Capo Valentines

Restaurant: Capo [1, 2, 3]

Location: 1810 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, Ca. 310-394-5550

Date: February 14, 2011

Cuisine: Italian with Cal influences

Rating: Well done, particularly for a special night.


Valentines is tricky restaurant-wise, and rarely shows off a place at it’s best. The economics of the situation tend to force them toward set menus (at high prices) and to rush the service so they can get 2-3 seatings in. We decided to try Capo, which I have reviewed on a normal night HERE.

Normally, Capo boasts of being a “slow food” restaurant. Tonight they hustled a bit, although the food was very good. We had a 7:15 reservation and they had us out of there (7 courses later!) at 9! Actually, we didn’t really mind, but that certainly wouldn’t be the case here on a normal night.

The have good bread. I particularly like the flatbread.

And this probably chickpea based dip.

For Valentines there were two menu choices, the regular on the right, and the truffle on the left. Both had two choices per course (more or less). Click to embiggen.

The amuse, a cone of tomatoes. Essentially like a tomato bruschetta — in a crispy cone.

To start we got two glasses of white. A muscat on the left and a Sancerre on the right. Other than having a rather hefty per glass price tag they were very nice wines.

“Baby red beet, ricotta ravioli.” The first of many Beurre blanc type pasta sauces. They have very nice fresh pasta here, and well the butter sauce is hard to go wrong with.

“Russian Beluga caviar, linguini.” Again with the butter. A very simple dish of pasta, butter, and caviar. It worked. The sauce was bread dipping good. This might not be the BEST venue to show off the caviar, although it certainly wasn’t overwhelmed, lending a briny note to the whole thing.

I love Amarone, as it is very grapy, and that’s one of the things I like in a red.

Parker gives this 92. “The 2004 Amarone is beautiful and understated in its wild cherries, sweet herbs and flowers, all of which come together with unusual finesse and clarity. Silky, ripe tannins frame the exquisite finish. The 2004 is already approachable and should continue to drink nicely for another decade or so. This is a very representative vintage for Allegrini. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.”

“Bluefin tuna tartar, caviali.” This is a very nice sushi grade tuna, essentially chopped like you might find in a tuna handroll. The bread is very toasted.

“Gnocchi lobster, truffles.” Again with the Beurre blanc! The gnocchi were perfectly pillow-like, the lobster tender, and the truffles do go spectacularly with the butter — really one of the best ways to show them off. Everyone but my arteries thought this was a fantastic dish. Again, I lapped up the butter with yet another piece of bread.

“Heirloom tomato vegetable, burrata.” No faulting this combination. Capo always has a lot of burrata, and you know I love it (HERE FOR MORE ON THE BEST FRESH CHEESE!).

“Jamon Iberico de Bellota.” Spain’s best ham (see leg below). My biggest beef with this dish is that the bread is too toasted. It has a nice charred flavor, but that overwhelms the subtle salty-nutty taste of this very fine pig product.

Oink! How did my leg get from Iberia to American?

“”BBQ Wild King Salmon.” My wife, a salmon aficionado, loved this salmon. It had nice accompanying veggies too.

“Cote de Boeuf, truffle potato puree.” This was my least favorite dish of the evening, but this is just because I’m not really a steak guy. It was very rare, more than medium closer to rare. That was good. But I’m just not that into simple meat. I like things jazzy. If one were a steak lover, I’m sure this would be awesome. As it was for me it was good, but not mind blowing or anything. The mashers were really good though, and went particularly nicely with the black truffles.

“Fruit Crostata, zabaglione.” They described this as a pear tart. It tasted like apple pie. I wonder if they mixed it up and gave us “Hot apple tart, truffle honey ice cream” except that’s whipped cream (zabaglione?) and not ice cream. In any case, it was good apple pie, although it tended to fall apart.

“Chocolate creme brulee.” Yum! This was very good, rich, creamy, nicely chocolatty!

Some various petite fours. Mostly simple nut cookies and a couple fruit cream filled chocolates.

And they even included a rose!

Overall, this was one of the better Valentines dinners we’ve done. Really, just like with the flowers one can expect to pay more for less on this special night. But Capo did as well as could be expected. The choices were good, and every dish was very well executed.

Bistro LQ – 27 Courses of Trufflumpagus

Restaurant: Bistro LQ [1, 2]

Location: 8009 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90048. (323) 951-1088

Date: January 20, 2011

Cuisine: Modern French

Rating: Legendary. Trufflumpagus is still squatting inside my skull.


