Melisse Santa Monica Reviews
Best restaurant in LA? Nov 11, 2009
I went here for a 3 year anniversary dinner with Lisa. We had heard many great things about Melisse, and it's supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles (2 Michelin stars). But, after our experience at Providence, we were worried that it might not live up to expectations, and that we might end up disappointed again. So it was with a cautious optimism that we entered the restaurant.
Happily, things got off to a great start. In my reservations (made via OpenTable), I noted that it was an anniversary dinner. When we arrived at the Melisse, the hostess greeted us with a "happy anniversary", and sat us down at a nice, semi-private booth on the side of the main room. Our table had two gold-foil, ribbon wrapped boxes filled with chocolate truffles, and there was a nice card on our table that said "Congratulations". Both were very nice touches, and completely unexpected.
We both ordered the "tasting" menu, which is their speciality. You get to choose from a selection of dishes within four different courses, and they are fairly flexible with the mixing and matching of dishes between courses. For instance, I ordered something off the "second course" selections for my appetizer. In order of appearance, the four courses I ordered were:
1. Maine & Hokkaido scallops. Two seared Maine scallops, which were both delicious. The Hokkaido scallop is chopped into small pieces and has a unique, subtle taste that lingers in your mouth.
2. Loup de mar. This was the fresh fish of the day. It was perfectly cooked, and had a "crispy" skin that was very tasty. My favorite part of this dish was definitely the sauce/broth that they poured on, which was light but incredibly flavorful. In fact, this sauce might have been my favorite part of the meal.
3. Scottish pheasant. They had a "game" menu that looked a little bit more interesting than any of the entrees on offer. I decided to try this out, and wasn't disappointed. The dark meat was very tasty, and it was seasoned with a salt and pepper that gave it a very rustic, unique taste.
4. Coconut sorbet and passionfruit parfait. This was OK, and probably my least favorite part of the meal. The parfait was a bit flavorless and had an odd texture, but the sorbet was quite good.
At $105 per person, it's definitely not cheap, but it is perhaps the best restaurant I have ever eaten at in Los Angeles (only other one I could compare it to would be Spago, but Melisse is definitely more intimate and romantic).
Service was very good. Our waiter, Jay, was both friendly and attentive. I think a hallmark of great service is when you don't ever notice anything is amiss. He was always appeared when we needed something, and was helpful in his recommendations. It was clear that he was passionate about food and we enjoyed talking to him about the differences in the food scene between LA and the Bay Area.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Melisse, especially for special occasions. The setting is intimate and romantic yet contemporary, the service is impeccable, and the food is original and amazing. It is definitely a restaurant that lives up to the hype, which, for LA, is remarkably rare.
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