LA is filled with romantic restaurants, but for a seriously special occasion, head to Mélisse in Santa Monica. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside, owner and chef Josiah Citrin has created a magical world of luxury, romance, and of course, excellent French food. Since opening 15 years ago, Mélisse has racked up the accolades, having been voted Zagat’s number one restaurant in Los Angeles every year since 2003, and earning two coveted Michelin stars. Does Mélisse lives up to its considerable hype? Decide for yourself by surprising your sweetheart with a table for two and spend an evening playing undercover food critic.
From the moment you walk into the purple-accented dining room, you feel like royalty. Original artwork hangs on the walls. Opulent chandeliers cast a soft glow over perfectly-set tables with the whitest, smoothest tablecloths you’ve ever seen. Well-dressed couples and groups fill the space, along with a celebrity or two. (You’ll pretend not to notice, of course.)
As you settle into your cushy seats and peruse the menus, you can tell you’re in for a night of culinary pleasures. This is a French spot, so start with a French wine. The list goes on and on–it’s one of the city’s deepest–so tell the sommelier what you like and he’ll help you narrow it down to a few outstanding bottles in a price range you’re comfortable with. Raise a toast and savor a sip before deciding which apps and mains to order.
The regular menu has such decadent options as osetra caviar, heirloom tomato salad, and rotisserie chicken stuffed with summer truffles, but you might just decide to relax and let the kitchen take care of you with the aptly-named Carte Blanche. It’s a tasting menu that spreads more than a dozen courses over hours of pleasure, leaving you with plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company. From the kusshi oyster starter to the dry-aged New York strip with charred eggplant and young leeks, each bite is better than the one that came before it. By the time you get to the grand finale–a gorgeous and delicious chocolate souffle and pot du creme–you’ll probably agree with the critics. Melisse is more than just a restaurant. It’s a world-class dining experience.