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Melisse- LA's first Michelin 3 star Restaurant

I predict in the next couple of years based on the meal we had this week that Melisse that it will get it's 3rd Star in the near future. Every course was perfect and service was precision. Joshia visited several times during the 4+ hr meal and double checked to make sure all courses were enjoyed. He is very serious about his food and is going to make the upgrades to get Michelin's attention.

Carte Blanche MENU:

1. Oyster Shooter- Horseradish Granite, Tabasco Pearls, Japanese Tomato Consomme'
2. Fennel Flan- Orange Gelee, Cashew
3. Artichoke Veloute- Confit Tomato, Parmesan Croquette, Fresh Black Shaved Truffle
4. Egg Caviar- Lemon Cream Fraiche, Osetra Caviar
5. Japanese Kampachi- Eringi Mushrooms, Red Miso, Winter Citrus Segments
6. Trio of Melisse Foie Gras- Date Confiture, Heirloom Carrots, Blood Orange , Apple Marmalade
7. Duo of Maine Lobster- Bolognaise & Thermador
8. Crispy Eastern Bass- Coco Beans, Crab Aioli, Crab Broth
9. Roasted Guinea Hen & Confit Leg- Root Vegetables , Potato Mousseline, Natural Jus,
10. Olive Crusted Lamb Loin- Braised Lamb Shank, Glazed Carrots, Spiced CousCous
11. Fromage- Best Cheese selection in LA , ea person selects 4 types.
12. Vanilla Yogurt- Strawberry Sorbet
13. Frozen Passion Fruit Parfait- Pistachio, Coconut, Lemongrass Broth
14. Chocolate, Chocolate, Coffee- Choc Souffle, Choc Peanut Butter Crunch, Coffee & Mascarpone.

Overall an amazing deal for $175- ea, food only. The Finest French Food in LA.

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  1. The menu sounds enticing. How are their breads? I know with such an array of delicacies, it's best not to stuff yourself with breads. But I love breads, and I find the breads at some 3-star restaurants in Paris impossible to resist. Guy Savoy wheels out a bread cart just like they do with cheese. Amazing selection!

    3 Replies
    1. re: fdb

      The Bread Tray is serious and if you don't control your intake you'll never make it to the end of the above menu. I try to dine 6 hrs a day to stay in shape for these situations.
      We love Guy Savoy (Paris) also and their Cheese Platter is comparable to Melisse's.

      1. re: russkar

        LOL! I like that workout regimen.

        Menu sounds very nice, that's a lot o' food.

      2. re: fdb

        We were at Melisse two weeks ago, had a tasting menu. Everything was excellent, but the only thing memorable about the breads were that they were mediocre. I love bread, but I couldn't care less because I was hardly going to waste my appetite on bread given what we correctly believed awaited us.

      3. yayee!! melisse is my fav restaurant in la and i'm hoping they receive their 3rd star soon too!!

        1. Cool, I've been yearning to go back there myself this week!

          1. I've got to get in there. I'm falling way behind on my culinary trips to Los Angeles. I still need to catch up and get into Fraiche asap. At least we were able to knock out Comme Ca (amazing) and Kumo (excellent).

            1. I think Guy Savoy's is leagues better than Melisse's cheese tray. Picholine in NYC is the best I've had in the states.

              I've had this identical tasting menu, basically. Was sort of impressed by parts of it but left underwhelmed. I wanted to love it because it is close and I returned for another meal soon thereafter but I can't rave. There isn't enough variety in the menu, the desserts are very mediocre, the meat dishes are imbalanced (some great, others nothing special), the seafood also not anything one wouldn't get elsewhere. The EGG CAVIAR is beautiful.

              9 Replies
              1. re: epop

                Any difference between Melisse's & L'Orangerie's (R.I.P.) EGG CAVIAR?

                1. re: JBC

                  Yes. I remember eating at Melisse and L'Orangerie back to back. Melisse's was better. 1. The custard was creamy all through at Melisse, a little chunkier at L'Orangerie. 2. A little more depth to taste (it's been a while so I don't remember specifics). 3. L'Orangerie served this dish with a silver spoon. Melisse did it right, with a spoon made from mother of pearl. L'Orangerie wasn't bad, just not as good. And both were better than Ortolan's version (IMHO) - vanilla and caviar? Odd mix of tastes.

                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                    Funny - the "Caviar" Panna Cotta at Ortolan was one of my most favorite things on the testing menu. I loved those flavors together. Funny you did not think it worked.