Back in December my Foodie Club friends and I had heard about this crazy “19 course truffle dinner” Bistro LQ was going to offer. It’s done only on Thursdays, and only with advance notice (2+ weeks). So I called up at the end of the year and made a reservation for eight. Filling the spots was rather easy. I’d eaten here before (CLICK HERE FOR THE PREVIOUS REVIEW), but this was going to be different.

It’s worth mentioning too that the service was first rate tonight. On my previous visit it had been a little rough around the edges, but they have it all sharpened up. They were also super welcoming and there was NO CORKAGE for the truffle dinner. I LOVE no corkage.

It ended up being 27 courses, almost 6 hours, and 8 bottles of wine (with 6.5 drinkers!).

Prepared for battle, we sally forth with no less than a dozen wines — for eight people!

With this many wines we begin with a white (really it should be 2 or 3). I literally ran across Chateauneuf du Pape to pick up two extra bottles of this fantastic blanc. Parker gives it a 95. “The 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape blanc is even better. Meriting the same rating as I gave it last year, it is a delicious, beautifully textured, light gold-colored white revealing plenty of white peach, apricot, nectarine, and honeysuckle notes as well as a distinctive florality and minerality. More honeyed and fuller-bodied than its 2008 counterpart, it should drink beautifully for 7-8 years, then go into an oxidative state. It is somewhat of a gamble as to what will happen thereafter. Beaucastel’s limited production luxury cuvee first produced in 1986 is their 100% Roussanne Vieilles Vignes offering. Fifty percent is barrel-fermented in one-year-old barrels, but no new oak is utilized.”

Amuses to begin. Oxtail with caramelized onions and… you guessed it… truffle.

“Amuse of Kushii oyster poached in truffle butter.” This tasted like… well a good oyster with shaved truffle on it.

“Cucumber ice cream with truffles and apple balsamic vinegar gel.” Now here we get interesting. This was surprisingly yummy.  Who would have thought, cucumber ice cream and truffles. But the sweetness and cool notes of the cucumber blended nicely with the early shroom.


Burghound gives this 93/100. Notes of strawberry. Very nice effort. Those of my fellow diners who haven’t had good pinot noir had their usual response: Wow, this is a really good wine!

“Cold poached quail eggs mold in pork aspic with sunchoke and fresh truffles. Terrine of fois gras.” I think I prefer my fois warm. Cold like this it did have a nutty quality, but it’s also a bit like a slab of fat.  Wait… it is. The egg I liked, as I’m a sucker for runny yolk.

“Celery-root, goat cheese, and yellow beets.”

Panacotta infused with truffle and tonka bean in a sea urchin emulsion.” Wow! This dish was amazing. The Panacotta had a perfect creaminess, almost like Burrata (MORE ON THAT HERE). The Uni sauce was perfect, sweet and without a hint of fishiness, and the generous shaved truffles packed a punch.


Now the “light” reds. Parker gives this Burgundy 96. “Fashioned from a parcel located in the heart of its grand cru (mostly from 25-year old vines though Raphet asserts that “there are still some very old ones”), the 2003 Charmes-Chambertin Cuvee Unique explodes with red fruit aromas. Sappy, bursting with red cherries, this is a sensual wine made for hedonists. Medium to full-bodied, deep, and concentrated, it has serious depth of fruit, loads of smile-inducing spices and an exceptionally long, supple finish filled with superbly ripened tannin. Drink it over the next 11-14 years (incidentally, I served the 1996 at this year’s International Pinot Noir Celebration’s salmon bake in Oregon and it was terrific, wowing all who drank it.)”

“Venison tartar with truffle, celery root truffle remoulade and a hint of yuzu.” Good stuff here too, particularly the venison. This had been my favorite dish the previous time I was here, but then it was larger and with quail egg instead of truffle. I liked the egg actually, but this was still good.

Wine Spectator gave this wine the #11 slot for 2009 and 96 points. “Dried dark fruit on the nose, verging on date and prune. Full-bodied, with a dense palate of ripe fruit and supersilky tannins. This is a deep and beautiful red, delivering lots of subtle character. Fascinating. One of the undiscovered treasures of the vintage. Best after 2011. 2,000 cases made.”

