Truffle Roast Chicken at Mélisse
We seem to only get to the Santa Monica haute dining room every few years, which is a shame when you consider how good it really is. Josiah Citrin and his team - including chef de cuisine Ken Takayama, the superb servers and sommelier Brian Kalliel - deserve all the accolades the 14-year-old Santa Monica restaurant garners, including top honors every year in the Zagat Survey. Citrin really does deliver the perfect combination of French technique and local ingredients - the menu is fully California with European backbone, wonderful food at every turn, whether it's the silky egg with cauliflower mousse and a healthy dollop of caviar, or something as fleeting as an amuse bouche that blends two different tomato varieties into "hot and cold" tomato soup, a creamy-without-cream broth with a quenelle of tomato sorbet floating in the middle. But one dish that stuck out most at a recent dinner, in both presentation and flavor, was the whole-roasted chicken.
Meant to serve two, it can easily feed a table, the whole thing brined and dried and stuffed with black truffles under the skin. It's carved tableside and plated with the most utterly creamy pomme purée, morel mushrooms and roasted summer squashes. The dish is a mainstay for Citrin, more rustic and comforting than some of the more contemporary dishes, and one he put on the menu when he opened the restaurant in 1999 and will never take away. Thank goodness.