                    I haven't been to Melisse in YEARS! and I remember it was great then! I'm always wanting try something"new" but after this review...OH baby! I'm going back!! I honestly can't even figure out why I haven't been back already except that maybe it was so long ago that I ate there it was probably before I could afford to "go back"(HAHA!).

                    1. re: truefoodie

                      truefoodie - we may be talking about two different things - I was talking about the egg with the custard (vanilla) which they call the Egg and Caviar Cooked in Hot Ash, Whipped Cream and Vanilla.
                      The Panna Cotta with the "strawberry caviar" - served in an actual caviar tin - was one of the more successful (and whimsical) offerings of the evening. I've always wondered what to do with those tins.

                    2. re: foodiemahoodie

                      The Best Caviar Egg we've ever had was made by Joshia (Melisse) at the Masters of F & W in Carmel with UNI FLAN in the Egg Shell covered in Caviar. I don't think he's done it since. Scary good!

                      1. re: russkar

                        That sounds really good!! I really enjoyed the version Providence had (still has?) on their tasting menu. It was the first time I had seen uni incorporated in the dish and the saltiness and texture was sublime.

                    3. re: JBC

                      Melisse's egg dish is a poached egg. The one at L'Orangerie was a very lightly scrambled egg.

                      1. re: lizziee

                        Lightly scrambled? That would explain the slightly less elegant but very similar presentation. I know Melisse calls it a "poached egg" but is that technically correct? Is that poached (as in water) or an egg yolk cooked carefully in a marie bain?

                        What did L'Orangerie call it? Scrambled egg? Scrambled egg yolk?

                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                          L'Orangerie called it "Eggs Caviar" which, according to their recipe, is continously wisked in a saute pan:

                          http://www.theworldwidegourmet.com/?a...

                          When I asked the question a few posts above, what I was also interested in was which one people liked better - which some have already opined upon.

                  2. I agree with Russkar. One thing to note about Melisse - they just get better and better. They seem very conscious of perfection.

                    FWIW, I went to Melisse about a year ago with a respected chef. And he thought it was very good, even the best of its kind in LA. But that was it. He went back a few months ago and realized it was really better than just the best of its kind - it was really very good. Which is high praise for him.

                    I've been to some 3 Star restaurants (in France) that were, well, not disappointing, but you get the impression they received their 3 stars and the word got out "DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING!". As a result, they're very good, but dated. A good example is Paul Bocuse - feels like you've gone back in time for a meal. (which has its own charm, but just doesn't compare to restaurants that are keeping up with the times).

                    1. Russkar. If you had to choose 1 tasting menu, would you choose Providence or Melisse?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Porthos

                        I completely depends on your desires?
                        For Classic French, Melisse is unbeatable, Carte Blanche Menu.
                        For Cutting Edge Seafood, Providence, Chef's Table , Chef's Menu.
                        We do both because it's impossible to pick, just depends on the mood.
                        Peking Duck at Gee next week along with G. Baldi for a little Italian.
                        FL beginning of April, it's all about moods.

                      2. I mostly agree that Melisse is a wonderful experience, but I would not quite put it on the 3-star level until the service is polished a bit. My guess is that it is VERY difficult to get truly professional staff in Los Angeles.

                        I went with my family to celebrate my parents' wedding anniversary. It was incredibly awkward to pre-pay for a bottle of Champagne that should have appeared as we were seated. The glasses appeared, but it took a while for the Champagne itself to arrive (sort of spoiled the surprise).

                        They did not immediately seat my parents at the seats that had the "happy anniversary" cards, even though we made it very clear when making the reservation that the couple who was celebrating their anniversary was "older" (they are in their 70's the rest of us are in our 40's).

                        While the breads were delicious, the person who described them did so in a soft voice at one end of the table only. Therefore, those of us at the other end didn't know what the breads were.

                        We didn't try the cheese plate - we've lived in France, and frankly are spoiled by the selection there. Maybe next time :-)

                        1. I don't know russkar... We went to Melisse in a group of 4 about a month ago and ordered the regular tasting menu for the table at $105- pp. Noone there was particularly impressed. We found the lobster bolognese to be short on lobster and the truffle crusted sole filet to be rather bland (which is hard doing with truffles). Nothing stood out much and I'm having trouble recalling a single dish. Maybe the carte blanche menu is a different experience. To be fair most of the items we sampled differed from yours except for the chocolate dish. Our server was shall we say, rather snippy, got into a bit of a fight in front of us with the sommelier, and almost seemed annoyed when we tried to ask her questions about menu items. One of our guests asked if they could accomodate her celiac disease with modifications to the menu or dessert at the chef's discretion and she looked at us like we were from another planet. And we certainly didn't see Josiah making the rounds. Not that it should matter in the least but since it often comes up, I should add: this was the service we got despite having an Oscar-winning producer at our table.

