Monday, July 20, 2009

A Dream Meal That Lives Up To Reality @ Melisse (Santa Monica)

Once in a while, you always get that pit in the stomach that you hope this would be the best meal you ever had. Maybe you get that intuition all the time because of the price tag you will need to absorb at the end of the meal. Hence, it's better be that good for you to spent on a meal.

Last month, the restaurant Melisse had a special menu called "Summer Discovery Menu" which for a very reasonable price of $65, it will include a three course meal plus a dessert that was heavily hyped by the hostess of the dining group. That hostess was the Notorious P.I.G. who had promised that Passion Fruit Parfait would be out of this world.

So much hype, but I did had a great experience at Providence's 5x5 meal which included a dish from Melisse's chef/owner Josiah Citrin which blew my mind with his dish of Shellfish "Printaniere". That was one of the best dish I have ever had, so the anticipation for me to come here was huge.

Before our meal start off, chef Citrin gave us a refreshing drink of his Green Apple Consomme with a bit of Apple "caviar" (chunks of Apple bits). The starter was very playful considering the soup almost tasted like apple juice, but was very inventive in a way on how the consomme was able to pull it off as the starter as it was a delightful drink to start before the main course. A great way to heighten our anticipation on what was about to come.

Green Apple Consomme

For our courses, we decided to make a divide and conquer. We decided to pair off in group of two with each person ordering a different dish and sharing both dishes. In essence, we got all six main courses and both of the dessert. That way we can't complain later about missing out the other dish or had the "what if" questions later.

I teamed up with Kung Food Panda as the other group consist of the Notorious P.I.G., Mattouille, and Choisauce.

Our first set of Main courses was between Silver Fluke and the Potato Gnocchi. My favorite out of first duo was the Potato Gnocchi. This dish was very simple with bold flavors that let the taste stand out without adding too many other ingredients to it. It consists of summer squash, a dash of ricotta cheese and some green almonds on top of the gnocchi. It really tasted very delicious after you took the first few bites, you just couldn't eating it. I actually needed to take the plate away from KFP as he was hogging that dish.

The fluke, better known as summer flounder or a flatfish to some was very tasty as well. I think with a little dash of lime and truffle helped out a fresh fish dish that otherwise would had been hard to eat. It played very well in your taste buds as the combination of the ingredients does work well and makes it hard for you to decide on which dish in the first course should you choose. Luckily, we had both.

Potato Gnocchi - Summer Squash, Green Almonds, and Riccota Cheese

Silvered Fluke - Truffle, Lime, Wasabi, Chilled Mushroom Consomme

I took the liberty of ordering the Duo of Foie Gras as a side to my special tasting menu courses. Besides the two different Twice Cooked and Terrine Foie Gras was a confiture that tasted lemon and a chocolate servings in the plate. We also had a plate of brioche bread to go along with the foie gras. I think it was great as a dish itself as it was filling before I even get to taste the final two dishes.

It was funny seeing a few of my other dining mates trying to order more of the brioche thinking it was part of the complimentary breads that was passing out.

Duo of Foie Gras - $27 (Twice Cooked on top left and Terrine on bottom Right)

Our second set of courses in the special menu was consist of the choices between of Tea Smoked Ahi Tuna and the Curried Black Mussels.

The Ahi Tuna was looked like a cut of rare sirloin steak on top of the marinated Egg plant. I did enjoyed the tuna steak at Wolfgang's The Cut a few months back and found surprisingly tasty for a steak-like cut of a rare tuna. The rosemary sauce made enhance the flavor profile of the tuna and worked especially well when you eat it with the egg plant. The heirloom tomato on the side was a nice side feature that complete the overall effectiveness of the entire dish.

I did enjoyed the curried black mussels as well. It was not very well received by some of our dining mates as they felt the flavor was too much with too many ingredients overshadowing the mussels. Maybe the cilantro was too much on the other plate, but I really did enjoyed the simplicity of the mussels with the nice added breaded naan for the compliments for the dish.

Tough call, but I probably would go with the Ahi Tuna in a close contested race for the best of 2nd course.

Curried Black Mussels - Parsley, Cilantro, and Naan

Tea Smoke Ahi Tuna - Marinated Egg Plant, Heirloom Tomatoes, Lemon, and Rosemary

The fireworks really begin with the final pairings. As we wound down with the final sets, so far not a disappointing or underwhelming dish had come out of the kitchen and the dinner was moving swimmingly as we also enjoy our company at the table. Then, the end of all endings had bestowed upon us.

First off, either of one of the two dish would be an ideal choice to close out on any chef's menu. Both were that good and we wouldn't have it any other way.

The no-brainer of the night was to order the Hanger Steak Frites. Let me say that in one other instance at Bouchon (Thomas Keller's poorly conceived sequel in Vegas) was a major let down and the one at Walter Manzke's Church and State was well received. Confidentially, let's just say the dish was a big wow. Everyone understand about the steak, but it's potato fries that needed to wow a person over and chef Citrin's fries was an ecstatic winner. Dipped in the brown butter Bernaise, it was like an elixir that instantly gave your tastebuds a boost. The arugua salad and the hanger steak were excellent as well, but it seemed like we wanted to dip everything in that sauce.

The Cornish Game Hen came in with low expectations, but came out to be the biggest surprise of the night. I don't think anyone of us thought the stuffed poultry leg was going to be anything but a turkduckey. However, with each passing bite, it reminded me of the Buddha Chicken at the Duck House . The creamy polenta is something I can eat all night long along with the big button mushroom that was provided with the delicious stuffed game hen. I don't think you should passed this dish up when you get a chance. Easily, one of the highlights of the night.