“Scottish hare truffle consommé soup with hare filet, hare blood cubes and hare shu-mai.” Very interesting soup (broth added below). The hare was very gamey, and there were the sausage cubes. Blood sausage.

And with the consume added. The broth was very good, and there was some huge amount of truffle here. I don’t mind gamey — at this certainly was. It reminded me a bit of some of the rustic sausages I’d get in the Spanish countryside, the ones that instantly teleport you to the pig sty with each bite. Here it was the hutch instead.

“Truffle tapioca pudding with langoustines in a truffle crust.” Also a very nice dish. Very interesting texture to the tapioca. It was hard to get all the elements together in one bite.

My faithful readers will easily recognize the Beaucastel. The 1998 gets 95 points. “This wine performed even better than my high accolades in issue #131 suggested. The 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape is the greatest effort produced since Beaucastel’s 1989 and 1990. It reveals more accessibility, no doubt because the final blend included more Grenache than normal. Its dense purple color is followed by sweet aromas of blackberries, licorice, new saddle leather, and earth. There is superb concentration, full body, low acidity, and high tannin, but it is surprisingly drinkable for such a young Beaucastel. Ideally, it needs another 3-4 years of cellaring, and should keep for 25-30 years.”

“Scallop, truffles and leeks, in butter sauce.” The scallop was cooked perfectly (not over or under done). The sauce was pretty much to die for. We didn’t have any bread (I think if we had, it would have killed us), but I nearly licked the plate.

“Poached egg, truffles and leeks, in butter sauce.” The same prep but with a poached egg for a member of our party that doesn’t eat scallops.

Back to the classics. 1990 was a fantastic vintage in Paulillac. “Even though this is usually a delicately-styled Pauillac, the 1990 appears to be less well-endowed than some of the other recent top vintages of Pichon-Lalande, such as 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1989. It displays medium dark ruby color, an attractive bouquet of vanillin from new oak, ripe blackcurrants, and spices. It is not as concentrated as I would have hoped, but it does exhibit good body, glycerin, and ripeness, as well as an overall sense of beauty and grace. While stylish, it could have benefitted from more length and intensity. Anticipated maturity: 1995-2008.”

“Chili rellenos with sepia, truffle mole.” This was kinda spicy. The mole was awesome though, and the relleno itself… well fried, which went well together. Somehow there was sepia (cuttlefish) in here. I didn’t really notice.

“Mushroom and cream soup, with truffles.” More shrooms!

“Miso soup, poached sea scallops and foie gras with truffles.” Here was my warm fois.

With the soup. The broth was somewhere between a miso soup and a consume, which was better than a straight traditional miso would have been.

“Oxtail and truffle sopes.” Wow again! Like amazing BBQ beef, and the bit of sopa and generous truffle didn’t hurt. The sauce was a bit spicy sweet, certainly a Central American kinda taste.


A massive monster from Sardinia, the Parker 94 point, “2005 Shardana is an awesome Carignano endowed with exuberant dark fruit, smoke, licorice, sage, rosemary and tar. This is a fairly big, masculine wine with great intensity, depth and roundness. It needs another year or two in bottle for the tannins to settle down. The Shardana is formidable, though, and a terrific choice for hearty cuisines. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2021.”

“Roasted beef loin with truffle.” Meat. Truffle.

“Beef bone marrow and truffle tartine with huckleberries.” This was also amazing, the “meat” just disolved in the mouth. Great feel and incredible richness.

“Pork loin with truffle.” It seems ALL the meats are included

“Wood pigeon, figs and truffle ragu with corn.” Also nice, I liked the corn, and the pigeon was nicely tender and pink. Not nearly as gamey as the crazy (but good) Scottish Woodcock (SEE HERE).

“Veal sweetbreads and sautéed duck foie gras soft taco with chanterelles.” I’m not normally a huge sweetbread fan. I mean the idea of eating baby cow brain is a bit off-putting, but this was an incredibly tasty dish. Spicy, sweet, very interesting textures. I hadn’t expected the Latin influences in this meal, but I really enjoyed them.

“Simple frisee salad with truffles.” This was just what we needed at this point. It was very light and citrusy. I enjoyed the crisp sting of the raddichio.