                          All-in-all, my first thought was why didn't they take one of those stars and give it a rightful owner (Providence). My second thought was to wish we had just gone to Joe's or Josie within the vicinity instead and saved a buck or two.

                          I guess looking at the reviews here from time to time, I get the sense that Melisse can be a little hit and miss.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rogermexico

                            i think it is fairly consistent, actually, as i've been many times. it is consistently good but not great. and often not enough variety to warrant the visits.

                          2. I think Urasawa is the most deserving of 3 stars food-wise. Service and decor, they may never get it.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Adsvino

                              Two years ago the service was very unprofessional. I called the mgr the next day to complain, and give constructive comments. What I found was a young man (Steven?) who could have cared less. I'm not all bark, I do give compliments too, so that they take me seriously. I've NEVER had a mgr react like this guy did. He could have cared less. He should have at least given me lip service.
                              Things like running out of rolls at 8:30 on a Sat night, no refills on our coffee and a waiter with an attitude. Food was very good, but service was a 2. I've not returned.

                              1. re: compucook

                                I think the owner would care a lot. Try again. I've had luck with just about all owners, aside from Thomas Keller, funny enough.

                              2. re: Adsvino

                                Adsvino -- Ain't that the truth about Urasawa!
                                About 100x more than Melisse.

                              3. I guess I'll have to try it again. My last meal there was truly horrible and the service was even worse. We had one of those waiters who took it upon himself to become our best friend, and joined the conversation every time he came to the table.

                                1. Been to 3-4 three star Michellin's, and the one thing they have in common is you know you are at one once you start eating, and it becomes crystal clear how they earned their stars. I did not walk away from Melisse feeling this way.

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: ElJeffe

                                    We've eaten at more than a Doz Michelin 3 star Restaurants and felt Melisse was in that group based on the dinner we had a week ago.
                                    It seems that several of the Nay Sayers haven't dined there recently or didn't order the Carte Blanche Menu.
                                    We just dined at Robuchon (Mansion) 6 wks ago and ordered the most elaborate menu available , cost was more than double Melisse and Melisse was far better. FL (16 course) next month.

                                    1. re: russkar

                                      I have eaten at 40 Michelin 3 stars out of 56. I had the Carte Blanche Menu. Melisse, in my opinion, is not a Michelin 3 star restaurant.

                                      1. re: lizziee

                                        I agree with you, Lizziee. I haven't had a 3 star meal in LA (I've had great Asian meals, however). You? Anything come near to satisfying, especially for multiple visits? I see you like Providence a lot.

                                        1. re: epop

                                          Yes, I really like Providence and always just let Mike cook. I also like Urasawa - much better than Masa in New York. I had an excellent meal at Comme Ca and will definitely return. By the way, I was unimpressed with Robuchon. Actually, the one stand-out dish at Melisse was the lobster bolognese.

                                          1. re: lizziee

                                            comme ca has mixed reviews but i suppose i should try it. i'm getting
                                            more than a little tired of all the disappointing places.

                                            i tried the bolognese of someone at my table and liked it but wasn't stunned by it. i think Citrin is talented but a little stuck in his routine or something.
                                            i wish there were more places like his though (a real chef working in his own kitchen), only better.

                                            1. re: epop

                                              That's why I love Providence and Urasawa!

                                              1. re: epop

                                                epop, what places have you enjoyed recently (other than the disappointments)?

                                                1. re: ElJeffe

                                                  In LA I enjoy the asian restaurants far more than the neo-french californian etc. My preference is always for restaurants with a chef that has his hand in everything (not a huge crew of low-paid laborers), including growing much of their own stuff. In europe one finds this. Anyhow for that reason I like Sushi Zo and Urasawa (not that they catch their fish), because of the personal touch, the vision. Just about all the places we talk about are restaurants with food I can make at home with perhaps more success. I haven't been to Providence yet, however. Mozza, Campinile, Melisse, Lucques/AOC etc. don't impress me very much with their skill, even though that's generally the type of food I love most, Meditteranean/French.
                                                  I wish I had somewhere to praise, a place I could go weekly or so and be surprised but it isn't the case. But the sushi is phenomenal, to balance the other lack.

