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Eating at Melisse LA
10/15/2013 by
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melisse

Melisse is one of those restaurants in Los Angeles that was on my must-eat list along with Urasawa and Providence.  Los Angeles has relatively very few fine dining restaurants that I’ve enjoyed, so I have very high expectations for this particular occasion.  I’m hoping I won’t be disappointed as I also wanted to show my mum what kind of foods I’ve been eating outside of the valley.  Fox W, a well known Foodspotter, also joined me for this and provided pictures.

Melisse mainly has fixed course meals.  There were 2 main course meals that were of interest to me: the 10 course meal (~$150) and the 15-course carte blanche meal (~$250).  I figure it will be a while, if not eternity, that I will be back here again.  So I should just go all out and go for the carte blanche.  Keep in mind this meal was about 4.5 hours, so make sure your buns are well massaged and capable of sitting for that long.

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Complimentary of the restaurant was some type of grape wrapped with goat cheese.  I don’t find goat cheese repulsive whereas other people do.  I felt the crusted goat cheese worked well with the grape.  It wasn’t particularly gamy.

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The second part was a grape like jelly wrapping a wad of goat cheese.  The jelly was very soft similar to caviar texture.  You can pop the jelly with your tongue with ease, and the cheese pours out like raw egg yolk.  I enjoyed these 2 grape and goat cheese combinations a lot.

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1.  Wild Cactus Soda.  The very first course was this interesting infused soda.  It was sour, sweet, and tasted like a Cactus Cooler but with significantly more candy sour to it.  It reminded me of a refreshing liquid version of sour patch kids, with less sour.

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2.  New Zealand Clevedon Oyster.  The oyster is topped with apple, shiso, and wasabi.  Generally I prefer sweet oysters, but this one was alright.  It wasn’t particularly sweet, but it also wasn’t too oceany or fishy.  The oyster was very hearty and tasted very fresh like it just came out of the water.

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3.  Egg  Caviar.  This was a soft poached egg, with lemon creme fraiche and American Osetra caviar.

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This was simply delicious.  The flaky wafer bread was served warm to the touch and tasted delicious, especially dipped.  The egg yolk was nice and creamy, and the caviar seasoned it nicely.

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The restaurant also served various breads.  The ones that particularly were of interest to me was the second from the left (basil brioche), second from the right (black olive brioche), and the first on the right (bacon bread).  If I recall correctly, the rest were either just plain ciabatta or a plain brioche.  My party wasn’t particularly fond of the basil brioche because the basil taste was too strong.  I actually enjoyed it a lot, but then again I sometimes eat basil leaves raw just for kicks and giggles.  The black olive one was my favorite though.  It had the distinctive salty olive taste to it and was delicious especially with the room temperature butter.  The bacon bread was strange.  There were chunks of bacon in the bread, but the entire bread tasted like bacon fat.  I thought it would be salty and tasty, but it was a miss so I didn’t care for it much.

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4.  Caprese.  This was probably the most memorable to me for some strange reason.  This was a pineapple tomato served on top of Buratta cheese, and topped with sweet onion and basil.  This was the epitome of what fresh means.  The tomato was meticulously hand picked by Chef Citrin as he strolled up and down along the aisles of the farmer’s market to ensure this was the freshest and sweetest tomatoes that he will serve tonight.  The one thing I learned was that the best tomatoes in the world are the ones that you can pick up and smell without breaking the skin.  Most, if not all, big chained markets are genetically engineered such that you can’t smell a tomato unless you cut it open.  So with that in mind, that would have to tell you that after this fresh tomato has been open, the flavors of it simply explode with a lot of tomato aroma as if it was picked from a garden.  The basil and sweet onion complimented it nicely and the Buratta cheese was simply delectable.

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5.  Kuri Squash Veloute.  This was a soup with wild acorn crumbs and an Australian Perigod mousse.  After looking up what perigord mousse is, it appears it’s a combination of  duck liver, chicken liver, black truffles and sherry.  This was actually pretty tasty despite how simple it looks.  The acorn crumbs tasted similar to honey roasted pecans.  The black truffle mouse was very tasty.  I’ve learned that I like two things a lot in fine dining: foie gras and truffles.

