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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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  1. Craft has a three course $45 DineLA dinner starting this Monday July 15th

    1. 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."

      3 Replies
      1. re: djquinnc

        Austere?!

        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.

          1. re: foodiemahoodie

            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.

        1. 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.

          1. How would you compare/contrast the two restaurants to L'Orangerie?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gypsy Jan

              In terms of food - prefer both to L'Orangerie. But L'Orangerie had a wonderful, old word fine dining glam to it. Beautiful, tall ceilings and those flowers.

              Food was always very good.

              Just more over the head crazy-delicious at Melisse.

            2. Melisse is definitely more formal than Craft. Both are absolutely delicious.

              Melisse is like a library - hushed tones, everyone on their best behavior.

              Craft is like a gentleman's study - more workmanlike, but you can roll up your sleeves, and still appreciate the Scotch, cigars and dirty jokes.

              24 Replies
              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                despite its name, i don't find anything about craft workmanlike -- either the food or the room.
                definitely not the place for scotch, cigars and dirty jokes. the atmosphere and clientele seem a touch sophisticated for that kind of thang.
                that said, the last meal i had there was a notch below the previous ones.

                and i'd rather drive a maserati than a ferrari.

                1. re: linus

                  cheaper insurance and better mpg

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    i would rather have a drink with a maserati driver than a ferrari driver.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      "cheaper insurance and better mpg"

                      now I've seen 2 of the worst excuses to own a Maserati, still a poorman's Ferrari (which, of course, comes in 4-doors now, just as Maserati comes in 2-doors).

                      While a shit-ton of CSA (a)gents may hold court @ Craft, it also does bridal showers and ... ta da, wedding. I don't know how prol that is.

                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                          haha! right. of course, I was looking for local farm shares while replying.

                    2. re: linus

                      It is full of agents, attorneys and their clients. Not sure how that couldn't BE anymore workmanlike, in my mind. It's a fancy place where a LOT of business gets done. And it's also not so formal that its easy to relax in after your meal. Hey in the end, it's just my perception.

                      And I'm a Mercedes McLaren SLR girl, myself......

                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        Bah. Bullrings and a blown engine. All show and no substance. To top it off it's a 5 speed auto.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          A five speed auto?! That would make me happy beyond my wildest dreams...... For me, it's more about the class than the speed...

                          But if you insist on playing that way, I'll take a Lamborghini Veneno over your tired Ferrari any day......

                        2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                          agents attorneys and clients work for a living?

                          i guess we have different definitions of workmanlike.

                          1. re: linus

                            Apparently we do..... Not sure how some who work 10-12 hour days is considered NOT working for a living..... Are we subscribing to some good ol' class warfare here?

                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              nope, just trying to have a sense of humour about what is essentially a silly argument.
                              i don't think describing craft as workmanlike is accurate, in menu, execution, service or clientele. the experience goes beyond "efficient competence."
                              alert the media.

                              1. re: linus

                                It's a silly debate, but I wouldn't describe Craft as "workmanlike" either. The food and setting are too ambitious for that, and that agents "work" their doesn't really meet my definition of the term.
                                Continuing with the silly, I'd say that Melisse is a Bentley/Rolls Royce. It's high-class yet not flashy in the least. To me Craft is a small notch below in absolute quality, has a liitle more verve, but isn't flashy either. So I'd call it a Mercedes. Ferrari/Lambo would apply to something edgier like Saam to me.
                                I prefer Melisse to Craft, though I like both. Someone above said that one can make of Melisse as they wish. I get accused of being a bull-in-a-chinashop but am not shy about doing as I'd prefer. I often wear a jacket at Melisse but not always, especially in the Summer. This is L.A., not London or Paris. I communicate to the server that I am casual and they DO seem to tone down the formality just a tad. I often have the tasting menu and tell them that I want it paced a bit faster than is their norm. In the end, while places like Melisse or Providence are more formal, they don't reach the level of some places in other cities, NY and Chi included.

                                To me the food quality at Melisse is great. I would also say that the ingredients are on par with Craft, and the preps can actually be more interesting. Melisse especially reaches heights with the tasting menues. I love the flavors at Craft, but to me it is a bit more on the comfort-food design.

                                I also prefer the room at Melisse. It is more unique in that the traditional, luxurious, quiet, well-spaced setting is much more rare these days. IMO, there are few places with the "Melisse" experience, and many more with the "Craft" experiece. If I am going to pay that amount for a meal I care almost exclusively about my companion(s) and the food, not the scene. In the end though, one is going to pay 30+% more to dine at Melisse.
                                Btw Craft is doing the dineLA menues this month, and Melisse is offering a four-course "anniversary" menu at a slight discount during weekdays in July.

                                1. re: john gonzales

                                  In many ways -- and I don't mean this in a derogatory fashion to either restaurant -- Melisse is an "experience" whereas Craft is a meal (a fine one, at that).

                                  A ride in a RR Phantom is an experience, a ride in a Maser is a ride (a sweet one, at that).

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    hey man, i'm just going to say it:
                                    you're a maserati-ist
                                    you're an anti-maseratite

                                  2. re: john gonzales

                                    so is Craft's dineLA menu like Benz's lowly C-class?

                                    (rhetorical Q, it's not, but Benz's C-class is still... uhm... you know...)

                                    1. re: TonyC

                                      Soon, it won't be the lowest in the lineup.

                                      1. re: TonyC

                                        No, it's the MB A-Class.

                                        (And, by the way, saying "Benz" is so, um, Chinese.)

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          Did I mention I can walk to Sawtelle?

                                        2. re: TonyC

                                          Actually, Craft is one place where you can confidently get the DineLA menu and not feel that you've been shortchanged. They take it very seriously. In fact, during DineLA, there are only a couple of menu offerings that aren't included in the prix fixe deal.

                                          1. re: Jack Flash

                                            Agree, they aren't dipping to A-class level. They're one of the few places that I feel doing the DineLa is a good choice. That said, tgis month's offering doesn't look quite as good as sessions past, though I;m sure it will be tasty adn I plan on trying it.

                                            1. re: john gonzales

                                              I just wanted to compliment you on your long post above about the differences between Craft and Melisse, John. I thought your analysis was "write on" and so well crafted it really stood out way above the rest on this thread. Bravo.

                                            2. re: Jack Flash

                                              It was tongue in cheek. I'm a big fan of Craft, and don't mean to imply anything they serve is less than whatever is best-in-class.

                                              Tho, if I had to, the happy hour is clearly the A-Class.

                                        3. re: linus

                                          Then if its a silly argument, why continue to debate it? Perhaps my choice of words are not what you would choose, so feel free to use your own, but why badger the point? I get the feeling the OP understood what I meant, even if you didn't.