Parker gives Bordeaux 94 points. “Only the fourth vintage for proprietors Francoise and Alain Raynaud, this wine comes from an old vineyard (the vines are among the oldest in St.-Emilion) within the city of Libourne. A cutting edge vinification with cold maceration and aging sur lie, stirring of lees, and an obvious respect for the terroir and the goal of capturing the essence of a vineyard have all been lofty goals of the Raynauds. The powerful, multi-layered 2000 should rival 1998 as the finest Quinault produced. It boasts an opaque purple color as well as a gorgeous concoction of crushed blackberries, blueberries, and black currants intermixed with violets, licorice, and subtle smoky oak. It cuts a broad swath across the palate with an expansive chewiness in addition to terrific concentration, purity, and overall equilibrium. In spite of that, it is remarkably light on its feet. It is hard to find fault with this wine, making the cascade of local criticism of Raynaud all the more difficult to comprehend. Anticipated maturity: 2006-2018.”

Lots of condiments for the cheese! Walnut and hazelnut, Roasted Cumin Seeds, Canneberges Chutney with Cloves and Walnuts, Apple Gellee, Huckleberries Gellee, Bell pepper Mustard, Tomatillo and Figues Compote, Pumpkin Ginger Truffle honey, Homemade Green Ketchup.

The honey, cumin, and nuts were on a separate plate.

The “less gooey” plate.

And the “more gooey.” I was getting way too drunk at this point to write down the cheese varieties.

“truffle mousse served with truffle madeleine.” You wouldn’t have thought it’d work, but it did. I really enjoyed the mouse. Still, at this point I probably could have used some very powerful NON TRUFFLE desserts to prevent what’s happening now — truffle burps, 12 hours later.


“pear gratin with truffles and caramel.” This was also good, and the truffle was understated. The texture was really nice and soft, the carmel/pear combo great as one would expect.

“truffle financier and warm cotton candy syrup.” This was mild and truffley. I didn’t really need more truffley.

“chocolate crosmesquis with orange flower scented truffle cream.” But this was pretty awesome.

It exploded into chocolatey goodness.

“Petite Fours.” I tried two of the macaroons, they were pretty damn good.

Our wine lineup all together, so you can appreciate how bad my hangover is.

Overall this dinner surpassed purple epic and went straight to legendary orange (3lite geek cred to anyone who knows what this means!). Most of the dishes were great, and a few stunning. We had a great time — and the last hour was a real blur. But I’m not exactly feeling my best this morning.

For another Bistro LQ meal, click here.

Or for other Foodie Club meals, click here.


Melisse – How much would a Woodcock…

Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2]

Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881

Date: December 15, 2010

Cuisine: California French

Rating: Awesome. Top of its game!


My foodie friend EP wanted to do a final Foodie Club night before he left for year end vacation so we hastily (24 hours) gathered a few like-minded gluttons. It took a bit of calling to find someplace that had space and was willing to allow the mega tasting menu on short notice. This same group had gone to Melisse last March, and we arranged to return. Chef Josiah Citrin promised to mix it up, and do something extreme. We were game! (hint hint)  The result is this modified Carte Blanche Menu ++ special edition.

The first amuse is a Melisse staple. Grapes two ways. Out of the spoon are half grapes coated in goat cheese and pistachio. On the spoon sphereized grapes dusted with pistachio. The first has a nice contrast of the sharp cheese and the fruit, the second is an explosion of grapeness.

There were four of us, and I had brought 3 bottles of red, but the Sommelier wisely suggested I pick a white off the list to start. Knowing the chef I opted for this Chablis. I love good Chablis. Parker gives this one a 93.  “The Dauvissats’ 2006 Chablis La Forest (a.k.a. “La Foret” a.k.a. “La Forets”) smells effusively of peony, citrus, and peach. It is strikingly bitter-sweet in its alternation of peach and citrus with peach kernel-like cyanic bitterness; displays deep chalkiness; and finishes with amazing grip and length. Past the nose, this is one of the least generous of 2006 Chablis, being remarkably tight and for a young 2006, but very impressively concentrated. The 2005 rendition was almost severe in its concentration, yet also very impressive. It should merit following for 10-12 years, and is probably best rested for a year or two. The 1999 tastes glorious, and youthful today; the still almost sharply-citric 1996, like liquid chalk and white truffle.
Vincent Dauvissat’s 2006s were finished with both alcoholic fermentation and malolactic transformation by January. Overall – and particularly in the Grand Cru range – Dauvissat’s 2005s are marginally less exciting than his 2006s, and in certain instances, surprisingly, more opulent and exotically ripe. In both recent vintages, Dauvissat’s wines (even the generics) are pushing 14% alcohol, although in tasting the 2006s in particular, you’d never guess this.”

