Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Apr 24, 2008 03:06 PM

Shhh...Melisse Chef in the South Bay!

Just a heads up to people who actually care about food in the South Bay, chef that used to work at Melisse and Masa has turned up in the South Bay to work this summer before possibly moving on to greener pastures (can you blame him?).

On a recent trip home I was lucky enough to drop by a "new" restaurant that looked dismal but I had to give it the benefit of the doubt. Once inside I immediately saw a bar and flat screens and was about to walk out when in the corner I spied a young man in chef's attire grueling over a menu.

Instead I planted myself down and wound up talking to the fellow. Turns out the menu was the current one and he was deciding how he could possibly add more inventive items and keep the current prices low and "friendly", something that I hate but understand given the majority of the South Bay clientele. After a bit he told me where he used to work, and I swear to all that is holy I almost swooned!

Although the dishes he plans on adding to the menu throughout the following months are far from what he was used to cranking out, they were interesting. I am hoping by informing people on my discovery, I may inspire some to support some good eating in the area! Although as previously stated he probably won't be around forever, lets help a young kid out and get some good eating in while we have the chance!

The name of the restaurant is Paradiso Ristorante & Lounge. Here is a link to their website:

Like I said I don't think he's taken over the kitchen yet, but keep your eyes peeled!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Interesting news.

    Paradiso Ristorante and Lounge is the fourth time a restaurant has opened in the space in the last 2 years. All versions have been bad. I hope the new chef is able to change the menu, but I have my doubts. There was an AWESOME gelato place in the village that made truly artisinal ice cream. Well, after a few months, they decided to make the ice cream much sweeter to fit the clientele. La brea bakery has come and gone. Former Valentino and Matsuhisa chefs opened up very good restaurants, just to have the chefs abandon ship after only a few months. etc.

    I'll check it out though.

    Anyhow, there is an ex-chef an ex-manager from Melisse about 8 blocks from Paradiso Ristorante and Lounge. Its called Catalina Restaurant

    Here is the url for that restaurant

    and here is link to my yelp review.

    Check out my review.

    Catalina restaurant is quite decent and needs way more support than its getting.

    6 Replies
    1. re: jlrobe

      I told my boyfriend and he and a friend went last night and said it was awesome! Thank you so much for the heads up, I look forward to checking it out as soon as I return to the South Bay!

      1. re: jlrobe

        I took a look at Catalina Restaurant's webpage and not only is the chef formerly of Melisse, his is formerly of Avenue, which was located right in Manhattan Beach. Funny, because that was one of my South Bay favorites that came and went, in the manner you describe. Well, I guess Catalina gives the chef another shot to win over Southbay clientele. I will definitely pay it a visit soon.

        1. re: jlrobe

          If you love bacon, Paradiso restaurant have this excellent & unforgettable pasta dish. I forgot what the name of the dish, but that rich aroma & flavor of bacon is still lingering. (Their pastas are homemade too) Their fresh home battered calamari with the three different dipping sauce, especially the curry one is awesome! I can't wait to go back!

          Gelato? Are you talking about crema dolci? the one next to the coffee cartel? I'm a huge fan of that place. I've been going there for months. It's always very interesting talking to the owner if you can catch her during the day going back & forth making gelatos.

          The owner told me that their gelatos don't always taste the same. In fact, she would come up with a different recipe for that same flavor every week. Just to see if she can make it taste better & healthier. All her recipes are from scratch with all the restrictions that she gives herself make it extremely difficult to make. The flavor has to be multi-dimensional, ingredients has to be all natural, un-refined, low fat, calories, high calcium & high fiber.... (who can ever image a small scoop of delicious & creamy gelato gives you 25% of total daily fiber! I love it!)

          On top of all that, she said that the smallest changes in one ingredient, would change the whole flavor, texture & sweetness... That's why she always encourage customers to sample them first before deciding. (PS: gotta sample them like wine. Start from delicate flavors to the strongest, it does make a big difference in taste) Like her vanillas. It's been over 90 attempts & she still thought it's not perfect. I thought it's great.

