Uni puff with uni, truffle, kombu honey. (Melisse)

One of Santa Monica’s most iconic restaurants will reopen its doors next week, and it’s bringing a new concept along for the ride.

Chef Josiah Citrin closed Mélisse in March, saying he would reimagine the white tablecloth restaurant to reflect the changing fine dining scene. On Monday, Dec. 23 — 20 years after its debut — Mélisse will reopen as a 14-seat restaurant with a seasonal tasting menu. Citrin will also open the 99-seat restaurant Citrin in the same building on Friday, Dec. 20.

“With the retooling of Mélisse and the opening of Citrin, we want to offer something novel and compelling to our longtime Los Angeles patrons,” Citrin said.

Mélisse’s nine-course, $295 tasting menu will be accompanied by a $195 France and California-focused wine pairing. Guests can also opt for a non-alcoholic pairing that features housemade kombucha and infusions.

Citrin said he will continue to source ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmers Market, which he has frequented since he was a teenager growing up in Santa Monica and Venice, and draw on his French culinary training.

“It’s progressive California cuisine using modern and classic techniques with world flavors,” Citrin said.

The restaurant will offer 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. seatings from Tuesday through Saturday. (Reservations are available via Tock.) Guests will enter the 14-seat dining room by ringing the doorbell and entering through Mélisse’s familiar red door. Chefs and sommeliers will double as servers, leading guests through the dining experience.

Citrin said he has always dreamed of serving guests in a small, intimate setting. Cooking for 14 people means that his chefs can focus on technique and use only the most pristine ingredients, he said.

“There’s going to be a very close and beautiful relationship between the guests and the chefs — it will be like going to a dinner party,” he said. “I loved the white tablecloth Mélisse, but I spent 20 years doing it and I wanted to do something different.”

Occupying the majority of the building at 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Citrin will offer the same sort of California cuisine à la carte. The restaurant will be open daily from 5:30 to 10 p.m. (Reservations are available via Resy.)

“Citrin is going to be a lively, fun place with a big bar,” Citrin said. “It will be elegantly decorated with a kind of mid-century feel.”

The menu inherits some of Mélisse’s signature dishes, such as lobster bolognese and egg caviar. New items from Citrin and chef Ken Takayama include truffle pasta with housemade tagliatelle, truffle foam and white truffles shaved tableside; wild Japanese yellowtail with radish, grapefruit and nori; and Santa Barbara rockfish with chive blossoms, mussels, mussel broth and quince mustard.

Distinct from Citrin’s 77-seat dining room, the 22-seat bar offers the full menu and cocktails such as the Love Me Two Times made with mezcal, cherry liqueur, cinnamon demerara, yuzu and angostura and the Wild Horses made with white rum, Pimm’s, blueberry-thyme syrup, lime and angostura.

“We’ll use the bounty of California products and having fun with bold flavors,” Citrin said.


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