Wednesday, April 16, 2008

2-Star Melisse

Went to the two Michelin starred restaurant Melisse last night, with great expectations (Michelin stars come with responsibilities!). We were 10 minutes late but were promptly seated and were accomodated even when we wanted to switch to a bigger table. They had a champagne cart, but we opted out of alcohol for the night. Since we didn't have much time, we didn't get any tasting menu.

They started us with grapes coated with goat cheese and pistachio crumbs.The amuse bouche was a tuna tartar, and in the shot glass was layers of passionfruit gelee, fennel flan, and topped with cashew foam.
I liked the concoction in the shot glass, but the tuna tartar was unmemorable, although good.

The Egg Caviar was good. Poached egg with cauliflower puree and caviar.
The quality of the poached egg and caviar was good, but I don't think it is worth the price they are charging for it .... It isn't even that much caviar ...

The sweet onion-parmesan soup, on the other hand, was excellent. They bring out the bowl with the jumbo lump crab cake, then pour the soup on the table.
The soup was smooth, and very flavorful. Not onion-y at all, and the crab cake was also excellent. Probably my favorite dish tonight (not counting dessert).

One of the entrees we got was the veal and spare ribs. The veal was good and tender, but the spare ribs we thought were on the tough and dry side .... definitely have had better.
I ordered the Crispy Rouget, served with mashed potatoes, and roasted potatoes on the side.
I liked the crispiness of the skin, and the sauce. However, after eating half of the plate I started feeling that the fish was a bit dry, and that there was just too much potatoes everywhere ... I liked the dish and thought it was good, but I wasn't really blown away.

We felt underwhelmed by our main courses ... and when our waitress asked we let her know so. Pretty soon after, the manager (I guess) came by our table and asked what was wrong. We let him know that the ribs were tough and dry. We also said though that to be fair we will come back and give them another try with the Carte Blanche tasting menu. He apologized and said that usually people are blown away, thanked us for letting him know and asked to give them another chance, then took our dessert order and said that the dessert will be on him.

After our meal, I didn't know what to expect for the dessert, but the Passionfruit Parfait we got was actually excellent! This contains frozen passionfruit souffle, topped with coconut sorbet and pistachio tuile, then drenched with lemongrass milk.
Amazing. Overall very refreshing and creative. We really liked this and I drank every last drop of the lemongrass milk (that the rest of it was also swiped clean goes without saying). I started to feel better about the restaurant after the first bite :)

Right now, I can't say I'm in love with the place, although I am in love with that dessert. I've been to Bouley in New York, and as far as 2-star restaurants go, Bouley was much better. And right now I also like Providence better. But, admitting that I didn't order anything from the Seasonal specials, and didn't get the tasting menu (which I always do at Providence), I don't want to discount this place yet. They're up for another test.

1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-0881

Melisse on Urbanspoon



Wow, I've just been navigating through your reviews when I should be at work. But you've gone to so many places on my try list. I like the way you conduct your reviews, similar to me, and always with many photos.

Your review of Melisse seemed fair and even-handed. You refused to be swayed too much by the two-star ratings and managed to stay objective. I'll have to check it out one of these day.


Your experience at Melisse sounds a lot like what I thought after dining there a la carte. I thought the carte blanche menu was more indicative of what the kitchen can do. And my girlfriend and I both love that passionfruit parfait.

Frequent Traveler
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Frequent Traveler

We are going there for dinner this weekend. Hope that our experience is good, given your reservations about it...

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