          It's always fun & exciting to see what she came up with. It's not just the crazy flavors, but all the attempts. The flavors are not always perfect for everyone, but If you go there long enough like I have, you sometime can almost taste her heart.

          1. re: nikkignail


            "Gelato? Are you talking about crema dolci? the one next to the coffee cartel? I'm a huge fan of that place. I've been going there for months. It's always very interesting talking to the owner if you can catch her during the day going back & forth making gelatos."

            Yeah, I am talking about that place. My wife and I used to chat it up with the owner, and get all into the artisinal gelato. Then, she changed the formula. About 6 months, and 10 visits later, we decided that the heavy sweet overtones were there to stay. I do know she spent a lot of time and energy starting up her business, but we just don't find the gelatos as good as they once were.

            Were like glacier gelato in manhattan beach, and Delicieuse in north redondo. This isn't a gelato thread, but I just wanted to explain my comment.

            At any rate. I have been back to Catalina restaurant and still really like it, although brix is now stealing its thunder.

            1. re: jlrobe

              Hi Jlrobe,

              I just check out the site to delicieuse, it looks great! Can't wait to try it out :) Thanks. I've been visiting crema dolci for 4 months now. Come to think of it their gelato seems to be heavier before. The recent flavors are more refreshing. I've heard that the owner was away for a while for a surgery. Any how, gotta try the bacon pasta dish at catalina rest.?

              1. re: nikkignail

                A head's up on Delicieuse...their hours have been cut back. I have a feeling that they have not been drawing in enough people. Call first to confirm the hours. I'm haven't been is so long because they are never open when I want ice cream...usually after dinner! And it is really the only ice cream that I will eat and forget about the calories!

        2. What does "South Bay clientele" mean? Poor? Cheap? Bad taste in food? I don't get it.

          14 Replies
          1. re: mstinawu

            I would never say poor, cheap, or bad taste in food, which is why this problem (unable to open or sustain wonderful restaurants) is such an issue for me. For the most part people in the beach cities are middle to upper-class, who like good food. For some reason (I think) deep down they believe to have a "real" food experience, they need to leave the general region because as previously stated, many restaurants around there a BAD.

            That is just my theory. I hope someday that it is proven wrong.

            Thank you so much for the 411 on the Catalina Restaurant, I drove by there as well and was equally interested.

            I should also fix my initial post and clarify that he worked at Melisse and Meza. I must apologize, but being in San Francisco has messed with my restaurant memory.

            1. re: rachel12

              rachel, I am glad you found the catalina restaurant rec a good one. I really think it is a place I could eat often. The food isnt stellar, but very solid for a neighborhood resto.

              I think brix in hermosa beach might be another one to really watch. Also, Darren's in manhattan beach really round out the top newcomers in the south bay at the moment.

              Those are the three restaurants to watch in the south bay this summer.

              1. re: jlrobe

                I know the chef is from Avenue, which closed primarily for financial reasons. Couldn't draw clientele. Food was ok, not great. Maybe poorly managed as well. The only e-mail I ever received from Avenue in two years was the one informing me of their closure - no events, seasonal menus, nothing! Darren's in the same location is doing incredibly well. Can't get in on the weekend after six months.

                As for Catalina, I was unimpressed with the food. Appetizers all served at wrong temperatures, flavors not fresh. Waiters not knowledgeable. The space remodel is great, but I won't go back. So he cooked at Melisse, maybe. He wasn't the chef.

                Coccole in the same location struggled with service problems and a pace that Americans are not accustomed to - slow, relaxed, an evening spent with family and friends.

                South Bay? I live there. I would be more than happy to support local restaurants. Meanwhile, we drive a Prius.....

                1. re: SB foodie

                  hmm SB foodie, I had a different take on Catalina.

                  Too me, everything was perfect and I have been three times. I can absoltely say for certain that our appetizers came out at perfect temps each time. The scallops were cooked better than most places in LA/SF (sad but true). The mains we had were very good both times, although not stellar.

