I know that this is a restaurant that has been covered by many in the past, but I just felt that I had to share my experience with fellow hounds... apologies in advance for any redundancies.
My wife and I took our best friends out to Melisse last night for their anniversary, and had a great experience. Here are some of the details/highlights.
We all arrived on time for our reservation (715p), and were seated immediately in a very nice booth that had a sign reading "Happy Anniversary" on it, and a two nice boxes of a chocolate something for our friends... we thought that was a nice touch.
The place seemed very busy for a Wednesday night, but not chaotic. I would imagine that there were several who were celebrating Valentine's Day a night early.
Shortly after sitting down, we were brought our first Amuse, a small tomato tart, that was very nicely done. Great roasted tomato flavor and texture (almost velvety) that complemented the crisp, crunchiness of the tart crust.
After some discussion we all decided to do the 5 course tasting menu with some additions. I really lobbied hard to do the Chef's Carte Blanche menu (literally putting yourself in the hands of the chef), but the ladies in our party did not feel adventurous. We all ordered the 5 course tasting menu ($68 per person) with some additions (listed below), and three of us also ordered the wine pairing option (additional $55 per person), as our the wife of the other couple is 8 months pregnant, and didn't want to overindulge.
One note about the food review below, while I did taste most of the other dishes served, I was really focused on what I was eating/drinking and didn't want to take too many notes, so apologies for the "one-sidedness"
After ordering a second Amuse of Tuna Tartare and Cucumber soup w/Creme Fraiche was served, also very tasty. They served a wine pairing with this as well, a Paul Hobbs Rose - very nice.
Seared Foie Gras with an Apples and Raisins sauce - Excellent, a classic preparation that was executed flawlessly, and the raisins were great plump white raisins - lovely. Paired with Far Niente Dolce.
Mained Seared Scallops - tasted great, and my wife LOVED them. Can't recall the wine pairing.
Beet salad dish (can't recall details) - didn't taste, but she loved them.
Course 1A (we added this course as an addition to the tasting menu, since they had black truffles):
Scallops with shaved black truffles - DIVINE, OHMYGOD! They were fantastic, the melt in your mouth texture of the scallops blended incredibly with the taste of the truffles.
Black Truffle Risotto - Perfectly made risotto with a very generous portion of shaved black truffles... almost like that Seinfeld episode, it was so good. Again the texture and flavor complement was very well done. Chef Citrin obviously has incredible food sense.
Wine Pairing: A very good Nebbiolo, that for the life of me I can't remember the name of.
Monkfish Osso Buco: What a great food idea. The monkfish was served Osso Buco style, like a shank, cut across the fish and served with a pureed parsnip that was just right in its delicacy. I was enjoying this too much to taste the others' second courses (Lobster that looke pretty good) and also focused too much on the wine for our next course that I forgot to write down what the wine pairing was... sorry.
Venison - Again a great preparation done with a carmelized sweet onion compote. One of my favorite meats, and a great accompaniment to the wine.
Since this was a special occasion, we splurged a little bit and had a '64 Lafite with the entree course, and let me tell you, it was sublime. This wine is emminently drinkable at this point with VERY forward fruit that has hints of berries (strawberries?) in the front and has the perfect classic Bordeaux terrior finish. WOW... great wine and good, bad or indifferent, really focused on the wine for this course and the food was really an accompaniment for the wine. By the way, our pregnant pal, DID have a glass (small) of this one.
Cheese course - traditional cheese service, was very nice as we finished off our Lafite. Didn't write down the cheeses (sorry losing focus fast here), but do recall the "Branch Of Love" cheese as being very nice.
Chocolate Souffle's - What else? :) I know a little contrived and unadventurous, but they were very good, and although I wanted the Pineapple souffle, they had run out, but that's OK... no big deal.
In between our cheese and dessert course, the Chef and owner, Josiah Citrin came out to say hello, and spent some time with us talking about the restaurant, his kids (we have kids, our pal is pregnant... I guess parents everywhere just love talking about their kids), and all sorts of stuff. He was very nice, and VERY gracious. I should note that I do NOT have any "connections" in the restaurant business and this was my first time at Melisse, so I was both surprised and impressed that the Chef came out to say hello to us on a busy night... I noticed that he really didn't go to many other tables either, so I'm assuming he was being nice since we were there for a special occasion.
At the end of the evening (nearly 4 hours of eating) they presented our friends with a little chocolate dessert that said "Happy Anniversary" - a nice touch to end a great dining experience.
Final thoughts - the Service (capital S) was truly impeccable. We felt very well taken care of without intrusion, the support staff knew their stuff, and our server did a fantastic job. Lastly, I did shamelessly plug Chowhound.com to both our server and to the Chef, so maybe they will check out the site soon...
Sorry for the long post, but really wanted to share.
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