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Josiah Citrin's 'In Pursuit of Excellence' Book-Signing at Mélisse

Post by Angela.

On the morning of my first real day in Los Angeles last year, after a 14-hour drive in 100+ degree heat, my mother and I checked out of our seedy Westside motel as soon as humanly possible and drove to the rental office on Wilshire to pick up the keys to my new apartment. While waiting for the office to open, we wandered the empty streets of Santa Monica and came upon a very unassuming restaurant front. "Hey, that's supposed to be one of the best restaurants in L.A.!" I mentioned to my mom. "Really?" she questioned, skeptical. I didn't blame her. From the outside, Mélisse looks as if it could be any old run-of-the-mill French restaurant. But those in the know...well, know better. 

Mark and I still haven’t made it to Mélisse, one of only three restaurants in the Los Angeles area to earn two Michelin stars in the vaunted guide’s 2009 edition (the other two are Providence and Spago), for dinner, but I like to think we’re saving it for a very special occasion. Nevertheless, we jumped at the opportunity to take a sneak peek at Mélisse at the book signing of executive chef, Josiah Citrin, who just published his first cookbook, In Pursuit of Excellence.  



We joined the throngs of Chef Josiah’s family, friends and admirers being funneled into the tiny restaurant. As we waited in line to purchase copies of the book, we marveled at the difference between outside and inside decor – the dining area at Mélisse could well be an art gallery, with a warm, rich palette of color and clean, elegant lines.



Book in hand, I made my way over to the chef to get his signature. As I waited, I flipped through the 240-page creation of Citrin in collaboration with Patricia Aranka Smith (writer), Matt Kiefer (food photography), Charles Park (location photography) and Mélisse Chef de Cuisine, Ken Takayama (food styling). Even without the chef’s autograph, this gorgeous book would make a great Christmas gift, whether the recipient aspires to try his or her hand at the recipes within, or just wants to bask in the beauty of the photos. SPOILER ALERT, MOM!!! This particular copy is destined for my mother – I’m hoping that, despite her initial skepticism of Mélisse's bona fides, she and I can share a meal there on one of her next visits.



And just what can you expect from the recipes in the book? Within its pages, Citrin divulges the secrets to some of Mélisse’s signature dishes, broken into categories: amuse bouches, soups, first courses from the land, first courses from the ocean, poultry and game, meat, cheeses and desserts. We were lucky enough to sample some of these delights, including grapes crusted with goat cheese and pistachios matched with a spherified grape (below, left), cones of ahi tuna tartare topped with a smooth avocado mousseline (below, right)...



..refreshing cucumber chawan-mushi (Japanese savory custard) layered beneath gazpacho and tomato gelee...



...luscious foie gras terrine topped with a subtle, sweet apricot-date condiment ...



...herby mushroom tartare (below, left), tiny, meaty sliders perched on black sesame encrusted brioche buns (below, right)...



...shot glasses filled with chocolate mousse (below, left), and delicate orange macaroons with chocolate filling (below, right).



The fare offered at the book-signing only whetted my desire to return for a full meal, but I may have to save up a little - Mélisse's tasting menu, Ten, runs $150 per person. In the meantime, I may copy a few recipes out of the book to try at home before wrapping it up and giving it to my mom. The book is available exclusively through Mélisse, the restaurant website,, selected retailers and

Melisse on Urbanspoon

Reader Comments (4)

Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience Angela. The cucumber chawan-mushi looks so yummy. :)

- Kevin

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFlyer Online

Oh those macaroons were simply perfect. Great event and people!

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

I agree, those were some of the best macaroons I've ever had!

January 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterAngela

Highly overrated. We had a meal there. The fish was bland, the scales inedible, the duck salty and the pretentious injection of chocolate sauce in the soufflé at table couldn't save it, The soup and amuse bouche were excellent,

The waiter was inattentive, offered to bring more bread "right away" and proceeded to ignore us until the bread waiter came 15 minutes later, and Citrin, on visiting our table, played the King as if he were expecting someone to play the ace, seemingly discharging an unpleasant duty as quickly as he could.

After the fish course the waiter came over and said, "Weren't the scales wonderful?" Only then did he look at my plate to see the scales piled to one side.

Not worth the high cost; there are much better to be had in LA for the money.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Sternlight

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