                  Also, Coccole did suffer from service problems, but I have been to catalina a couple times now, and service was NOTHING like Coccole.

                  Anyhow, I also thought the flavors were quite fresh. The preparation wasnt as solid as say Lucques in LA, but the ingredients were far better than say Restaurant Christine in Torrance.

                  Anyhow, I am suprised we had two very different experiences. As I mentioned in my yelp review, this place isnt as good as places I have eaten in manhattan, LA, or SF, but it wasnt bad by any means.

                  Anyhow, thanks for the review. This is the first time I have seen someone other than myself review the place on any website.

                  1. re: jlrobe

                    We had dinner at Catalina last night. I pray they do not close like their predecessor. Our meal was very good to excellent. In South Bay terms it was fantastic! Far better than anything we have had between Playa and Torrance. The service was attantive, the kitchen responsive and quick. The place was empty-just three other tables on a Saturday night at 8PM. Hence my fear of closure. The remodel is great too...opens the room up and the color palette is soothing, high ceilings and a minimalist approach to decor lends to spaciousness and comfort that Coccole lacked.

                    The food:

                    Crab salad with tangerine and small leaves of a fairly bitter green-not arugula-I can't remember what it was. The salad was small BUT delicious with a nice acid zing. It was 12 dollars.

                    Seared scallops with english pea risotto and bacon. No bacon for me-the dish was delicious-the scallops were cooked far better than I have had in a while. Crisp on the outside and meltingly tender through out. Only two scallops and a tablespoon or so of risotta brightened with pureed peas and a sprinkling of pignola nuts. Not sure about the pinenuts-maybe too many... I asked for some lemon and it perked the dish up. This was an appetizer portion ordered as an entree for 14 dollars. Next time, I think I will ask for a double portion with less nuts.

                    Roasted halibut with haricots vert and smashed yukon golds taters. I do not eat fish but heard that it was spectacular. The potatoes were hearty and delicious-like very very good old fashioned parsley potatoes. $24

                    We had Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc by the glass served at just the right chill.. I thought it was delicious. Reminds me of Duch horn but not as expensive. I think it is from New Zealand.

                    The waiter told us that the desserts are great so we broke the rule and ordered beignets stuffed with creme anglaise and served with strawberry sauce. OMG! $7 We also has vanilla gelato and an expresso.

                    The owner dropped by to inquire how everything was and the only thing I could say was "please do not close" I think he was a bit offended...

                    All this came to 89 bucks before tip. We thought it was worth every penny.

                    1. re: Densible

                      Thanks for the terrific review Densible. you should consider posting on yelp or citysearch to help generate a little buzz for this place

                      Anyhow, I made a comment to a waitress there "please do not close". Places like catalina dont always do well in RB.

                  2. re: SB foodie

                    Which chef from Avenue? Not the head chef? My understanding was that a major reason for Avenue closing was that the chef wanted to spend more time with his young family, and not at a restaurant every night and weekend.

              2. re: mstinawu

                One word: UNADVENTUROUS
                a.k.a. Safe, Friendly, Not Chowish.
                The guy who knows that well writes many of the food columns in the D.B. and has the restaurant infomercial, er, show on 97.1 FM.

                I worked with the demographic for 25+ years in aerospace, trust me :-\.

                1. re: DiveFan

                  I am not safe and unchowish nor unadventurous and I consider myself to be very friendly. Trust me, not everyone who lives here works in aerospace. The reason why we leave the south bay to eat is that we get bored with the same good restaurants. Trust me. There is just so many times we can go to the same restaurant. When we go out we want the most for our money and oftentimes that is a new and novel experience. The problem with most good south bay restaurants is that they do not have the population to draw from as the rest of LA rarely ventures south at night as we venture north! Trust me. And I am sorry to say that there is not one person I know that would trust the DB to recommend a restaurant. Nor the BR. Trust me.

