Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881
Date: December 16, 2021
Cuisine: California French
Rating: New style lighter, but still great
Right before the pandemic “Old Melisse” reopened split into a more casual ala carte Citrin and this new smaller tasting menu only format Melisse.
There is a new door on Wilshire.
And what used to be the slightly lower back room of “By Brazil II” and Old Melisse has been closed off to form the new more elegant tasting menu venue. It feels quite separate and you only go into the main dining room to use the restroom. The decor also looks and feels different and it’s set up pretty much exclusively for 4 tops (which I guess can be 2 tops).
1999 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 98. Very fresh, bright medium yellow. Knockout mineral-saturated scents of lemon cream, lime oil, acacia flower, vanilla, crushed stone, nut oil and iodine. Sappy and vibrant but at the same time utterly seamless, offering a compelling combination of refinement, concentration (especially impressive in light of the year’s full yields) and acid balance. The wine’s outstanding mineral tension is intensified by its brisk acidity–or is it the other way around? This is an exhilarating and truly exceptional grand cru but I would not describe it as an easy drink. Finishes with powerful crushed-stone salinity and a rising whiplash of flavor. A real cellar treasure and my favorite wine of the tasting, still with a long life ahead of it. The ’99s at Domaine Leflaive have always stood out for their ripeness and richness but today this wine is even more impressive for its adamant minerality. (Incidentally, my notes at the time said that following a reorganization of the cellar, 1999 was the first vintage at Leflaive to be bottled without filtration, as well as the first vintage to be bottled by gravity.) (14% alcohol; 3.18 pH, September 25 harvest) (Drink between 2019-2036)
Aged Beef, Green Goddess, Charcoal, Caviar.
Gougeres, Chestnut, San Daniele Ham.
Toasted Buckweat, Gouda and Bourbon
Potato Tart, Sunchoke, Mushroom, White Truffle.
Trio of starters. The new more Japanese influence is instantly obvious.
Shibumi Oyster, Smoked Vinegar Jelly.
Scallop, Squid, Matsutake Broth.
Uni Cromesquis, Yuzu, Honey.
Golden Osetra Caviar, Roasted Potato, Creme Fraiche, Champagne. This was a bit more “French” in style.
Toro Sawara, Concord Grape Vinegar, Oboro Kombu.
1999 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes. VM 97. Very bright red with ruby tones; looks like a young wine. Deep, dark red and black fruit aromas are complicated by cinnamon, black pepper, roast coffee and a hint of truffley underbrush. Wonderfully rich but classy and reserved, and not a bit heavy. Utterly silky, plush, energetic wine with a relaxed quality to its lively dark fruit and dark chocolate flavors. Finishes classically dry, with beautifully buffered tannins and captivating building sweetness. Amazingly, this 375-milliliter bottle seems still short of its peak, so I would imagine that well-stored 750s still need time. I’d guess 2022-2042 for 750s. (Drink between 2018-2034)
From my cellar: 1999 Domaine Anne Gros Richebourg. JG 94. Whereas Anne Gros’ Clos Vougeot has been seemingly slaughtered by new oak in this vintage, the Richebourg has had no problem gobbling up its new wood. The result is a superb Richebourg, bursting from the glass to deliver notes of sappy black cherries, plums, hints of dark chocolate, woodsmoke, violets and a framing of toasty new oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and packed with urgent fruit, with impeccable balance, lovely generosity on the attack, and fine depth in reserve at the core. The finish is long, complex and ripely tannic, with fine balance and very impressive grip. This is a majestic young Richebourg that should blossom in another eight to ten years, and drink well for at least a quarter of a century. Fine juice. (Drink between 2010-2035)
1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet. VM 93. The 1999 Vosne-Romané 1er Cru Duvault-Blochet, the debut release in the modern era, was beginning to show some signs of bricking on the rim. The bouquet is a treat: decayed red berry fruit, sage and peppermint, just a soupçon of wild fennel all at the liminal point as primary tips into secondary aromas. The palate is soft and mellow on the entry with a subtle meaty/dried blood quality, fine tannin and well judged acidity that keeps this linear and focused. There is just a pinch of spice on the finish that strangely brought to mind more Chambolle than Vosne-Romanée, not that I am complaining. Tasted at the 1999 DRC dinner. (Drink between 2020-2040)
Chicken and Rice, Cordon Bleu, Vin Jaune. This is the “chicken” part.
And the rice part was pretty much a Japanese ingredient flavored/inspired risotto — one of my favorite dishes.
Turbot “Marchand de Vin”, Brown Butter Sabayon, Celery Root. I love a good Sabayon (aka eggy fat emulsion).
Corvus Farm’s Guinea Hen “En Farci”, Turnip Soubise, Sauce Albufera.
A bit of light soup.
Millbrook Farm’s Venison Loin and Bun, Pumpkin, Walnut, Chocolate, “Pickleback.”
A bit of bread to sop up that reduction.
1966 Paul Reitz Corton.
Chocolate, Rum, Chestnut.
Mont Blanc Choux. A choux is a style of pastry where the dough is heated as it’s made.
Coffee and Caramel Brittle.
Chocolate and Whisky and Mulled Pear.
Melisse 2.0 remains and exciting and focused tasting menu restaurant. Right now, it’s decidedly lighter, more Japanese, and less French than the original restaurant. The number of courses, while plenty, is more restrained and there are essentially no options. But it’s also more experimental and quite delicious. I really enjoyed the food. Individual dishes felt distinctly “French” or “Japanese” in style.
However, the format changes make this a place for 2-4 person high end dinners as they do not really do larger groups and are decidedly less accommodating with regard to outside wine. They really want you buying off the list. This is a bit tough for guys like me as we almost always do dinners with slightly more bottles than people and where everyone tries to bring fairly evenly.