Mélisse, named for a lemon-scented herb from the Mediterranean, is a Michelin two-star and #1 from Zagat since 2003. Chef-owner, Josiah Citrin, is a self-taught culinary expert, offering the finest, freshest contemporary French/American cuisine, inspired by the seasons. Focusing on the best local farm fresh produce from the Santa Monica farmers market and other seasonally fresh ingredients, Citrin offers a tasting menu, a vegetarian tasting menu, an a la carte menu, a carte blanche menu as well as daily specials and an impressive wine list offering rare, world-class wines. Beautifully presented, the dishes are little works of art. Mélisse offers an exceptional dining experience, in a chic, dark, plush, elegant dining room, resembling a French country home, as well as two small rooms, Olivia and Augustin, for private entertaining.
Josiah Citrin, an ex-surfer, graduated from high school in Santa Monica/Venice and went to Paris where he cooked at several French restaurants, then returned to Los Angeles, cooking under Wolfgang Puck and Joachim Splichal. He opened Melisse in 1999 and has been at the top of the Los Angeles culinary scene since. Many feel that it is the best restaurant in Southern California. And, based on our meal, I would say they are right.
Recently, I was joined by my friends Gary Westby, the Champagne buyer from K & L Wines, and John Brincko, Underground Wineletter Contributing Editor, for an absolutely great meal accompanied by great wines which we brought to the restaurant. The two old Franck Bonville Champagnes came directly from the producer and were brought by Gary Westby. John brought the Montrachet and the 1991 La Tache and I contributed the 1989 La Tache.
Santa Barbara Prawn Tartar in a Yuzu Cone
Quail Egg in Brioche with Smoked Salmon
Grapes with Goat Cheese and Pistachio
Grapes Spherification with Goat Cheese and Pistachio Oil
(one preparation is traditional, the other molecular)
Lobster Bolognese, Fresh Cappelini, Black Truffles, Basil
Japanese Medai (Snapper) Sashimi, Basil Flower and Basil Oil, Sun Gold Tomato
Turbot with Shellfish and Spring Vegetable Ragout, Shellfish Emulsion
Morel Mushroom Risotto, Glazed Chicken Oysters, Herb Froth
Veal Shoulder and Braised Shank, Fava Bean Puree, Green Garlic Puree, Potato Fondant, Savory Veal Jus
Wine and Food Pairing
We asked Chef Josiah to prepare the menu based on our wines. And what a menu it was! The appetizers were superb. I loved them all, but of special interest was the quail egg in brioche with smoked salmon. All of the dishes married beautifully with the great Champagnes, but the quail egg in brioche with smoked salmon was an off-the-charts match.
We next had three small dishes which took us from the Champagne to the Montrachet. The Japanese Medai (Snapper) Sashimi, basil flower and basil oil, sun gold tomato; Lobster Bolognese, fresh cappelini, black truffles, basil; and Turbot with Shellfish and spring vegetable ragout, shellfish emulsion also were all delicious, but the Japanese Medai Sashimi and Lobster Bolognese were especially great with the Montrachet.
With the fabulous pair of La Taches, we had two dishes that were magnificent and perfectly matched with the wines – Morel Mushroom Risotto, Glazed Chicken oysters, herb froth and Veal Shoulder and Braised Shank, fava bean puree and green garlic puree, potato fondant and savory veal jus.
This was simply a “died and gone to heaven” dining experience. If you have not yet experienced Mélisse, you simply have to go. It just doesn’t get any better than this!
1979 Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
Light yellow gold color, great perfume, touch of spice, intriguing tropical nuance with citrus and mineral undertone, great flavor, creamy, touch of spice and crème brulee. Great freshness and finesse, long, lingering finish. A Superb Champagne.
1961 Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
Light golden yellow color, deep perfume, honied, hints of crème brulee, citrus and spice, rich, lush and creamy, very fine bead, subtle effervessence, great intense flavor, impeccable balance, very long, lingering finish. Absolutely great!
1986 Montrachet (Gagnard-Delagrange)
Golden color, initially a bit musty but this completely disappeared within five minutes, revealing a lovely citrus, tropical, honied perfume. Great flavor, rich, honied, touch of spice, lush and round, but structured and very long on the palate. Now at a peak but should last for many more years. A fabulous Montrachet!
1991 La Tache
Deep color, faintly smoky and an Oriental spice tone on the nose. Rich and flavorful, lots of depth, structured, spice and smoke nuances with a lot of underlying berry fruit and some tannin on the finish. Still evolving and probably at least five years from a peak. A great La Tache.
1989 La Tache
Deep color, faintly amber at the edge. Gorgeous perfume, with a cherry tone, spice and a faint smokiness. Lovely, supple fruit, cherry and spice tones, lovely, supple and elegant but with lots of flavor and depth, long finish. At a peak, but should keep many more years. A gorgeous, supple La Tache, with great elegance, finesse and flavor.
Visit Melisse Restaurant, 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401, 310-395-0881