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6.  Wild Japanese Isaki.  This was isaki served with caramelized uni, seven seeds, and radish.  The orange cream is actually an uni puree.  The night was going well until we got this dish.  The uni puree was very strong in flavor.  The actual isaki was very light in flavor.  Combined together, it reminded me that I was eating something smothered and covered with nacho cheese sauce.  That’s how powerful the puree was (and that’s not a good thing).  If the fish was to be the focus of this dish, it failed miserably.  The puree was simply way too strong to accompany a very light fish.  The puree would’ve been best served with cooked fish such as a chunk of halibut, cod, or even rock fish.  Paired with this, it definitely made me wonder what was going on inside the chef’s head when he was making this.

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7.  Big Island Abalone.  This was served with cauliflower, brussel sprout leaves, and black sabayon.  This was an abysmal plate following a previous abysmal plate.  Abalone by itself has no flavor.  The broth was very light and tasted good.  However, this conceptually seemed unoriginal and a lack of effort.  It almost seemed like the soup was indirectly the focus (which was very good) but not the abalone.  The abalone really did nothing, and could have been replaced by a shellfish or cooked fish.  The dish would’ve tasted better with those options for me.

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8.  Hokkaido Scallop.  This was served with rhubarb, black sesame, and broccoli and dandelion greens.  The black lump at the rear of the plate is the black sesame.  The sauce was a rhubarb puree.  I love scallops, but unfortunately mine was slightly rubbery.  A party member said that her scallop was entirely overcooked.  The scallop itself tasted good, but it would’ve been great if it had been cooked properly.  The black sesame was a strange ingredient and didn’t need to be there.  It generally is sweet, very strong, and would’ve hid the natural flavors of the scallop.  The overall taste of the dish seems to resemble uninspired executed Chinese cuisine.

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9.  Cassoulet.  This was the Chef Citrin’s take on vegetarian cassoulet.  It had braised shelling beans, porcini mushrooms, and sweet clover infused zebra tomato.  A cassoulet (from Wikipedia) is a slow cooked casserole containing lots of meat, pork skin, and white beans.

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The soup was decent, but I simply was not a fan of the beans.  I actually felt if he had cooked me the actual cassoulet, I probably would’ve been happier.  It didn’t taste good at all, and it was even left uneaten by some members of my party.

So far, the last few dishes have been very unoriginal and unappetizing.  The night started with an upswing, and now it’s going down below.  Would it be possible to recover?

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10.  Black Bass “En Ecailles” with creamed caper, Tromboncino squash, Bloomsdale spinach, and radicchio and carrot.  The black bass was cooked with the skin on and was very crispy.  The fish itself was simply delicious.  The creamed caper puree and squash drizzles worked well with the bass.  The bass skin was soft and crispy.  It definitely tastes how it looks.  Finally, we have an upswing.

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11.  Wild Scottish Partridge.  This comes with roasted sunchoke, white wood ear mushroom, and black quinoa.  This surprisingly was pretty good.  The partridge was imported from Scotland and had some nice flavor that wasn’t too gamy, although some in my party felt it was too gamy for them.  The rest of the ingredients were rather forgetful.  The tofu skin sitting to the right of the partridge seemed odd to put on this dish.  The white wood ear mushroom is just a textural thing.  The sauce is pretty tasty, but the real star here is the partridge in my opinion.

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12.  Millbrook Farms Venison.  This comes with parsnip, pears, marche cherries, and abiano chocolate.  This was also pretty good.  Like the partridge, the venison did have some gamy taste, but the meat itself was very tender and soft.  I wasn’t particularly appalled by the gamy taste, although others were.

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13.  Truffle Risotto.  This was a wonderful masterpiece.  The risotto was very creamy, and the black truffle resonates all over.  The rice was nicely cooked al dente and tasted very good.

