TASTE ON MELROSE: Casual Fine Dining at its Delectable Best
There are always happy diners on the front patio outside Taste on Melrose. I have seen them on sunny afternoons spent on Melrose Place, my arms laden with shopping bags from Dolce Vita and Marc Jacobs. I have passed them on my way home from a dance class I used to take regularly, driving by this little restaurant and making a quick mental note to try it out one day. It was attractive (I love outdoor dining), and there were always people eating there, which I think is a very important indicator to a good restaurant. If there’s lots of people, it means the food is probably decent and the service not too shabby. Also, eating in an empty or near-empty restaurant has always creeped me out. I would wonder while sitting in the vacuous space, Is there something going on in the world that I haven’t heard about yet? A terrorist attack? A natural disaster on its way? Are Brad and Angelina outside? So a good crowd is a good sign, when judging a food establishments.
I finally made it to this particular establishment on a recent evening. A friend of mine was running a bit late, and I had arrived a bit early, so I had a good twenty minutes to sit and pretend to read the menu. If there’s anything I hate more than sitting in an empty restaurant, it’s having to sit in a busy one by myself. I have always pitied the poor soul sipping his lemon water and checking his phone for any texts or calls he might have missed. But I decided to bravely put down the menu and own the fact that yes, I was a young girl out at night by herself, for the time being. And the funny thing was, no one seemed to be pitying me the way I would have if I weren’t me.
As I waited, I took in my surroundings. The ambiance is very pleasing… Bare light bulbs lined the beams on the ceiling. A candle was on every table, surrounded by red glass, the kind that looked like it was trapping champagne bubbles in frozen prettiness. Altogether, the lighting created a sexy, warm mood, and I was pleased to note that the music volume was low enough to have an actual conversation. Also, the tables are far enough apart from each other that this would be an excellent place to bring a date to. I don’t like when my intimate evening for two starts off with us shouting at one another above our neighbors’ shouts, which are less than a foot away.
Speaking of dates, if you have a hot one coming up and are looking to impress with something original, but not too over the top… Taste on Melrose has a fun little advantage for you: Full Moon Aphrodisiac Nights, every full moon and the days before and after. They create a special menu designed to “stimulate your senses”, and I must say, I am intrigued. I may have to find myself a date, just so I can try this out and see if I am any more turned on by so-called aphrodisiac food than I already am by delicious standards that don’t have this mysterious and lofty claim. We shall see.
By the time my friend arrived, my hunger headache was killing me. I did wish they had brought out bread or something to nibble on. However, when the Prosciutto & Fig Pizzetta came out, I was in appetizer heaven! The fig jam was spread on thick, covering a crisp, bubbly crust. Thin slivers of prosciutto were beautifully melted into gorgonzola cheese. What a brilliant pizza-inspired idea. I was jealous of the chef who thought of this before I did.
For my entree, I ordered the Cumin Spiced Pork Chop, which pleasantly surprised me. I’m not the biggest fan of pork chops, since I grew up on rather tough cuts of this meat covered in sauerkraut, which I think is awful. But this pork chop looked like it might be better, and it came with a side of White Truffle Oil and Mushroom Mac & Cheese, and that’s what I was really after. Once I took a bite of the juicy, tender meat, I realized it was nothing close to the German-inspired midwest fare I would rather forget. This…was…delicious. The sauce and spice were tantalizing, exotic, yet comforting. This was no ordinary pork chop. The side of Mac & Cheese was equally scrumptious, and I noticed that it wasn’t really macaroni; it was pasta shells. Amidst the gooey cheesiness and the earthiness of the mushrooms, I tasted a faint hint of barbeque. Inexplicably unexpected, but in a good way.
For dessert, my friend and I shared the Chocolate Pot de Creme. Just the name of that sounds cute. I don’t speak French, but in my head it translates as a little pot of chocolate with cream. That’s pretty much what it is, and it was divine. Silky, light, and rich of cocoa, the perfect thing to satisfy the sweet urge I get at the end of a long day. Lately I’ve been eating Trader Joe’s chocolate ice cream by spoonfuls, so this was a welcome alternative to my chocolate binge.
This attractive restaurant really is a gem. It is charmingly contemporary in decor, with little framed mirrors adorning the walls. Candle lanterns hung from the edges of the roof. The menu is simple and globally infused, and the food is, well, tasty. The location’s great, they offer valet parking, and while the prices are in the upper mid-range, the food is worth every penny. All the ingredients tasted fresh, and the portions weren’t the size of my palm. The restaurant also has clever weekly specials besides the Full Moon Aphrodisiac Night: Happy Hour from 4-6, Good Neighbor Nights every Sunday, and Wine Discovery Mondays, when every bottle in the house is half off. I myself am looking forward to the next full moon.
Taste on Melrose is located at 8454 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90069, just east of La Cienega. For reservations, call 323-852-6888. Visit www.ilovetaste.com to view the menu and their hours.
Photo of Alice Greczyn by Theo Greczyn