Mélisse | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015


photo by Anne Fishbein

It’s easy in this brave new world of eating to become jaded about luxury fine dining, to forget the pleasures of eating in an elegant room with formal service (Captains! Sommeliers and assistant sommeliers! Runners who swoop in to drop food or bus your tables as if they’re performing ballet!). If what’s so great about dining in this manner has slipped from your memory, it really is worth a trip to Mélisse, Josiah Citrin’s modern French restaurant in Santa Monica, to refresh your memory. Here, you can revel in extravagances such as caviar service, or a table-side filleting of Dover sole or carving of truffle-stuffed chicken, or Citrin’s “carte blanche” menu, which spans 15 courses and will cost you a cool $275 per person. But even if you don’t have quite that much cash to throw around, it’s worth coming here for one of the less extravagant tasting menus on a special occasion, to see what Citrin can do — his soups so much silkier than anyone else’s, his sauces so much more refined. For being one of the most expensive restaurants in, well, the country, Mélisse has an exceedingly reasonable wine list — don’t get me wrong, you can easily spend a month’s salary on booze here if you want, but there’s treasure to be found on the lower end as well, and a staff that’s happy to guide you. For about double what you’d spend at many of our more trendy eateries, you’ll leave with the warm glow of a rare experience, one that has been perfectly calibrated from the second you stepped through the door and finishing with the gorgeous plate of petit fours delivered with your check. —Besha Rodell