My friends and I are HUGE fans of Mélisse in Santa Monica. When we hear Josiah Citrin has opened a new restaurant in Venice, we have been eager to visit. As usual, it is difficult to coordinate everyone’s schedules, but we manage to do it. Reservations are snagged at Charcoal Venice, in a spot where several of my friends’ go-to Italian place used to eat at. I have nothing to compare Charcoal Venice to, but my friends are delighted by its transformation.
We are shown to a booth with a full view of the restaurant. Our server Christi is absolutely delightful and very knowledgeable about every question we ask her. And if she doesn’t have the answer, she’ll return within minutes to shed light on my query.
We take a little time to peruse the menu, which changes frequently depending on what’s available at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. Chef Josiah visits the market every week and takes full advantage of what’s in season.
We start with Coal Roasted Fava Beans & Snap Peas ($12.50), one of the items Chef procures from the farmers market. We hear how the fava beans are only tender for a two week period, and how this is the only time they can be served in its entirety. I pick up the fava bean with my fingers and pop one into my mouth. It is salty and possesses a good chew, but not at all fibrous. Now, eat a snap pea. It is sweet. A little bowl of dehydrated mango, dehydrated lemon, esplette pepper and salt accompanies, but I don’t need it. My friend is dipping every bean, every snap pea into the salt mixture and loving it.
There are several Tartares on the menu including beef, lamb and beef heart. None of my friends are game enough to try the lamb or beef heart, so we go with the vegetarian option. Smoked Mushroom and Beet ($14) is visually stunning, although the beets overpower the mushrooms in aroma and taste. My friends ask me if I taste the mushrooms and I tell them only texturally. The addition of crème fraiche and currants lend a silky sweet finish.
Take a slice of crostini, spoon a little onto it and enjoy!
I see Smoked Lamb Ribs ($14.50) months ago on Instagram and remember I desperately want to eat these. Of course, they do not disappoint. Again, we pick up a rib and eat with our fingers. There are three house-made sauces on the table for you to use at leisure: barbecue, J1 (Josiah’s version of A1), and a fabulous chimicchuri. There is also a house-made vinegar which we love with the next dish.
Smoky Grilled Chicken Wings ($14) is a last minute order as we see bowls and bowls of this whiz by our table. I love chicken wings and these are moist with great smoky flavors. Hints of oregano and chile coats the exterior and we all douse the house-made vinegar over the wings.
Perhaps one of our most favorite dish of the evening is Yellowtail “Kissed with Coals” ($18), a sashimi-style offering that’s literally been ‘kissed by the coals’. The sweet kohlrabi pairs well with the spicy arugula, while the roasted Meyer lemon vinaigrette adds perfect acidity to the mix. The egg yolk emulsion, reminiscent of aioli, is sparse and we are all wanting more of it.
The entrée section is meat-heavy with many beef selections, but I am not feeling red meat and suggest 21 Day Aged Half Liberty Duck ($48), an extremely generous presentation. The duck is absolutely stunning with a crispy skin and perfectly pink. We try all the sauces with each mouthful – I enjoy the J1 sauce with it. There is a lot of meat, but I pick up the drumstick and start gnawing on it, to the delight of Christi.
We order some sides, including Coal Roasted Carrots ($12.50) with sheep’s milk ricotta, herbs, honey and black pepper – tasty, but definitely overshadowed by everything else we’ve eaten thus far.
The Charred Brussels Sprouts ($14.50) are slightly overcooked, hence, soft and a tad mushy. I do like the Sonora wheat berries which add some chew to the mix. The duck egg is better on paper as it is a soft boiled egg, rather than a soft poached egg, so it does not mix properly with the vegetables. The way it is served, the egg and sprouts do not meld as a whole, but feels more like eating two separate things.
I’m no dessert fan, but my friends are eager to finish with something sweet. They choose Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake ($12.50), a layered cake with a crunchy crust and sweet Valrhona Dulcey white chocolate ice cream. I take a bite of everything on the plate – lovely textural contrasts but too sweet for my palate.
We thoroughly enjoy the ambiance, and the service from Christi is outstanding. She is friendly and I am always happy when my server knows her stuff. The restaurant is packed this evening as I am sure it is every single night of the week. Please make a reservation when you decide to visit. Now, I want to go back to Mélisse again!
425 Washington Blvd
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292