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Melisse Last Night: Another Misfire

jcwla | Jan 23, 200506:00 PM

Hadn't been in years since a horrible meal when they opened, but thought it was time to give them another try.

First, the decor: I said "It's Las Vegas." My friend said, "No, actually, it's worse." There's no coherent thought behind any of the awful art or the sensory-overload mishmash of bad lighting, mix-and-match dinnerware, over-the-top design elements such as a floral waterfall, and kitsch paraphernalia such as a candlelit snowglobe. The only unifying theme here is...well, as Blondie sang in "Rip Her to Shreds," "Red eye shadow, green mascara -- blech! She's too much."

Out came our waiter, a mild-mannered little Englishman with male pattern baldness who was so hard to hear that...well, did you ever see the "Seinfeld" episode with the low talker? We were worried we might have agreed to wear his clothing line on the Today show.

He brought out one tiny little amuse, then a larger one, one that I'd remembered in my nightmares since my first trip to Melisse: that god-awful cucumber soup concoction, this time with cucumber gelee at the bottom, hamachi (!) in between, and instructions to stir them together really well. My friend didn't even give this consideration and handed it back to the busboy immediately. If only I'd been that smart. Ugh -- just thinking about it makes me sick. It lingers on the palate.

We decided to make a meal of appetizers, cheese and dessert. So we decided to split the Maine diver scallops and the beet and burrata salad. First came the scallops. Tried one bite: raw! Barf-o-rama. Sent it back with instructions not to think about sending back scallops, give us the mushroom ravioli instead.

Meanwhile out came the beet and burrata salad. Plated beautifully. Beets were yummy and the burrata delicious with some sprouts on top. A really nice combination. Then as I continued chewing, a hard piece of something in my throat. What could it be? Big chunks of salt, several of them, in the burrata. Good Lord.

They brought out the mushroom ravioli and it, like everything else -- or so it seemed -- was covered in a froth. Actually, the ravioli were yummy enough.

We went straight on to the cheeses. Our server did a nice job of steering us toward a few good ones, and one great bleu cheese that he told us ahead of time would be the best. With these were unyummy candied kumquats and pears, cracked walnuts with the shells and everything else on the plate together, and some boring bread. We used the brioche from earlier and enjoyed the cheeses.

None of the desserts sounded good, so we decide to pack up and head over to Babalu, where we contented ourselves with a few bites each of their chocolate banana cream pie -- boy has it been a long time since I had that.

Melisse has two good things you can say about it: a pursestool at the table for the ladies, and you can order any item from any of the tasting or a la carte menus. That's a nice option that more restaurants should offer. But in terms of a dining experience, we would never go back.

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