I am incredibly lucky to have talented and amazing friends who not only put up with my silly, sleep-deprived self after a red-eye flight across the country and are game for stupidly expensive meals just because, but greet me with persimmon pie amazingness for my birthday. This is why I should make it to LA more often than once in a decade. I only lived there for a year, plus visits, but there are reasons to go back — if only for friends and its close proximity to some of the most beautiful coast one can hope to encounter in this country.
But I’m getting nostalgic. We can’t have that, right? Especially not at this hour. (As if the timing really matters.) I will say LA is worth visiting, if only for the food, strange characters, and odd attractions. P and I whiled away the time after I arrived making coffee and crepes (with nutella and strawberries!) and then headed off to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, because George said so. His description is pretty much spot on, so I’ll leave it at that, but add my recommendation to the list, because the room on superstition alone is worth the trip (and the $5 suggested donation). After that, we were hungry, which was convenient, because Melisse was next on the agenda. We skipped father’s office (and their amazing burgers which you absolutely must have on your next trip to LA) to get ready for our 7:15 pm reservation.
We walked into the restaurant, only to run into the chef in his toque (seriously). A brief chat and the uncomfortable realization that we were actually in a place with stools designed specifically to hold purses (seriously?) was all we had time for before deciding on a wine (1/2 bottle of St. Lucia Pinot, which was delicious), and the tasting menu, which was the plan all along. The best way to do a tasting menu is to go with a friend with an adventurous palate who is willing to share. We each chose different dishes, and had half of each, so we could do two tasting menus in one. Our starters were some sort of toast with jamon iberico (which we ordered because we had just found out it was $83/lb at a local Italian market) and something pesto-like, and the warm foie gras on toast with apricot sorbet and berry sauce? Something like that, anyway … I don’t have a copy of the menu they gave us.
The jamon iberico wasn’t bad, though I wouldn’t pay a ton for it, because I guess I’m not enough of a pig snob to discern the difference between that and some decent prociutto. The foie gras, though, was amazing. It was perfectly cooked, and went beautifully with the sweet accompaniments. If you’ve never had it, imagine biting into something that has that rich, meaty taste, but with a warm and airy texture. The outside was slightly crisp, which perfectly complimented the moist, light interior. (Hah — foie gras is not light, even if it tastes like it is). Anyway, it was good — in fact, it was probably my favorite dish of the meal, aside from dessert, which I’ll get to later.
For the fish course, we ordered a Loup de mer dish on special with either sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes, an amazing broth, and something underneath which I can’t quite remember, as well as the abalone dish with leeks and arbequina olive oil jus. The most memorable part of either meal was the crispy skin on the loup de mer, which was perfect (and attainable at home, if you peel off the skin of the fish and fry both sides in a bit of oil), and the broth that came with it (though I was frustrated by the impossibly shallow bowl, which made the spoon they gave us completely useless). The abalone was ok … I mean, it was good flavorwise, but definitely chewier than I imagined. The green paste that accompanied it, which tasted of avocadoes and creamy goodness, was my favorite part.
For the main meal, P ordered the rabbit (Slow Cooked Rabbit, Boudin Blanc, Harrisa Spiced Carrots, Zucchini Flower Pesto) from the main menu, and I ordered partridge from the game menu they were just introducing, which came with seasonal vegetables and a deconstructed stuffing (bread cubes, toasted, and other stuff, but my memory fails beyond the bread). Both dishes were decent, though neither was really my favorite of the meal. The partridge was overly salty — mostly due to the gravy they poured over the dish at the start — but the chanterelles underneath the meat redeemed the dish, because they were perfectly cooked, and exactly as chanterelles should be. The rabbit was amazingly intricate, and nicely flavored, but I don’t think any of it really stood out in my mind as something worth talking about, though I remember enjoying the harissa.
Dessert was next, and you all know I have a sweet tooth. P ordered sticky toffee pudding (Sticky Toffee Pudding, Mocha Malt Ice Cream, Red Berry-Hibiscus Consomme), in hopes that it would be something like the best sticky toffee pudding she ever had, and I ordered a wild berry gratin (Wild Red Berries “Gratin,” Mousse De Lait, Melisse Infused Red Berry Sorbet), because it looked good. It WAS good — it was warm and creamy and sweet / tart all at the same time, and it’s something I’m going to have to recreate. The toffee pudding? Well, it was ok. Not the best. And the date they included as a flavor counterpoint wasn’t a good choice, in my opinion — it was cloyingly sweet, and mirrored the pudding in the wrong way. But then again, I was probably eating it wrong. Or something.
The meal ended with little biscuits, some white nectarines, sugar, and creme fraiche from the pastry chef. It was cute, but the fruit was a little under-ripe. I sort of wondered why the server was specifically stating they weren’t responsible for the fruit when he intro’d the dish, and definitely found out why. But I’m getting nitpicky, really, when overall, the meal was good. Not having eaten at any Michelin-starred places before, I can’t really tell you if Melisse earned its two stars, but I had good company, and got to try some stuff I really would never try otherwise, so all in all, it was worth it.
Now that I’ve written a small novel, I think I’ll save our road trip for next time.