Melisse (Santa Monica, CA) 
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 7/24/15
My last time dining at Melisse was a year and a half ago when it participated in the dineLA Restaurant Week promotion. While Melisse didn’t technically participate this time, they offered a special 5-course 16th anniversary ‘Dine Melisse’ menu that happened to coincide with dineLA. Priced at $85 per person, it was a very attractive price point to revisit.
The first bites of the evening were a take on Melisse’s signature amuse bouche. Usually served with grapes, this one featured two takes on bright tomato flavors. One was covered in goat cheese and pistachio, while another was a spherification – a pure burst of flavor. Perfect for the season and a great expression of the tomato.
The bread basket was in full force offering six different varieties.
Reed Avocado Panda Cotta Steelhead Trout Roe
The second amuse was this reed avocado panna cotta, rich and smooth with smoky bright steelhead trout roe.
Cucumber Chawanmushi Tomato Gazpacho and Tomato Gelee
A third amuse bouche (!), cucumber chawanmushi was also smooth, light with a bright sweet tomato gazpacho on top.
We chose a medium bodied white from Santa Barbara county for this meal.
Tomato Soup Summer Squash and Zucchini, Tomato Sorbet
Moving into the first proper course, the soup was creamy with a hearty tomato flavor. Tomato sorbet provided a welcome temperature contrast.
Poisson Cru Celtuce, Avocado, Fermented Melisse Tea
One of the second course options was this tai snapper topped with citrus and more of the smoky trout roe.
Hokkaido Scallop Cucumber, Carrot, Nasturtium and Radish
The alternate second course featured scallops which were beautifully seared and juicy with sweet squash.
Wild Oregon Albacore a la Nicoise Pole Beans, Potato, Basil, Black Olive Mousse
We got two orders of this third course; one of the albacore dishes was cooked a nice rare while the other was sort of medium-well. We much preferred the serving cooked rarer for its lighter, moister flesh. Olive flavors were apparent with diced vegetables in this take on a tuna nicoise.
Flat Iron Steak Braised Beef Cheek, Charred Leeks, Cauliflower and Meyer Lemon
Flat iron steak was very tender in this fourth course with plenty of beef flavor. A rich beef cheek preparation completed the duo with sweet leeks and fresh lemon flavors.
Devil’s Gulch Rabbit Serrano Ham, Collard Greens, Smoked Green Chickpeas, Potato Gnocchi
The alternative four the fourth course was this rabbit. It was tender and moist with gnocchi and a bitter collard greens contrast.
Peach and Verbena
A pre-dessert intermezzo featured plenty of peach flavor.
Ilanka Chocolate and Nutella Fondant
Dessert was coffee-forward with mint and coffee accents. Plenty of different textures kept things interesting.
A few final sweets completed the night highlighted by some great caneles.
This was another strong meal at Melisse. With the exception of the albacore, execution was consistently spot on and the menu really showed off a lot of the flavors of the season. The ‘Dine Melisse’ option was a very approachable way to get the Melisse experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again (nor one of the full-length tasting menus either).
Chef Josiah is amazing…having been to Melisse many times I can still remember his Uni Cream dish at the “Masters” of food and wine in Carmel around 2000…along with Oysters and Pearls (French Laundry) one of our favorite dishes ever….
That sounds amazing! Anything compared to Oysters & Pearls is high acclaim in my book!