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14.  Fromage.  A cart of cheese rolls by.  This was kind of interesting.

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Lots of cheeses to nibble on.  In the center were some slices of pickled pears, kumquats, and roasted pecans.  I don’t remember all the cheeses, but I’ll try to describe from memory most of them.  Directly at 3:00 is the goat cheese.  The cheese was pretty strong, but it was very good when paired with the pickled pear slices.  At the 4:00 position is a cheese that the waiter said Napoleon himself enjoyed a lot.  It was slightly sour but has some strange fruity aroma to it.  The 6:00 cheese was very similar to Brie, but not quite.  The 7:00 cheese had the texture and kick like sharp cheddar, but it was very tame.  You will see 2 cheeses with green stuff in them.  The bottom one is a lighter bleu cheese, whereas the top one is a very strong bleu cheese.  Everyone enjoyed the light bleu cheese especially paired with the pickled pears.  The other bleu cheese was very strong even for myself.  I actually preferred the goat cheese over this.  The other cheeses I can’t remember how they tasted.  For what it’s worth, my brother and I were the only ones that ate the other cheeses.  The ladies went after the lower half of the plate.

15.  Dessert.

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“Cracker Jack” with salted popcorn sherbet, peanut butter crunch, and caramel water.  The sherbet wasn’t particularly good, but combined with the peanut butter crunch, caramel water, and salted popcorn, it was a nice medley of a sweet and cold peanut treat.

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Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate.  If you love chocolate, you will love this.  There was a chocolate souffle, chocolate caramel pie, and some type of chocolate pudding.  The souffle had hot chocolate syringe-injected into it.

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All 3 were pretty good.  At this point of the meal, I was very full, but I couldn’t stop eating.  The souffle was very rich and warm.  The chocolate caramel (on the right) was very sweet and sticky.  And the chilled chocolate pudding (on the left) was cold and surprisingly light.  It did made me wish I had a glass of milk nearby.

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Apples.  This was green tea with almond milk and ginger soda.  The green nugget was a chilled green tea type of ice cream.  It sat on top of what appeared to be flash frozen almond milk covered apple cubes.  The cup sitting to the left was a hot ginger soda.  This was very light and served to be the last dish of the night and to help you feel better about eating.   The apple cubes were actually a little sour.  The green tea wasn’t particularly memorable.  The ginger soda was a nice addition in that it did clean up the palette for the night and make your body feel slightly less full.

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But wait… there’s one more.  There was this medley of bite sized snacks at the very end.  The top was chocolate covered caramel.  The tiny strawberries were bursts of berry flavor.  The little gel blocks were tasty.  The top tire-looking things are similar to churros.  The outside was very crunchy, but the inside was soft and airy similar to an undercooked churro.  To the left of that are small chocolate chip cookies.  And lastly, the bottom were some of the best strawberry macarons I’ve tasted in Los Angeles (which may not say much).

The carte blanche menu is overly expensive for what it is.  I felt the Michelin 3-star Eleven Madison tasting menu ($195) was miles better than this.  The pace of the meal was pretty staggered.  There were times when we were waiting for 15 minutes for a small dish to come.  Perhaps it’s because the dining room was full of patrons, but I still feel the pace could’ve been much better.

Overall, I would say I’m rather disappointed at this price point by the food I ate.  There were some rather uninspiring and lackluster dishes that simply don’t belong in a rather expensive meal.  I’m not a real foodie, but there are some expectations that need to be set when spending this much money.  It’s sad to say that one of the best courses of the meal was the tomato in the Caprese.  I can see myself visiting this restaurant again if I had the need to celebrate a very special occasion with a very hot friend, but the odds of that is next to nothing.  Looking back, the 10-course meal that most everyone gets might have been a better choice.

Visit: Melisse, 1104 Wilshire Blvd  Santa Monica, CA 90401
Pictures courtesy of Fox W @ Foodspotting.com

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  • Fox W

    Never again!