                  1. re: DiveFan

                    Actually, I find the clientele and hence the food in southbay pretty unadventurous, too. Of course, that's not to say that there aren't a couple of more adventurous restaurants and a good number of adventurous eaters (I'm sure everyone posting on this thread is among them!). But I agree with the assessment that there is emphasis on safe, predictive choices, and that restaurants that "think outside the box" tend not to succeed. Although I also agree that amela that novelty is an issue driving us northward as well. You're probably both right, to some extent. Oh, and when I talk about safe, predictable southbay I basically mean manhattan/hermosa/redondo beach...there are a lot of interesting ethnic choices further inland (e.g., gardena). And yes, there are good restaurants in the beach cities as well...just not as many as you would think.

                    1. re: DiveFan

                      amela, I think you've proved my point indirectly.
                      I used 'aerospace' as a synonym for 'conservative', sorry if that generalization did not sit well.
                      There is plenty of disposable income in the South Bay to support more interesting restaurants, but I think more of it must go into house payments and other essentials. It's a tough call these days to choose a long drive in traffic burning $3.75/gal gas for a food experience.
                      On the restaurant owner side, it is difficult to get financing for something unique and risky in a higher cost area - large franchises are the easier path unfortunately.
                      We must count our blessings close to home (Japanese, Hawaiian, Vietnamese, Korean for starters).

                      1. re: DiveFan

                        And I must apologize for overreacting. I correctly read "aerospace" as conservative and that did hit a nerve. And I am frustrated that I am so bored with the beach city choices that I *have* to burn up expensive gas to get a novel meal. My last great meal was the Torrance Musha and even that is a drive from the beach city area. Even Bora Bora, once a small delight, fails to interest me these days. But I do think that there are many people like me in this area and we are all starving for local chow food.

                    2. re: mstinawu

                      "What does "South Bay clientele" mean? Poor? Cheap? Bad taste in food? I don't get it."

                      The beach cities of LA is like the south bay of SF Bay Area or orange county. It's wealthy, family oriented, but not particularly into crazy/funky food, culture, art, etc.

                      I like it here a lot, and I think there is plenty of reasonable eats, but I travel to LA basin area every week.

                      1. re: jlrobe

                        Most suburbs are like that. Irvine is a prime example.

                        True, I never visit a beach city for food--I live in Torrance and normally venture away from the coast (Torrance, Gardena, Lomita, etc.) for good eats.

                    3. are you talking about brendan? english accent, quite good looking??

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: tastycakes

                        Doubt it. IIRC he is going to be the head chef at Anisette (sp?) Alain's soon to be new place on 2'nd

                        1. re: AAQjr

                          AAQjr, what is your post in response to

                          "Doubt it. IIRC he is going to be the head chef at Anisette (sp?) Alain's soon to be new place on 2'nd"

                          I know about Alain Guirad's much delayed and much anticipated eatery, but I dont know what that has to do with this thread. Isnt Alain going to be executive chef at minority owner? Has the chef de cuisine been announced?


                          Try Catalina Restaurant folks. it is a decent place to eat.
                          Is brix in hermosa beach open?

                          1. re: jlrobe

                            Brix has been open for just a week. Went to neighborhood reception last weekend. The bar is nice. Only had passed trays of appetizers. The crab cakes were awful. Hoping to read a review on this board soon.

                            1. re: jlrobe

                              I thought it was obvious: I was responding to tastycakes?

                              "are you talking about brendan? english accent, quite good looking??"

                              I don't mean to take this off topic, just responding to the question.


                          2. re: tastycakes

                            I recently learned (from some a very sneeky person) that it is not Brendan but his old employees. God knows along with good restaurants, the South Bay could also use some good looking Brit's :)

                            1. re: rachel12

                              Yes - it is Brendan Collins, formerly of Melisse and Mesa (Costa Mesa). He was the Chef de Cuisine of Anisette for the opening, but left shortly after. I can't wait to try his new spot. His food is amazing!