Why Mélisse Is Still the King of LA Fine Dining, 19 Years Later

Go now. It might not be around as we know it for long.

September 4, 2018 9:00 am

From the driving, to the parking, to the not knowing where to drive or park, dinner in L.A. is harder than it should be. That’s why we created Dinner Plan — your itinerary to a damn good time. This week, we’re off to Santa Monica to celebrate the 19th anniversary of one of LA’s last true white-tablecloth dinners.

Élephante (3 images)

Pre Dinner Drinks: Élephante
Santa Monica

Start your evening at Élephante, a new rooftop restaurant and bar with unobstructed coastal views. You can watch the sunset here while enjoying Italian-style cocktails, like a sparkling lemon soda with gin (Giano) or a lavender and lime tinged mezcal number (Oro Bianco Oaxacan). Élephante is already very popular, and has been usurping Bungalow’s queue, but if you get there for the sunset you’ll gain quicker entrance without the scene.

1332 2nd St. (map)

Mélisse (2 images)

Dinner: Mélisse
Santa Monica

At first, the thought of a quiet room with tables draped in crisp white linen and little stools for the lady’s purse may sound dated by today’s standards, where everything from the reception stand to the open kitchen to the swirl of music and voices is meant to evoke a youthful, laid-back energy (something Angelenos tend to crave well into retirement).

Then there’s Mélisse, where you’re not allowed to use your phone (let alone whip it out) and the food is old-school classic French: a caviar-topped hen’s egg, slim dover sole decorated with sunchokes and shaved black truffles, etc. While this is a more refined ambience, the black-and-white images on the walls are of Venice skateboarders, and the low music tends toward Zeppelin, Michael Jackson circa Quincy Jones and deep-cut Rolling Stones.

And from now until late October, Mélisse is running a special 19th-anniversary menu that highlights their best dishes over the years, like lamb persillade, which is a parsley rub that coats the lamb medallion like a permafrost, brightening its gamey quality. None of the flavors of a given dish completely overpower the others, so you get the full sensation of each ingredient — a special experience enhanced by the peacefulness of the room.

Rumor has it that two-star Michelin Chef Josiah Citrin intends to retool the concept next spring, so this may be your last chance to dine at the venerable institution in its current iteration.

1104 Wilshire Blvd. (map)

Image credit: Stan Lee

Guestroom (2 images)

After-Dinner Drinks: Guestroom
Santa Monica

If you need a nightcap, venture a few blocks to Guestroom, a cozy bar that’ll work well for a quiet glass of Scotch. This Edison-bulb-lit brick room is tucked into a corner of Estate Restaurant + Bar, which incidentally was featured often in the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

1519 Wilshire Blvd. (map)


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