Melisse vs. Craft
For those that have been to both, how would the two compare and contrast. I'd like to know things like: price point, size of dishes, ambiance, service, overall experience and/or value (to name a few - please add whatever comes to mind).
For background: I've been to Craft (which I loved - amazing service, excellent food) but not Melisse. I've always wanted to go to Melisse, but fear it may be too fussy for the dining companion I'd be going with. This dining companion has not been to Craft, so the option could be to go with the safer option of Craft (which would not necessarily be a bad thing!).
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I have been to Craft three or four times. I have been to Melisse once. Craft was less expensive and I still remember fondly many of the dishes I was served. Melisse was significantly more expensive, but aside from the lobster Bolognese, most of the meal is a nebulous blur in my consciousness. I think another deciding factor might be atmosphere. If I did not wear my jacket to Melisse that night, I would have felt underdressed. At Craft, I have gotten away with much more casual attire. When I think of Melisse, the first word that comes to my head is "austere." When I think of Craft, the first word that comes to my mouth is "delicious."
Lush, delicious, and decadent would be my take. And I've been there more times than I can count.
Craft - about a dozen times. And always strong.
Melisse is a fine-dining, haute cuisine experience. Have you ever had that experience? The staff can be elegant and formal, and like most restaurants on this sort if you want to give them cues to be more informal, they'll take them. That is, f you have a sense of humor and don't come off like a snob, they'll likely adjust to you. I have found this to be true at all restaurants of this sort around the world - in major cities. New York, Paris, London. But in the Provinces? Less so. Burgundy? More formal than Paris. (It's like they don't know they can loosen up or something). French Laundry? Elegant, formal, perhaps a little stiff. I can live with that (I go for the magnificent meal, not necessarily to make friends - but if that happens - great.)
I would say if you haven't had that kind of dining experience - fine dining with all the fuss, pomp and circumstance doting over you - and you think that would make you uncomfortable, then you might feel that way. Or not.
I had a group of friends I grew up with - and when "my ship came in" - I took them all out for a lavish meal. They were making jokes about everything, the size of the dishes, etc. They weren't ready for this. Many years later, they have changed dramatically. They're comfortable with it and enjoy putting on a suit or dress and engaging in the high life.
On second glance, perhaps “austere” was a rather strong, and probably inaccurate, adjective to spring forth from my extemporaneous word association. It goes without saying that personal reviews of food are inevitably subjective, and “lush, delicious, and decadent” wouldn’t necessarily be my descriptors for Melisse either. Within my own dining experiences, “lush, delicious, and decadent” would accurately describe my meals at Alinea, French Laundry, and Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. And certainly, my experiences with the Chef’s menu at Providence and my recent kaiseki meal at n/naka prove that that level of fine dining is alive and well in Los Angeles. My meal at Melisse was more akin to my meal at Per Se. Very attentive service, if somewhat detached; beautiful food that tasted good, but not good enough for me to recall with any ease; pristine setting, but lacking a certain coziness.
Back to my assessment of Craft, the main reason I have gone multiple times and will most likely go again is that the food is remarkably tasty. To reiterate, my experience at Melisse was indeed a good one. But at that price point, I am more likely to spend my cash elsewhere.
Mélisse is great, but as the others mention the experience is quite different and more formal than Craft. Although I enjoyed it, I would probably return to Craft before going back to Mélisse. Excellent food, service and surprisingly generous portions too.