And there is perhaps nothing better in the world to pair Chablis with than a bit of oyster. This “Carsbad Del Sol Oyster, Finger Limes and Chives” was as Chef Citrin called it, “essence of oyster.” Dominated by a pleasant brininess, like early morning at the sea side. This is not for everyone, but if you are a seafood lover like me. Oh boy. And the mineral tones of the Chablis just sang with it.

Next up is this “Hokkaido Scallop, Santa Barbara uni, Cauliflower, Lemon.” Pretty isn’t it? The scallop was luscious, but the uni was to die for. Not even a hint of fishy, it had a rich nutty tone. I was temped to lick the dish.

Because this is such a delightfully elaborate (aka EPIC) meal, I’m going to show the sequential presentation of many dishes. This “Artichoke soup, Parmesan Fritters, white truffle” begins with the solid ingredients. There is a bit of relish underneath the fritter.

Then the soup is added. The soup itself was the perfect infusion of cream and artichoke. Every spoonful counjured up the vegetable. The fritter was a little cheese explosion. Bravo!

No trip to Melisse would be complete without the classic, “Egg Caviar, Lemon Creme Fraiche, American Osetra Caviar.” It’s a classic for a reason. The Creme Fraiche is so good, and there is raw egg yolk at the bottom. Amazing combo, particularly with the little toast stick.

We killed the Chablis during that round of “starters” and it was time to move onto this bad boy. The 1991 Hermitage La Pavillon! 100 points of perfection. “This is a Le Pavilion of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. The 1991 Ermitage Le Pavilion follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990-it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. Very powerful and full, yet displaying silky tannin, this is a seamless beauty! Anticipated maturity: 2001-2035.”

And the bread arrives. I went for a piece of bacon, and a  basil brioche.

“Seared Foie Gras & Pheasant Consomme, Foie Gras Agnolotti, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Shiso Infused Pheasant Consomme.”

The soup is added. The ingredients themselves were great. But it was the broth that was mind boggling. Combining the rich taste of pheasant, with the bits of fat melted off the fois in the consomme, with the bright tones of the Shiso (a leaf I adore, in the mint family). Oh my. It was incredible. It reminded me of the broth from the Urwasawa meal we had 10 months ago.

And the hits keep on rolling. “Santa Barbara Ridge back Prawn, Pummelo, Shellfish Jus.” The sweet meat of this puppy meshed perfectly with the citrus butter tang of the sauce. I  had to use the remains of my bread to mop it all up.

What is an epic French meal during truffle season without some fresh white truffles!

“White Truffle Risotto, Carnaroli Rice, Mascarpone, Shaved White Truffles.” There is a little Risotto under that sea of truffle foam. It had a nice soft cheesiness to offset the delicate Umami flavors of the truffles.

Now we’ve killed half a bottle each and it’s time to go bordeaux. Parker gives this 96 points. “What sumptuous pleasures await those who purchase either the 1996 or 1995 Pichon-Lalande. It is hard to choose a favorite, although the 1995 is a smoother, more immediately sexy and accessible wine. It is an exquisite example of Pichon-Lalande with the Merlot component giving the wine a coffee/chocolatey/cherry component to go along with the Cabernet Sauvignon’s and Cabernet Franc’s complex blackberry/cassis fruit. The wine possesses an opaque black/ruby/purple color, and sexy, flamboyant aromatics of pain grille, black fruits, and cedar. Exquisite on the palate, this full-bodied, layered, multidimensional wine should prove to be one of the vintage’s most extraordinary success stories. Anticipated maturity: 2001-2020. The 1995/1996 vintages are two of the greatest back to back efforts Pichon-Lalande has ever produced, including the 1982/1983 vintages.”

Erick and Simon are starting to show the wear and tear of the evening’s pleasures.

“Eastern Tile Fish ‘Amadai’, Kohlrabi, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Carrots, Cucumber Infused Consomme.”

As the consomme went down the sensuous summer smell of cucumber wafted back at us. The fish was perfectly done, but it was the consomme that I really found marvelous here.

And now for the main event. Two roasted Scottish Woodcocks!

“Scottish Woodcock, Truffled Brioche, Navet, Sauce Perigourdine.”

