My SO took me to Melisse for my b-day last night. Oh wow.
We were led to our table, where there was a "Happy Birthday" card and a little box of chocolates for me. A nice touch.
Sadly, the restaurant was quite empty when we arrived at 8:30 PM. Though the prices are high, it was just as good as meals I've had in other cities for comparable prices, so I'm surprised how few people must be frequenting it.
We did the tasting menu with wine pairings. The sommelier is young, and extremely approachable. None of the snobbiness you often find w/ sommeliers in high-end restaurants. He came over just as we rec'd each course and poured us a 2 oz taste to accompany each dish. Unlike my last experience at Jiraffe (subject of previous post), the timing and pairings were both spot on.
We started w/ a tasty amuse bouche - halibut ceviche on a spoon w/ frothy chilled cucumber soup. A great start.
First course for me was butternut squash ravioli, paired w/ a French Viognier. The ravioli was delicate and extremely creamy. I was in heaven. My SO had the beet salad w/ a killer burrata cheese, paired w/ a Chenin Blanc.
Second, I had the lobster thermidor. I cannot say enough about how good that was. To die for! We both had the same wine - it was a French chardonnay. My SO had the monkfish - it was a very diff't prepar'n from those I've had before, and was quite tasty, though the lobster was even better, IMO.
For our entree, I had the lamb chop, accompanied by some type of eggplant (excellent) and a side dish of lamb shank and white beans. Truly the best lamb dish I have had in a long time (I had a terrific rack of lamb once at Lucques - this tops even that). The pairing, a Barbera, was outstanding. A very full red that was enhanced by our dishes. My SO had the duck, also very good w/ a side of interesting cous cous. I liked the lamb better, but the duck was still extremely good.
We then did one cheese course, and the port pairing worked out well - many ports are a little too much for me. We tried several cheeses, and I was into all but one. Even the poached pears in red wine served with them - we also were given crached walnuts - were wonderful.
Finally, we closed w/ desserts- this was the only disappointment. The sticky toffee pudding w/ vanilla ice cream (recommended by our server) was so delicious, I hated to share it. But my SO's chocolate bombe was a little too intense and not sweet enough -- neither of us liked it very much, but I loved the wine pairing so I ate some of it.
The only service gaffe was the failure to give us bread, until we finally asked after the 1st course. Given how wonderfully everything flowed (and how much food I was going to be eating), I was not too bothered by that. I was also impressed that the service did not slip given how few people were there after 10 PM. While this should be expected in such an expensive, formal restaurant, it often does not happen.
The portions were also well sized. I left full, but not uncomfortable.
All in all, it was a spectacular dining experience. I had not been to Melisse since over 2 yrs ago, and I was surprised that it was just as good as that 1st time. I believe there have been some negative posts, so this must not always occur. Still, Melisse clearly has the potential to be one of the best restaurants in L.A. From my 2 meals there, I'd clearly put it in the top 5.