrated, and surprisingly fresh. Perhaps because I lean more toward the hedonistic view of wine than the late Michel Delon, I have always preferred this to the 1986, but the truth is that any lover of classic Medoc should have both vintages in their cellar. This wine has monstrous levels of glycerin, extract, and density, but still seems very youthful, and tastes more like a 7 to 8-year-old Bordeaux than one that is past its twentieth birthday. A monumental effort.
1982 Penfolds Grange. Parker 97. The 1982 is another superb example of that. One of the jammiest, most precocious Granges when it was released, it has never gone through a closed stage and continues to drink beautifully. A full-bodied, opulent Grange, it reveals an inky/purple color to the rim as well as a beautiful nose of crushed blueberries, blackberries, smoke, toast, roasted herbs, and road tar. This dense, plush, expansive, seamless, seductive 1982 has not changed much since I had it nearly a decade ago.
Prime beef rib eye cap. Young leeks and Chanterelle mushrooms.
Ron felt we needed some more white Burg, so he pulled out this 2000 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. Burghound 90. Interesting notes of fennel, green Chablis fruit and straw introduce medium weight, slightly austere, understated, precise flavors that deliver plenty of complexity and length but lack the same density as the 2001 Montée. To be sure, this is an excellent wine and Raveneau may have been a bit too modest in his comments about the vintage as this is really lovely if not genuinely incredible.
Tartiflette. Reblochon, smoked bacon, and potato. A delicious bacon version of potatoes Lyonnaise. Sort of.
And Stewart really wanted to open his Champagne! 1985 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. JK 96. A quick glass of 1985 Krug got me ready for the trip back home. Full of vitamins, spice and intense game, this fresh and perfect bottle of 1985 was great with a spicy and long finish, still young!
Strawberry. Balsamic, Sheep’s yogurt, graham cracker, and black pepper. Sharp and delicious!
Ron brought this crazy 115 year old port that came in a cool box.
And the port. Check out the viscosity. Like motor oil! But delicious.
Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate. Soufflé, mouse, and tarte.
A different chocolate dessert.
White Nectarine. Boysenberry, ginger, and vanilla. Like a miniature fruit ala mode.
Petite Fours. Gels, peaches, chocolates.
Most (but not all) of the wines!
All in all, a rather amazing birthday. An embarrassment of great wines, company, and food!
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.