1104 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
The second in the 2008 5x5 Chefs Collaborative Dinner Series was held at Mélisse Restaurant. I made reservations for this dinner the day after the 5x5 Dinner at Providence and I am glad I did. We arrived thirty minutes early for our 9:00PM reservation and were told they would be seating true to time. The restaurant was totally packed we couldn't even wait at the bar because they were seating diners there. I noticed at Providence all the chefs came out at regular intervals to greet guests, this seemed less frequent at Mélisse and I expect it was because they were busy in the kitchen.
Sadly one of our dining companions could not join us this evening. One of my other companions ended up ordering a Mojito in his place. The drink was quite good with a nice even balance of mint and sweet citrus notes. I went with a Tom Collins after they told me they couldn't make a Cucumber Gimlet. The Collins was quite stiff with a strong taste of juniper berries and fresh lemon, quite refreshing.
Grape - Goat Cheese, Pistachio Crumbs
It wouldn't be a meal at Mélisse if it didn't begin with something covered in goat cheese and pistachio. The mix of flavors tantalizes the tongue and hints at future delights coming presently.
Amuse: Caviar - Crème d'Oursin, Abalone
Chef Josiah Citrin, Mélisse Restaurant
A delicious amuse, combining caviar, abalone, sea urchin cream, and lobster geleé. Given all the ingredients were from the ocean, I thought they worked very well together. The sea urchin cream was rich with just a hint of sweetness. Meanwhile the lobster geleé had the subtle richness of lobster. The caviar provided a saltiness that was balanced by the softer flavors of the geleé and cream. Lastly the abalone added a nice snappy texture to the mix. I found it interesting both the 5x5 dinners had a sea urchin cream in the amuse, but that may just be coincidence.
01: Seared Hamachi - Spinach Gomae, Chilled Shoyu-Konbu Broth
Chef Douglas Keane, Cyrus Restaurant
Champagne Bruno Paillard, Brute Rosé, 'Première Cuvee', Reims
Easily the best cooked hamachi I have ever had. Hamachi is one of my favorite fishes to eat raw, I really like the clean oiliness. Previously when I tried the cooked fish, I found it dry and flavorless as if the oil had all been cooked out. This was ever so lightly seared, giving the oils a fuller flavor that I quite enjoyed. The heaviness of the oils is balanced by a light tartness in the spinach. The wine was a nice dry rosé with a bit of berry on the nose, very similar on the palate with maybe a hint of minerality.
02: Maine Lobster Cannelloni - Summer Truffles, Lobster Sauce
Chef Gino Angelini, Osteria Angelini and La Terza
2004 Château de Beaucastel, Coudoulet Blanc, Rhone Valley
This was such a decadent course, lobster and truffles. Sadly the execution was a bit flawed. The texture of the lobster was overly soft although I did enjoy the flavor of the truffles combined with the lobster sauce. The wine had quite a bit of stony minerality and steel notes, with high acidity and some tart fruit.
03: Grilled Columbia River King Salmon - Baby Artichokes, Spring Onions, Neuskes Bacon, Sauce Vin Rouge
Chef Michael Cimarusti, Providence Restaurant
2002 Pinot Noir, 'Burlenberg', Marcel Deiss, Alsace
I have a hard time picking between this and the hamachi as the course of the night. The salmon was cooked very rare with the skin baked to a crisp. The wine sauce was a mix of 70% cabernet sauvignon and 30% port, slightly sweet and accenting the distinctive character of the salmon wonderfully. The wine was a very complex pinot, plenty of leather along with some spice and earth, maybe a bit of black cherry, definitely not easy drinking.
04: Suckling Pig - Lentils du Puy, Soft Egg, and Endive
Chef Walter Manzke
2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 'Les Olivets', Roger Sabon, Rhone Valley
The pork was so tender and flavorful (fatty) I felt guilty for eating it even as my eyes glazed over with pleasure. The egg was lightly cooked and breaking the egg caused a rich layer of yolk to flow over every bit of the pork, the two together tasted very much like what breakfast must taste like in heaven. The lentils felt superfluous, as if they were only there to tone down the intensity of the pork and egg. The CDP was very fruit forward with lots of raspberry and cherry with soft tannins and a little bit of spice and earth, probably my favorite of the night.
05: Millbrook Venison - Pistachio Puree, Macerated Cherries, Rye-Caraway Bread Pudding and Allspice Venison Jus
Chef David Lefevre, Water Grill
2001 Vérité, La Muse, Sonoma County
This course just didn't really do much for me. I typically find venison too lean and this was no different although it was quite tender. In addition the meat had a gaminess than lingered on the tongue that I found quite unpleasant. The sauce was very dark and earthy, also drawing on many of the same flavors that are in the venison. The wine as a very old-world style blend, well-balanced with a good amount of fruit on the nose with some tobacco, really firm tannins, quite complex.
06: Rosemary Scented Regeir Farms Peach - Mousse de Lait, Mélisse Sorbet
2003 Riesling, Kabinett, Abstberg, Maximum Grünhäuser, Mosel
I don't know why the peach headlined this dessert. I felt most of the flavor came from the citrus (I think lime) sorbet. Which sat atop a sweet sticky cookie. The rolled crisp was filled with a mousse that tasted intensely of condensed milk, which provided a very rich foil for the peach. The wine paired with this was a Kabinett that I have enjoyed many times although never with dessert. The wine is quite sweet for a Kabinett with lots of young fruit, peach and apple along with some minerals.
Petits Fours - Chocolate Milk, Passionfruit Chocolate, White Chocolate with Basil
The chocolate milk was a nice break from the plethora of chocolates or pastries usually presented to close out the meal. Cool and thick with a velvety texture that coats the mouth in a layer of pure chocolate flavor. The two chocolates were quite good as well. The passionfruit filling inside the chocolate was really powerful a wonderful explosion of flavor. The basil was not quite as bold but still quite delicious. I'd much rather have one or two chocolates of this caliber than a full plate of mediocre sweets.
Another excellent dinner, I really love this format because it allows each chef to pour their creativity into a single dish. After enjoying this dinner, I am even sadder about the Bastide cancellation although there were some mentions of a new fifth restaurant being added. I called the restaurant in question but the hostess hadn't heard anything. She suggested I talk to the manager in the morning. Until then I will refrain from getting anyone's hopes up. (Edit: Yes there will indeed be a 5th 5x5 at Anisette Brasserie although the date has not yet been set.)
I must have enjoyed this meal too much since by the time we were done two of the chefs had left and the rest were preparing to leave as well. I was hoping to get a photo with the entire staff but alas it was not to be. I was able to snap a picture of Chefs Keane and Lefevre together as well as a picture with Chef Keane.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
1104 Wilshire Blvd.