I generally prefer to have our annual holiday party on the West Side, as our office is in Culver City. But I am a big fan of Chez Melange in Redondo and have had fabulous tasting menus there in the past, so I thought it would be great to have our holiday party in their private "Side Room." We are all a bunch of foodies, so our parties always have great food and wine. This is not a beer and pizza crowd.
First impressions are the room itself. Soft lighting, soft woods, a tastefully decorated tree in the corner. It elicited an elegant and yet festive feel. There was plenty of room for the 12 of us to have standing appetizers/cocktail hour on one side of the room, and then move to the long table for the sit down dinner. The room itself is closed in by glass doors, (so it doesn't feel claustrophobic or like a hotel conference room in the least) so you can see the rest of the restaurant but we are protected from sound pollution. Or perhaps it is the restaurant that is protected from us. Either way, the feel is intimate but yet the room is spacious.
The food was all amazing, but I will get to that in a second. Of almost greater importance was their willingness, heck their embracing, of all the accommodations I required for my group Of my 12, one is Orthodox Kosher, and two are "fin-fish-eterians." (only fin fish and veggies, no other meats.) And yet I still wanted a tasting menu for everyone - and they did it. Also, a few of us are serious wine connoisseurs, and they were able to source some fabulous wine not on their list JUST for us. I also wanted appetizers from Bouzy, their gastropub, but wanted the dinner to be Chez Melange. So that meant multiple chefs had to work on our party.
They did all of this without complaint. Actually, they took it one step further, and went to a lot of trouble to make sure the "exception" diners had whatever supplement they requested throughout the evening.
And at one point, some of us got to talking about their new homemade hot chocolate on the menu. I asked if we could all have a tiny portion before dessert and they brought us all little expresso cups with the hot chocolate and a marshmallow in each one. OMG one of the highlights of the night, and completely unplanned. But I am jumping ahead...
For our cocktail hour, we had mini chez burger sliders, truffle fries served in little cups, mac and cheese with bacon in little cups, crab salad mini-sandwiches, and Giant cajun shrimp on skewers. All accompanied by a beautiful sparkler and a variety of styles of beer on tap.
So after everyone was completely stuffed, we sat down to a 6 course tasting menu. Some of the "tasting" courses were larger than what I have gotten as mains. I am not listing the actual wines here as they were special ordered for us, but if anyone really wants to know I can name them.
First item was a perfectly cooked foie gras paired with a Muscat with just the right amount of sweetness.
This was followed up by gnocchi with sage (Riesling Pinot Blanc Gewurtz Blend, very special) then Butterfish with a beautifully caramelized skin (exceptional Rhone Viognier), then the most incredible NZ lamb chops (3!) prepared in a Moroccan style over couscous, (Gorgeous lively Burgundy) and finally Steak Diane with spinach grown by local special ed students as part of a "seed to plate" program. (Vintage Bordeaux) It is worth noting that lamb chops were perfectly medium rare - how they did this for a whole group was amazing. During all this, our fish-a-tarians were offered beautiful vegetarian/cheese substitutes for the meat items, and they made many an ooh and ahh over them.
Then there was the show-stopper hot chocolate, and then...yes more...huge dessert platters with homemade desserts: pumpkin cheesecake, panna cotta, flourless chocolate, and others I can't even remember. Dessert was accompanied by a choice of a port or a 12 year old scotch.
The food rocked our world. The pairings were so incredibly thought out. Daniel, the wine manager, simply nailed it. But above all of this was the service. It was like being in a 2 star Michelin in France minus all the stuffiness. They were attentive to our every need. My water glass was never less than half-full (literally, I am not making a philosophical statement). Paul was our maître d’, butler, and beyond. He was always there and came over if I did so much as briefly look in his direction. But never intrusive. Daniel introduced every course and wine pairing, but had an excellent instinct on waiting for just the right pause in our conversation to jump in. And Michael, one of the owners, kept popping just to make sure everything was perfect.
As far as cost, we got incredible value for the buck. Prior parties that I have run on the west side have run far more and we got far less in food and wine quality. And quantity. And service and atmosphere.
The entire experience was just perfect. At work today we already started discussing what we want to eat and drink next year for our holiday party. (Less Food was mentioned a few times. ;) But the most important requirement above all is that we do it at Chez Melange. I am going to email them now to hold the date for next year.
1611 South Catalina Avenue, Redondo Beach, CA 90277