After saucing. In the front is a bit of breast on the brioche, at the back half the head and beak, and on the right the thigh and leg (and claw). First of all, the sauce had this rich truffle quality that was just outstanding. Then the breast was a perfect medium rare example of poultry at its finest. Chef Citrin informed us that these puppies had been aging for 3 or 4 weeks! It was wonderfully gamey. Seriously gamey. Intensely gamey. The thigh had a rare almost bloody quality. But oh so good.

Chef Citrin shows us off an example of the bird (he’s the white sleeved arms). Wild caught in Scotland. He personally plucked the feathers on ours.

I have to show off the remains because you can see the bird brain a bit better. That long sticky thing by the knife is the beak, and there the skull with half the brain. We were pressured into sucking on the brain, some of us with more gusto than others (Erick!). It had a rich taste, not unlike bone marrow.

The game goes into overtime with the final savory, “Venison Loin, Juniper-Praline Yam, Chanterelles, Chickory, Poivrade Sauce.”

Sauced. This venison was perfect, incredibly tender and flavorful. The Yam was like a desert, incredible, almost like pecan and pumpkin pie together.

Les Fromages.

Spiced pears and candied cumquats.

One of my favorite cheese in the world, Eppoisses. Strong, gooey, stinky!

Lower left: Pont-l’Eveque

Orange center: 18 month aged Gouda

Lower right: Fourme d’Ambert

Right center: Bourgogne (i think)

Upper right: Epoisses de Bourgogne

Upper left: Selsurcheres (sic, couldn’t spell well enough to find on google), goat cheese

“Vanilla Yoghurt, Strawberry Compote, Strawberry Sorbet.” I’ve had this before, but I didn’t mind. Basically strawberries and cream. Yum!

After warming up with the 1995, we rolled back to the 1989 Lalande. Incredible! “Speaking of superior vintages, Pichon-Lalande’s 1989, although not as profound as the 1995, 1994, 1986, 1983, or 1982, is a beautifully made wine. It exhibits a deep ruby/purple color, and a sweet, roasted nose of rich cassis fruit, herbs, and vanilla. Lush and round, this medium to full-bodied, nicely-textured, layered Pichon-Lalande possesses low acidity, outstanding ripeness, and beautiful purity and balance. It is already drinking surprisingly well, so owners should not hesitate to pull a cork. It should continue to offer rich, seductive drinking for another 15+ years.”

Another dessert repeat — but again we didn’t mind. “Chocolate, Chocolate, Coffee, Chocolate Souffle, Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch, Coffee and Mascarpone.” The souffle gets its little injection. All are great, but the coffee and the crunch are my faves.

I’ve had passion fruit desserts at Melisse before, but this was a slightly new take. “Passion Fruit Parfait, Lemongrass and Coconut.” There is tapioca in the “soup” beneath. Very interesting complement. Very south east Asian in flavor profile, and refreshing.

The petite fours. I’m not a huge cannelle fan. The fruit with Creme Fraiche was great though. I’d have preferred the classic marshmallows and pate de fruits myself, but this is about my only “complaint” with the entire meal, so I think I’ll survive.

Our special custom menu.

Reuben and I before the meal. I neglected to get a photo of how we looked 4.5 hours later!!

Chef Josiah Citrin pulled out all the stops for this meal, and it showed. Hands down spectacular! The restaurant has two Michelin stars, and it deserves every ounce of them. Personally, I’d put this meal up against any I’ve had in France at a three-star. The service is amazing too. The setting is not as fully formal as some French three-stars, or the service quite so orchestrated (that level is more amusement than actually pleasant), and there are no zany carts for teas and sugars, but the food and creativity demonstrate Melisse’s deserved position as one of America’s top kitchens. Not only were the ingredients worthy of a Roman Consul’s plate, but  the masterful command of flavors were in full view.


For another Melisse meal, click here.

Or for other Foodie Club meals, click here.


Food as Art: Melisse

Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2]

Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881

Date: March 3, 2010

Cuisine: California French

Rating: Awesome, but heart stopping.


I’ve been going to Melisse for years but I could never convince a whole table to try the chef’s “Carte Blanche” menu. Even my ever-patient wife wasn’t up to it. So I went last March with two other glutton gourmands (my Foodie Club) and we went to town. We even added in some supplements. This meal was 7-8 months ago so I apologize for lapses in my memory, hopefully made up for by pretty pictures.