In further consideration, I thought it was a dead heat between the two. I was just happy that I get to have a taste of both (even if KFP was chowing both down like there's no tomorrow).

Cornish Game Hen "Jambonette" - Creamy Polenta, Button Mushroom, Pear Onions "Jus Roti"

Hunger Steak Frites - Arugula Salad, Brown butter Bernaise, Red Wine Shallot sauce

The dessert was a moment of truth for our hostess of the evening, Notorious P.I.G. She claimed in her blog and was quoted a few times of saying that she was not in love with the restaurant, but with the dessert (as in the Passion fruit Parfait). After all the delicious dishes we had, the dessert was a make or break for her? Ha!

After a few teasing all around from everyone in the table, we can hear her giving out a few prayers before the dessert was passed out. After a few bite, let's just say she is off the hook.

With all the adulation being lavished on the passion fruit parfait, all of the sudden the P.I.G. looked very confident in dishing a few "I told you so" to some of us in the table. In one quick turnaround, she got her bravado back with all the thanks to chef Citrin.

With all the kiddings aside, the passion fruit parfait was delicious. The souffle drenched all around by lemongrass milk and was sandwiched between a coconut sorbet and a pistachio cookie. This was easily our favorite dessert of the night.

The poor strawberry shortcake never stood a chance as it was very solid and competent, but was overpowered and shadowed by the aforementioned Passion Fruit Parfait.

Passion Fruit Parfait

Strawberry Short Cake

If I ever had a best meal of 2009 award, this place easily deserved that honor. Great service throughout the night with each passing dishes progressing better and better. It ended with a big bang in the final course and closed out with a flurry with the excellent desserts.

I only writing this now not just because I want to share about this place, but because I'm going back again this week. Yes, I just can't wait to see what this place had in store for us.

1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-0881


Melisse on Urbanspoon

Melisse in Los Angeles


kevinEats said...

Better than Urasawa??? I don't know about that.

Right Way to Eat said...

Hey Kevin,

Hate to bring it up, but yeah, this meal was better than Urasawa.

Urasawa might have the best lineup of long meal, but the meal I had at Melisse was the best one I had all year.

Kung Food Panda said...

Hey man, I don't think I was "chowing both down like there's no tomorrow!" :P You're gonna ruin my Blog 'cred! LOL Besides, you had one of the dish first :)

I agree, Melisse was pretty great and hopefully this upcoming 10 courses can/will top this previous dinner!

weezermonkey said...

Mmmmmelisse. Everything I've seen, read, and heard tells me I'm missing out.

Is it stuffy there at all? It's hard for me to convince my husband to go to fine dining sometimes.

Gastronomer said...

I've been waiting for someone to write up the Summer Discovery menu! Thanks for doing so. I'm so glad you loved your experience. Let downs are a drag.

Aaron said...

Those are some bright photos. Was the lighting really so advantageous, or do I see flash photography at a two-star restaurant?

Right Way to Eat said...

Hey Kung Food Panda,

I'm pretty sure their 10 courses will be great. I'm actually very geeked about going here on Saturday. It's okay to chow down because it was that good!

Hi WeezerMonkey,

It's not that stuffy as I thought it was. Most guys dressed in suits, but i refuse and I looked like an out of town tourist whenever I came by. I think you and your husband will be fine if you put an effort to look presentable (unlike me who still refuses).

Hi Gastronomer,

KFP also approves. It was one of the few times where everyone was very satisfy with the meal. Even Burumun reversed her "I'm not in love with the restaurant" mantra and gave it a thumbs up after that evening. She actually went back for the 10 course specials considering she was not a fan of the place before this evening. LOL

Hey Aaron,

Did use any flash photography. We all have to bring very sharp lens with big aperture. I also set the settings to slower shutter speed to capture the light. Yes, we have to use what we learned from our photography class. LOL

Plus I'm pretty sure you can see the harsh light if we use flash. They'll definitely be overexposure. We got lucky with some of these photos.

Unknown said...

this meal really was phenomenal. I don't know why I never blogged about it, but I should get around to it soon. Might be one of the best overall meals I've had in LA.

Food Notes said...

oh wow, never knew that upper wilshire had such good eats

you should definitely submit some of your photos to their goal is to create a visual restaurant review site with a template similiar to that of tastespotting

Food, she thought. said...

the tea smoked ahi and passionfruit parfait look special.

gourmetpigs said...

I told you so!

Haha I was getting pretty nervous there, thank god the passion fruit parfait lived up to my own hype (thanks chef Citrin ...)

This meal was definitely better than my first Melisse meal, and the 10 yr anniversary is also better. Gonna need to make a note on my old review :)

Right Way to Eat said...

Hi Adam,

I hope you do get a chance to blog about it because I would love to read about your experience at Melisse!

Hi Food Notes,

yeah, that area is getting popular as Santa Monica Seafood and Huckleberry is nearby. So is Rustic Canyon. Not bad of an area.

Hi Food, She Thought,

Those two were special. Spectacular even! LOL

Hi Burumun,

C'mon, you know this meal was awesome. It should wipe off your 1st visit as an aberration. My 10th Year anniversary dinner was good, but didn't quite live up to this dinner. *sigh* You can't win all the time.