Birthday Dinner - Providence, Ortolan or Melisse
Last year we took my mom to Providence for her birthday and she really enjoyed it. This year, the decision is whether to go back to Providence, or try Ortolan or Melisse. We've never been to either, so I'm wondering what thoughts are of people who've been to all 3? Also, what were the standout dishes?
I took two friends to Melisse in honor of one of their birthdays a few weeks ago and it was outstanding. They have various tasting menus, including carte blanche, but we chose to do the regular four-course menu. For $105 (plus supplements), you get to choose an appetizer, fish or pasta, entree, and dessert. There also is an option for a cheese course. We liked so many of the appetizer offerings that we chose to have four appetizers -- one each and splitting the lobster bolognese. Because one of my friends was having the caviar egg appetizer, the chef did not want him also having the pasta, so they made that into an additional course.
From memory, our dishes were:
Foie Gras Duo
Sauteed Foie Gras
All of these were fantastic.
Lobster Bolognese (split three ways, but it was still a generous serving. This was not what I expected, because I did not anticipate a hearty tomato sauce with lobster. However, it really worked. The lobster is chopped fine, so you do not get pieces of lobster, but the lobster flavor permeates the dish.)
John Dory (This was the only dish that I did not love.
Crispy Bass (I think that was the fish. It was excellent.)
Tagliatelle with Truffles and Brown Butter (This was from their special truffle menu, but was available for a supplement on the regular prix fixe menu, so I had it. When they first brought out the truffles to shave, their box was empty, so they had to go get some more. As a result, they gave me extra. I don't think I've ever had a better truffle dish.)
My friends both had ducks, one with the regular garnishes, which included beets, and the other with different garnishes. The duck was cooked perfectly.
I had rabbit served three ways. The loin was stuffed with cous cous and was very flavorful. The two small legs were served as chops (more cute than anything else). But the amazing item was a rabbit "sausage" which appeared to be made of rabbit meat and liver (and other organs), wrapped in parchment and roasted.
We shared three desserts. One friend had sticky toffee pudding with figs. Another had a passion fruit panna cotta with tapioca cream poured over it (it was better than it sounded to me). I went for the "chocolate, chocolate, chocolate" dessert, which is a must for any chocolate lover -- (1) chocolate souffle injected with hot valhrona chocolate; (2) white chocolate bon bon (filled with dark chocolate); (3) mocha chocolate mousse; and (4) peanut-butter and chocolate crunch cake.
We brought a bottle of champagne and, since we bought a bottle of red, they waived corkage on the champagne.
I enjoyed Providence when I went for my birthday a few years ago, but I have had much better experiences at Melisse.
I was at Ortolan 3 weeks ago. Group of 8. Ordered the 13 course tasting menu. Lots of food, but unfortunately consensus around the entire table was that the dishes were good, but not great. There was nothing that blew anyone away. My total with 1 cocktail and 1 glass of wine, tax and tip $217. Beautiful experience, but disappointment in not having a WOW moment because of something on our plates.
Don't forget Cut. It's awesome!
I've been to all 3, all twice so far this year. Since you've already been to Providence, try something new!
Melisse is having their 10th anniversary this year, and I think they may have extended their "greatest hits" menu through August (it was supposed to end July 31, but I heard that the public response was so overwhelmingly positive that they decided to extend it). I suggest you call Melisse - If they can confirm this, then your search has ended - it is a WONDERFUL meal.
Ortolan is strong also- Chef Eme is always personable, and his food shows his love of his craft. So, a big thumbs up to Ortolan too!
Absolutely Love Ortolan, it is never very crowded, and Chef Eme is unbelievably nice! It has a very romantic atmosphere.
Haven't been to Melisse in a while, and I believe they've remodeled since, so I cannot comment on the atmosphere. But Chef Citrin is very well -versed and is easily at the top of his game now. I think I would go there, before he gets too wrapped up in his new venture, Cache.
Just went back to Providence last week...and had the tasting menu with the wine pairings. It was excellent...with top notch service and a great atmospehre. It's become my favorite L.A. restaurant. That said...I've always had a very good experience at Melisse.
And if you've already been to Providence, it might be fun to try something new. I haven't been since they've redecorated, but the food is always very good. I went to Ortolan when it first opened. They were overwhelmed, and we ordered the tasting menu. When we'd only gotten two courses in an hour and a half, we left. They were very apologetic, and we weren't angry. Just knew we'd never get through the evening, and it wasn't a good time to be there. But I've read good things about it since. The roast chicken at Melisse seems expensive for what it is...but it's a perfectly executed version. Providence, of course, excels at seafood. The scallops and salmon last week were wonderful.