The first Amuse was grapes done two ways, on the right covered in goat cheese and a nut, and on the left spherized.

I brought wine from my cellar as usual. A meal of this magnitude called for a Grand Cru burgundy. In this case a 1995 Mazis-Chambertin. I’ve long been a burg-hound, and this didn’t disappoint.

Melisse has excellent bread in the modern French style. I’m particularly partial to the bacon bread. This meal was also used by both my friend Erick and I as beta testing for our DSLR based food photography. After having to stand back from the table and annoy other guests with a big flash I went out that week and bought a 50mm compact macro lens and a macro flash ring. Now I’m golden. Food is a tricky subject because while it doesn’t move, the natural habitat is often dark and it’s a small subject that must often be filmed from very close (normal lenses don’t like to focus under two feet).

I can’t say I remember what this amuse was, but the Japanese pottery is pretty. If I had to guess I’d say herring or mackerel of some sort.

I think this was Fennel Flan, Valencia Orange Gelee, Cashew Froth. This is the kind of dish Melisse excels at. Things involving cream.

I can’t remember this either, but it’s a good bet here that when something looks creamy or buttery, it tastes great.

“Egg Caviar, Lemon Creme Fraiche and American Osetra Caviar.” A Melisse classic. This has a wonderful creamy/eggy ness.

“Trio of Melisse Foie Gras. Dated Confiture, Pineapple Gastrique, Tarragon.” Because one fois isn’t enough.

In no time the three of us had plowed through the Mazis-Chambertin and I had to pull out the 1989 Lynch Bages. This was the first great wine I ever bought when I began serious collecting (and drinking) in ’96. It’s remained a nostalgic favorite of mine ever since. Parker gives it 95 points and says, “The style of the two vintages for Lynch Bages parallels the style of the 1989 and 1990 Pichon-Longueville-Baron. In both cases, the 1990 is the more forward, flattering, and delicious to drink wine, in contrast to the more massive, backward, tannic, and potentially superior 1989. The opaque purple-colored 1989 is less evolved and showy. However, it looks to be a phenomenal example of Lynch Bages, perhaps the finest vintage in the last 30 years. Oozing with extract, this backward, muscular, dense wine possesses great purity, huge body, and a bulldozer-like power that charges across the palate. It is an enormous wine with unbridled quantities of power and richness. The 1989 requires 5-8 years of cellaring; it should last for three decades. These are two superb efforts from Lynch Bages.”

This is the “Truffle Egg.” It wasn’t on the menu, but I’ve wanted to try one for some time. We were going to each order one but the waiter wisely convinced us to share. It’s a crazy poached egg like thing in a truffle butter sauce with a buttery foam on top. Then…

Fresh black truffles are shaved on top.

Voila! It tastes as good as it looks.

This single shrimp and single stalk of asparagus from a specific California farm was quite excellent. The shrimp was almost lobster-like. Buttery sauce of course.

I think this was a mushroom/scallop soup with a Japanese-like flavor pallete.

And this was a monkfish with various vegetables and sauces.

Sonoma duck, config of leg, and breast. Quail egg. This was really tasty, particularly the breast and everything when smeared in the egg yolk.

Beef of some sort, including the marrow.

And the Carte de fromage. My favorite. Melisse has always had one of the best cheese carts in town.

Get a look at that runny Vacheron or Epoisses in the middle (the orange round one).

We ended up with these.

This was basically strawberries and cream. It was amazing. The strawberry is in gelato/sorbet form.

I think this was “Frozen Passion Fruit Souffle. Pistachio, Coconut, Lemongrass Broth.”

Lest we forget the chocolate, we each got like five kinds. The soufflé had it’s own injector. It’s called “Chocolate, Chocolate, Coffee. Chocolate Souffle, Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch, Coffee and Mascarpone.”

Here in tripple form. Remember this is but the third of several deserts, after the cheese!

Wafer thin mint anyone? These petite-fors were actually a bit lackluster, but who had room anyway. The wild strawberries and creme fraiche were good.

We started at 8pm and left close to 1 am. Look how the dining room appeared during our final courses. This was a very (modern) French meal in a lot of ways, following the classic rule of “never too much butter, never too much cream.” It’s very very good though, if a bit on the rich side.

For another Melisse meal, click here.

Or for other Foodie Club meals, click here.