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Jun 5, 2008 12:42 PM

Review: Melisse Last Night

My husband surprised me for my birthday with dinner at Melisse. With all the new Culver City restaurants, this may seem like an odd choice, but it was fantastic.

We started with champagne and then shared a bottle of Wolf Family Cab. Both were delightful. We have learned from previous visits that while the tasting menu is the way to go, the wine pairings create a hangover situation the next morning.

We both had the market salad with burrata. I know that vegetables from the farmer's market is seemingly simple and yes, we can all run by Bay Cities and buy burrata, but how often are you going to cook each vegetable to exactly the right temperature so that there is a proper amount of tenderness without being mushy? The salad was excellent and the dressing was the perfect meld of creamy and acidic.

Next was wild king salmon, perfectly buttery. We then had a trio of beef for the entree. Short ribs, a steak and something else (the wine and champagne were still flowing). The beef were all amazing, although the portions were almost a bit too small.

Dessert was sticky toffee pudding, which was also good. Overall, a spectacular meal, the service was impeccable. My only complaint is that the bread was cold. I seem to recall it used to be warm and even if my memory is wrong, it really needed to be warm. They had a basil roll that would have been good if it had been hot. Cold, it was really hard to appreciate the flavor.

They definitely have earned their two stars.

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  1. Glad to hear Melisse has kept up its quality. I haven't been lately, but have had some wonderful meals there. Thanks for the review....and happy birthday!

    1. Isn't it interesting how vastly different two separate experiences can be?

      My wife and I went for an anniversary dinner two weekends ago, and walked out completely perplexed at how Melisse could even receive a mention in Michelin, much less TWO Rosettes!

      We did the tasting menu (not the Carte Blanche).

      Our firsts were both soups. My wife's was the Sweet Pea soup, and mine was the Onion-Parmesan with crab cake and meyer lemon. Both soups were actually pretty tasty, so I'm happy to give Citrin and his brigade their do on these.

      For seconds, mine was an Asparagus & Morel risotto, and it was WOEFULLY undercooked ... to the point where I actually cut several of the grains with my knife to see how much of the "heart" was left. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of it left .. leaving the risotto crunchy. As someone who loves risotto more than most any dish, this was truly appalling. My wife had the Herb & Burrata Ravioli, which was laughably mediocre. In fact, it was so utterly forgettable I had to call her just now to figure out what she had, and it took the both of us several minutes plus a trip to the Melisse website to figure out what it was.

      Our Mains were the following: the Trio of Beef for her, and the Veal loin/rib/cannelloni for me. Her meats were ALL overcooked, the "moutarde" was perhaps a notch better than squirting French's Yellow mustard in my mouth, but at least the Chard was tasty. My veal was better, but just marginally so. The cannelloni was poorly executed -- sloppy and more than a bit too al dente. I forgot entirely there was a polenta on the plate until she reminded me -- that's when I realized that the bland, applesauce consistency "mash" under the veal was, in fact, said polenta.

      We skipped the cheese course as we'd made a visit to Artisan Cheese Gallery earlier in the day (a place I LOVE, by the by), and nothing leaped out at us when we heard it described to other diners nearby. Plus, at that point, we were approaching midnight and were itching to get out of there.

      For dessert, my wife had the sticky toffe pudding, and I had the Trio-but-really-Quad of Chocolate. Neither of these were awful, much less unapproachable, but certainly they were (in keeping with the theme of the evening) very marginal, at best.

      On a more general note, service was lackluster (timings weren't perfectly coordinated), clumsy (Captain & server standing by the table discussing whether it was time to bring on a course), as well as generally poor (an empty, pre-dinner cocktail glass remained on the table well into our main course; servers could only give a cursory explanation of the dish when asked -- no in depth knowledge or insight could be imparted).

      Even Chef Citrin, when he came around, was about as warm as the Pacific in January.

      I don't know ... maybe we just found them on an off night. Anyway, just wanted to give you someone else's thoughts and opinions, which as always are worth the paper on which they are printed ;-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: a213b

        Sometimes I think the secret is the server. We got lucky as the guy who waited on us was spot on the entire time and seemed to be directing the other servers. He was well versed in the menu and was able to offer recommendations on both food and wine. Bummer you guys didn't have as great a time as we did. Although, I didn't have Artisan Cheese Gallery waiting for me at home!

      2. Your husband made a good choice -- Culver City has some neat stuff going on, but nothing that approaches Melisse in quality (not yet, at least, and given their style-centric approach to a lot of the places, probably not ever).

        1. Couldn't agree more! We've been 3 times this year and every Carte Blanche Tasting Menu has been fantastic!
          It would be fun to watch Chef Joshia on Iron Chef, maybe one of these days?