                                              2. re: lizziee

                                                I've (easily) had 3 Star meals at Melisse. Never had a bad meal or bad service. I rarely have bad service but then me and the wife make a point of being extra charming to waiters and sommeliers. You will end up with better service, especially on return. And it's always good to have them in your court.

                                                I've only been to Providence twice - once for lunch, the second for dinner. Despite knowing the maitre'd for, oh, 20 years - we spent 45 minutes waiting at the bar (so much for friends in high place. Of the two tasting menus - we had the smaller one (that 45 minute wait didn't give us enough time for the longer menu). Loved it, looking forward to going back.

                                                But Comme Ca? I ate there about a month ago and I went with two chefs (and wives) . It was, well....one had the sweetbreads - which he said had too much bacon. I tried it. Man! I'd say three to four times the amount of bacon (you had to strain to taste the sweetbreads). It was a bacon fiesta! I love bacon, but it simply dominated the dish. And the coq au vin? Again too much bacon. The flatbread? With the cheese and...bacon? Well, that was great. (the bacon amount was, well, spot on) The skate? Terrific. I would go back for the skate. But to compare it to Melisse? Lizziee - I'm gonna have to check out your other posts. We might just be graced with drasticlaly different palates. I was hoping for something like a L'ami Louis in LA. But that wasn't it. Perhaps Alain Giraud's new restaurant?

                                                I WAS definitely impressed with Joel Robuchon @ Mansion. The wine list was oppressively priced, but a challenge to find something good at reasonable prices.

                                                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                  Most here aren't saying anything here about having had a bad meal at Melisse, just not one that is of the caliber of 3 star.

                                                  As for being especially charming there is an accusation in there. We were perfectly friendly and the waiter on the second to last trip was simply overbearing, his recommendations (on the cheese) not spot on and, more than anything, the execution of the dishes was only above average. It is not a Daniel (NYC) or French Laundry, for example.

                                                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                    Thanks to Chowhound, I followed other people’s favorites and didn’t order any main courses at Comme Ca. As a result our meal was very good bistro food – oysters, tarte flambee, brandade, sepia provencal, steak tartare and roasted beef marrow. We had an excellent table (in the corner with minimum noise level) and a great server. I actually wasn’t expecting this meal to be that good, but I would return again just to try the glazed sweetbreads, the escargot, the mussels and the duck confit.

                                                    Secondly, I think the restaurant scene in Los Angeles is a shadow of what it once was. This use to be an incredible fine dining city, particularly during the 80's. We had Jean Bertranou and then Michel Blanchet at L'Ermitage, Mauro Vincenti at Rex Il Ristorante, Ken Frank at La Toque, Michel Richard at Citrus, Susumu Fukui at La Petite Chaya, John Sedlar at St Estephe and then Bikini, Michael Roberts at Trumps, Lydia Shire at Gardens, Roy Yamaguchi at 385 North, Elka Gilmore at Camelions, Robert Gadsby at Gadsby’s and even Thomas Keller at Checkers Hotel. There were also the great restaurateurs Ken Hansen at Scandia and Michael McCarty. Look at McCarty’s opening chefs ------ Jonathan Waxman, Mark Peel, Ken Frank and Nancy Silverton. Only Wolfgang Puck, from those early years, remains THE forceful influence. Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino has had mixed reviews and he, too, has succumbed to the economic necessity of opening a more casual restaurant, V-vin bar Moreover during this time chefs were actually in the kitchen i.e. Spichal actually cooked at Patina.

                                                    Los Angeles is still a great city for ethnic food, but the hey day of haute cuisine is dwindling and so Los Angeles has no 3 star restaurants and few 2 stars.

                                                    1. re: lizziee

                                                      well put. as a young person that missed out on all that I deeply regret the demise but hope that others will see a place for a memorable restaurant. i'm afraid though that the whole world is seeing this shift away from great dining and conversation.

                                                      1. re: lizziee

                                                        I actually think LA is going through a dining renaissance right now. You have Providence, the Mozzas, Urasawa, and Bastide as "recent" players and Valentino, Patina, and Spago are still around. The sushi scene has definitely improved and expanded in variety and quality with maybe only 1 or 2 restaurants in the country that can rival Mori or Zo. Peel and Silverton are still around and really, is Keller cooking anywhere these days?

