Dining on The Real Melrose Place

Two of LA’s best eateries are housed on this tiny street
Shaena Engle

Mari Vanna

Much more than the ‘90s hit TV spin off of Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place is an actual street in Los Angeles and home to two outstanding restaurants.

Located on the corner of Melrose Place and La Cienega, Fig & Olive is a large contemporary airy space featuring four areas to dine: the main open dining room, a smaller upstairs eating area, the long communal table, and small sofa lined tables in the bar area and the cozy enclosed outdoor patio. It feels smaller than it’s 8,000 square feet, with close together tables amidst olive trees and rosemary plants.

Each meal starts with rosemary olive bread and three different samplings of olive oil. Diners can choose from a multitude of French Riviera inspired dishes. The nine crostinis are all outstanding, including manchego, fig and marcona almond, proscuitto, ricotta, fig and olive and walnut, shrimp, avocado, cilantro and tomato.

Other standout appetizers include the truffle mushroom croquettes, fig and gorgonzola tartlet and scallops with eggplant caviar. Main courses highlights include primavera lobster risotto, Mediterranean branzino and the huge bowl of Paella Del Mar with scallops, shrimp, calamari and mussels.

Head across the street to Mari Vanna for authentic Russian fare. Part of a small chain of Russian themed restaurants, the Melrose Place outpost is the third U.S. location following New York and Washington, D.C.

The décor can best be described as shabby chic on steroids, with shelves and armoires full of nesting dolls, tchotchkes, candles, bric-a-brac, jars and pictures everywhere. It might sound cluttered but in reality the front porch area and inside small dining rooms are cozy and inviting.

The food is delicious and wide-ranging.  Start off with one of their many strong house infused vodkas or tequilas before moving on to one of nine chopped salads.  Courgette pancakes come with salted salmon and sour cream, “Herring in a Coat” is a vertical salad of beets, carrots, shredded herring and egg whites, pierogis are delicate and filled with either sea bass, pork or beef and cabbage and egg, and the house specialties of chicken Kiev, beef stroganoff with buckwheat kasha and borscht with beef are must orders. The signature dessert, smetannick with strawberries, is also a delight.

Whether you’re in the mood for French coastal or traditional Russian, each are steps away from each other on Melrose Place.

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