Melisse in LA is one of the few restaurants in the city that really bring a European fine dining experience to the city. Apart from serving impeccable food, the service brigade here is far more knowledgeable and passionate than that of many other restaurants.
That, in many ways is a real rarity in California. In countless restaurants you will find a service brigade that does a fine job, but clearly doesn’t know much about what they do or has a passion for the job. At Melisse however, this is very different. Here you can feel that the people really care about their restaurant and put in a lot of effort into making their patrons experience as perfect and joyful as possible. That is one of the restauarant’s greatest strengths.
Another notable point is the atmosphere that reigns in the beautifully designed room. It is one of the more pretty dining rooms in town, even if the building is fairly unassuming from the outside. Once you step in, you leave LA behind you and emerge into a more civilised, cultured world of sorts. There is no rushing around here, and whilst it doesn’t feel stiff, the atmosphere here is most distinguished.
But, now onto the food. The chef here Josiah Citrin has been in the business for longer than most other top chefs in the US. The fact that he’s been around for quite a while means that he’s not prone to running after every new trend and tries to copy things here and there. On the contrary, he has developed his style, and cooks food that is fairly classical in its approach, but offers a few little twists that make it interesting. As Michel Bras is one of his idols, one isn’t surprised that the food here is fairly light, full of flavour and based on a very careful treatment of products.
One of the emblematic dishes of Melisse is a lobster bolognaise. Cooked more or less like a classic ragu, in which the meat has been replaced by lobster meat, this dish is indeed quite exceptional. The pasta is perfectly cooked, and soaks up the rich, intensely flavoured sauce to create a balanced and yet concentrated mouth feel. Anyone who comes here, should try this at least once, for it is comfort food done at an exceptionally high level.
No less delicious is his interpretation of one of the region’s most prized products: The Santa Barbara spot prawns. Citrin serves them in a broth of grapes. This creates a really unexepected combination of flavours. On the one hand you have the meaty, and sweet prawn, which finds its counterpoints in the broth that has both sweet and savoury notes. With such food one really doesn’t have to think twice before admitting that it just tastes delicious. That is one of Citrin’s strengths, as his food is easy to understand and like, which makes it all the more fun.
With Melisse, LA has a restaurant that presents a much more rounded experience than most other fine dining establishments in the city. Apart from the delicious food here, you have the great service, beautiful room and even an admirable wine list, which make Melisse a pretty remarkable restaurant.