Ten months after Melisse had closed its doors in Santa Monica, chef Josiah Citrin and chef Ken Takayama reopened with two new restaurants, Citrin and Melisse. Citrin, the slightly more casual space, offers similar menu items to the original Melisse, but now served a la carte, instead of a tasting menu format. The space looks familiar with a few updated touches throughout, like an additional reverse L-shaped bar at the front where you can dine.
The most popular dishes at Melisse, starting with the bread basket, are offered at Citrin, including the green hued Basil Brioche Buns that were once a conglomerate of bread offerings at Melisse. These bright buns are much larger in size than the originals, and have similar flavor, but somehow seem isolated without their counterparts that made them pop with herbaceous taste.
Wagyu Meatballs in a deep brothy glaze were tender and juicy – something not seen at Melisse on prior menus. The pop of meat savors in your mouth for a while, and the Brioche Buns are a great utensil to sop up the sauce.
If you are a fan of the Lobster Bolognese like I am, no worries, you can now enjoy it here again at Citrin. The flavors are warm and inviting with just the right amount of lobster flecked throughout the pasta, however both chefs have mad-cooking-skills and an update may have been in order. Perhaps introduce us to something a bit more adventurous than foam, or leave it plain on top, like the new restaurant concept dictates?
The Filet of Dover Sole with green tomatoes, capers and a bit of baby croutons for crunch was made simply enough with a shareable size portion to enjoy family-style. The flavors were clean with a touch of elegance and a price tag to match.
The Rapini with Trumphet Mushrooms – just bitter, bordering bland with not much going on and displayed on the menu as it should of been a star of the show. Maybe the Sunchokes or Whipped Potatoes would of been a better choice.
The Chocolate Sphere sprinkled in gold dust was more beautiful than divine. The whipped milk chocolate mousse inside was traditional, not filled with crispy bits or infused with fruity flavors, just simple.
Citrin has a whole host of menu items that can ratchet up the bill in no time, like caviar and truffles to start. However, don’t be surprised that even if you don’t order those items, you may leave feeling like you purchased the old Melisse tasting menu, but dined much more casually. If locals are who they are trying to attract, the $50 corkage fee may disway them from coming. Try dining at the bar and order items that you may have not tasted at Melisse, then it mostly likely will be a more reasonable dining experience.