Not many L.A. restaurants still qualify for fine dining status, but Mélisse an aspirational Santa Monica restaurant from Chef Josiah Citrin that dates to 1999, certainly makes the cut. Most nights, their doors only open to people willing to invest $175 per person, minimum, not including tax, tip, or alcohol. Clearly, Mélisse is a destination. Thankfully, they participated in the new dineL.A. Restaurant Week Exclusive Series, offering a partial but still substantial tasting menu for $95 per person. The purple and white dining room was buzzing on a Friday night, and no dish fared better than Santa Barbara Ridgeback Prawns.
These small prawns are exclusive to the West Coast, with spined backs and sweet meat that is too fragile to ship. Citrin, chef de cuisine Ken Takayama and their crew lightly broil prawns in stock, maintaining their silky texture, before plating them with crunchy turnips and frilly mustard greens in a pea tendril broth that’s poured table-side.
Chef Citrin said they would have to substitute sea scallops for the following night’s service because fishermen were unable to catch ridgeback prawns in choppy Santa Barbara waters. I was lucky to try this iteration, though I’d suspect scallops would also work well.