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Santa Monica to Have a Scent of Sweetness

Melisse, French for a Mediterranean lemon herb, will offer cuisine with American flair.

July 15, 1999|ANGELA PETTERA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Little Lemon Balm With That?: Josiah Citrin (one of the dynamic duo responsible for JiRaffe) will soon be opening his own restaurant in Santa Monica, Melisse. The name (pronounced MAY-LEASE) is French for lemon balm, a lemon-scented Mediterranean herb that Citrin had a local farmer grow for him here. Scheduled to open Tuesday at 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Melisse has a lounge with a fireplace, and a warm dining room with plaster-finished ochre-yellow walls, cinnamon wood and a crystal chandelier. There's also a garden room, which can be closed off for private dining, with retractable skylights and a fountain.

In these rooms Citrin will serve French cuisine with an American flair. "I can't say French," he tells us about the food. "Too many vegetables to be French." So many vegetables, in fact, Citrin is doing a five-course vegetarian menu, along with a five-course prix-fixe menu, an a la carte menu and a Grand Chef menu of nine (small) courses.

One of his appetizers is a coconut-crusted soft-shell crab with a melisse-infused curry sauce. A main course is roasted saddle of rabbit with eggplant cannelloni, red peppers, garlic, white beans and Nicoise olives. And for dessert there's a strawberry-basil cre^pe with blood-orange parfait. All of the above will be served on fine china, with accompanying silver-plate dinnerware and crystal stemware. Melisse will be open for dinner nightly starting Tuesday (if all inspections go well), and after Sept. 6 open for lunch Monday through Friday. Call (310) 395-0881 to begin booking reservations.

A Short-Lived Legacy: Legacy, the "tribute to old Hollywood" at the old Scandia location, 9040 Sunset Blvd., is being renamed Kahuna and turned into a restaurant-nightclub. Apparently the Lucite palm tree, zebra-striped upholstery and cabaret carpeting appeals more to clubsters than diners. New partners Steve Scarduzzio (Cartoonsville, the Cat Club) and David Klass (the Cat Club) replace Danna Moore and Katherine Howard. Chef David McMillan has also left to work on opening his own restaurant with his partners (in An Original Occasion catering company) David Merrill and Gary Levitt. He's replaced by his former sous-chef Dory Ford, but dinner service is suspended at the moment. When it does come back it will be on a smaller level, with the tunes pumping by 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday nights.

Fresh Fish: A new Japanese restaurant has just opened in West L.A.: Hamamori. Chef-owner James Hamamori used to slice sushi at Asakuma nearby on Wilshire Boulevard, and his menu at Hamamori looks something like Asakuma's (and even Sushi Roku's). Along with sushi dinners, Hamamori serves tempura dinners and teriyaki beef, chicken and salmon. And some dishes that are "a little bit off the line," as Hamamori describes them: such as the uni shooter--sea urchin, yamaimo (a Japanese mountain yam) and quail eggs. There are also chirashi dinners--sliced raw fish on a bed of rice. Hamamori is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, and for dinner on Sunday.

* Hamamori, 11043 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 479-7636.

Nevada News: Border Grill, the Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica run by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, now has a bigger but younger sister at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The new Border Grill will look familiar if you've visited either Border Grill in Santa Monica or Ciudad in downtown L.A., because the same design team reconvened to do the Mandalay Bay site. Border Grill Las Vegas, overlooking an engineered beach and river, has two large stories. Upstairs, for casual dining, there's a bar and cantina with a patio. The more serious dining is downstairs at three dining rooms and another patio. Altogether the place seats 300, and even has a take-away window to boot. Border Grill Las Vegas joins other Mandalay Bay restaurants including Charlie Palmer's Aureole, with its four-story wine tower, and Wolfgang Puck's Italian Trattoria del Lupo.

* Border Grill Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas; (702) 632-7403.

Regent Tastes: A Taste of Two Cities monthly dinner series continues in the Dining Room of the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel. Chef J.P. Amateau has teamed up with Miss Nui, a chef from the Regent Chiang Mai in Thailand, and Miss Mu, from the Regent Bangkok, to cook a four-course meal of Thai specialties. Some of your choices include a crispy vegetable spring roll, banana blossom salad with prawn and chicken, chilled cantaloupe soup with lime and creme frai^che, Long Island breast of duck, and Asian pear tart tatin with ginger ice cream. The menu is available July 21 and 22, 6 to 10 p.m. The price is $75 per person.

* The Dining Room of the Regent Beverly Wilshire, 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 274-8179.

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Pettera's email address is pettera@cwix.com.

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