                                                        And to say that LA has no 3 stars is moot because really, does any city in the US have true 3 stars by European Michelin standards? I mean Pierre Gagnaire, Arpege, or Guy Savoy standards. No. Well, ironically, except maybe Urasawa and Masa but the red book is inherently unable to judge those two restaurants. Which illustrates the critical flaw in the Michelin Guide and brings me to my point: why does it matter if LA doesn't have any 3 star restaurants according to the red book? If LA is lacking in haute cuisine, it makes up for it in spades in having such a wide representation of other cuisines. A lack of 3 star french restaurants doesn't mean LA is any less of a dining city.

                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                          there were others that claimed Melisse was a 3 star place. My point was only that it isn't. I prefer, I think like you, not to think with this category. the flaws of michelin are too great, imho.

                                                          i don't care for the mozzas or the celebrity chef thing in general (though i still adore Babbo). None of the places you mention other than the Asian (i haven't been to providence) are restaurants i would visit on a regular basis, both to learn and to expand my understanding of food. when i go to daniel in nyc the execution is astounding at times. i eat sometimes familiar dishes (chowder, say) but am amazed by how they do it. but i don't find that at places like spago or valentino.

                                                          the artistry just isn't there, for me at least. LA has wonderful places to eat, yes. but it lacks great neighborhood restaurants that constantly deliver seasonal foods executed in a way one can't at home. i'm a decent cook so when i go to some of these places i wonder why i went out in the first place, why they didn't do more.
                                                          Maybe I'll go to Urasawa this week, btw.

                                                          1. re: epop

                                                            Interesting article from the NYT addressing the rise of real cuisine in LA published about a year ago.

                                                            http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/...

                                                            Seasonal foods executed in a way that one can't at home is SF's domain, epiphanies with haute cuisine is NYC's strength, and unrivaled ethnic cuisine is LA's specialty. That's why, my motto is to eat to the city's strength.

                                                            1. re: Porthos

                                                              I agree but live in LA, happily, wish it had a bit of the haute and sf homey...fewer celebrity chefs would help. I think the biggest problem is that I look at restaurants as places for quiet meals and most people seem to want entertainment of some sort. The palate isn't respected enough from the get go. Regards, epop

                                                        2. re: lizziee

                                                          A great article in the NYT on how Tokyo-ites value the Michelin Guide:

                                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/493075

                                                          1. re: lizziee

                                                            "I think the restaurant scene in Los Angeles is a shadow of what it once was."

                                                            That was a great period. Don't forget Ma Maison, 7th Street Bistro and the first Rockenwagners.

                                                            I do have some great memories, but I'm not sure any of those restaurants would've received three stars. Which of these culinary bygones do you think would've warranted 2 stars? Or 3 stars?

                                                            I do remember having great food in LA in the late '80's but nothing like the fine dining experience I had in '88 at the LouisXV in Monte Carlo. It was a mere two star bucking for a third (which I believe it received the following year). I'd never had a meal remotely that serious in Los Angeles. And I thought the height of fine dining in LA at the time was L'Orangerie and L'Ermitage. But nothing like Louis XV.

                                                            "Piero Selvaggio's Valentino has had mixed reviews and he, too, has succumbed to the economic necessity of opening a more casual restaurant..."

                                                            I'm not sure I understand what you mean - I think the food at Valentino's is more more ambitious today than it was 20 years ago. Unless you're talking about Primi or Il Posto, which were more casual variants.

                                                            Los Angeles is still a great city for ethnic food, but the hey day of haute cuisine is dwindling...

                                                            I think it evolved. Nouvelle became, well, a little "too too" and people responded to more casual fare (stock market crash had something to do with that too). But don't you think it is evolving from high end comfort food and becoming more interesting and extravagant? I never used to see elaborate tasting menus, and now I see them fairly regularly.

                                              3. $175 seems to be reasonable for the menu as described. I selfishly wish they won't get the third star because in which case the price will probably double. ;-)

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: fdb

                                                  Actually the price was $135- for the CBmenu till a few months ago.
                                                  The CB menu has been upgraded and $175- is not bad considering everything involved.
                                                  The Air Dried Guinea Hen was really amazing.

                                                  1. re: russkar

                                                    We celebrated our first anniversary there almost eight years ago. The meal was so memorable we've been afraid to go back, feeling like nothing could compare to the magic of the night.

                                                    1. re: Muhlyssa

                                                      Don't worry. It was very good eight years ago. It's even better now.