Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Manresa Restaurant, Los Gatos


bong
 Share

Recommended Posts

We have been wanting to dine at this 2-year old restaurant for a while now, and with a newborn at home, we finally made it last Thursday night for dinner.

The restaurant is in Los Gatos, and the executive chef is David Kinch, formerly of Sent Sovi in Saratoga.

From the outside, the restaurant looks like a an ordinary house, not like a commercial establishment at all. The "look" is continued inside, and the inside of the dining room looks almost like a living room in someone's house.

The restaurant gives you a choice of ordering 3-, 4-, or 5- items from the menu. Or you can choose to have the "Chef's tasting menu", with or without wine pairing. The Chef's tasting menu is $94, and the wine pairing is another $65. My wife at first did not want to have the tasting menu, thinking she will be too full and won't be able to finish it. But our waiter told us that the individual courses in the tasting menu are pretty small, and we will do just fine. He also mentioned that they prefer everyone on the table order the tasting menu if anyone wants a tasting menu.

Anyway, now that my wife was game, we both ordered the tasting menu. My wife did not choose the wine pairing -- instead, she ordered a glass of champagne ($16) at the begining and then a glass of Reisling ($12) around midway through her dinner. And I, always the glutton, of course ordered the wine pairing.

First, here are some pictures and descriptions of the various courses. As you can see, we were served quite a few courses throughout the evening. However, at the end of the meal, I did not feel overly stuffed. I was just perfectly full. The seven or so glasses of wine did have an effect on me though, and I was a bit tipsy towards the end.

I may not have the names of all the dishes correct, and I certainly do not have the names of all the wines.

Click on the following small pictures to see a bigger version.

i6322.jpg

Menu Page 1

i6323.jpg

Menu Page 2

i6324.jpg

Amuse #1: Mango Smoothie, with Olive Madelines and Beet Gelee

i6325.jpg

Amuse #2: Citrus Salad with Taro Chips on the side

i6326.jpg

Amuse #3: Strawberry Gazpacho

i6327.jpg

Amuse #4: Layered egg

i6328.jpg

Course #1: Dungeness Crab with Mango and a bit of Avocado, Paired with Cremant D'alsace Sparkling Wine

i6329.jpg

Course #2: Big Eye Tuna Tartare with Cucumber Gelee, served with Toast on the Side, Paired with some white wine from Argentina

i6330.jpg

Course #3: Scallop Risotto, paired with Domaine Something Sancerre

i6331.jpg

Course #4: Black Sea Bass on the Plancha, with Butter Foam, Grilled Onions and Chick Pea Slab, paired with a white wine, I forgot what wine it was

i6332.jpg

Course #5: Pork Belly, Boudin Noir with a puree of Rutabaga, paired with a Cote Rotie (Rhone Style) Viognier and Syrah blend

i6333.jpg

Course #6: Veal Cheek w Garlic Emulsion and Green Peas, paired with a Cabernet Franc from Loirre Valley

i6334.jpg

Dessert #1: Coconut Sorbet topped with Strawberries -- My wife was instead served a "Strawberry Sorbet Topped with Apricots"

i6335.jpg

Dessert #2: Papaya and Custard Chile Soup

i6336.jpg

Dessert #3: Pineapple Beignets With Kaffir Lime Foam

i6337.jpg

Dessert #4: Miniature Chocolate Souffle With Banana Icecream, paired with some kind of a 5 year reserve Madeira

i6338.jpg

Dessert #5: Chocolate Madelines and Grape Petit Fours

Total bill for two, including tax but not tips: $304

My comments:

  • The "Mango Smoothie" (Amuse #1) served in the begining was very thick and creamy. It was served in a tiny glass, and it was difficult to drink the whole thing from the glass. The darn thing was so good I did not want to waste any of it.
  • The "Layered Egg" (Amuse #4) was outstanding. The runny, slightly warm egg yolk was at the bottom, and it was then topped with a layer of maple syrup, which was then topped with a layer of whipped cream.
  • The "Dungeness Crab" (Course #1) was served on a bed of mango with a thin slice of Avocado. I have no idea how they managed to slice an Avocado so thin!
  • "Big Eye Tuna Tartare" (Course #2) -- this was pretty good.
  • The "Scallop Risotto" (Course #3) was exceptionally good as well. The Scallop was perfectly done, soft in the middle and seared on the outside. There were, however, a couple or so pieces of undercooked rice in the bed of risotto.
  • "Black Sea bass" (Course #4) -- the exceptional thing in this dish was the chick pea "slab". I don't really know if it is called a "slab" or not. It was basically shaped like a french fry, but it was made out of chick-pea flour. It was very tasty. The fish itself was great, but not outstanding.
  • "Pork Belly and Boudin Noir" (Course #5) -- This was also outstanding. The Pork was fork tender, and oh, the Boudin Noir! Glad the wife did not know (now she knows) what Boudin Noir is made out of, because she liked it then.
  • "Veal Cheek" (Course #6) -- This was also very good.
  • "Coconut Sorbet" (Dessert #1) -- Very good.
  • "Papaya and Custard Chile Soup" (Dessert #2), -- This was probably the only let-down course in the dinner. This was not bad, but both of us found it a bit tasteless and watery.
  • "Pineapple Beignets With Kaffir Lime Foam" (Dessert #3) -- Very, very good.
  • "Miniature Chocolate Souffle With Banana Icecream" (Dessert #4) -- The chocolate souffle was served warm and moist. The Banana Ice cream was superb.
  • "Chocolate Madelines and Grape Petit Fours" -- quite good.

Other notes:

  • This was a Thursday evening, and all throughout the evening, the restaurant was never more than about 70% full.
  • The wine pairing was excellent. I am sorry I did not take notes on the different wines I had. I now wish I had.
  • At the end of this 3-hour long meal, we were not overly stuffed, but were perfectly full.
  • The presentation of each of the entrees was like a work of art.
  • Service was very good, as it should be.

Would we go back? Most certainly yes. Although, at this price level, we probably won't be able to go back as often as we like to.

Manresa Restaurant

http://www.manresarestaurant.com/

320 Village Lane

Los Gatos CA 95030

408-354-4330

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My husband and I also did the tasting menu at Manresa probably about 1 year ago and I have to echo what was said in the initial post.

We were served an amazing array of small dishes, each one unique and delicious. I wish I had particular recall of everything we ate, but I do remember an apple-wasabi sorbet, an avocado ice cream with crispy tortilla strips and sea salt, tiny tail end of fillet beef with an outrageously rich sauce and an assortment of mousses as one dessert course.

We went for the wine pairings and were very gratified with that choice, although we did end up quite tipsy.

One red from Oregon stood out in particular and I later ordered some through Wine.com and was amazed that it was a $12 bottle of wine! It was a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, but I don't exactly remember the name anymore.

The service was superb without being overly solicitious. We sat for quite a while and the restaurant was only 50% full on a thursday. Glad to hear it's filling up a bit more.

I've had the egg dish (at a Cook for The Cure event in Los Gatos) and it is extraordinary. A wonderful sweet, salty, creamy combo.

David Kinch will be teaching a class in Los Gatos the end of May. No idea what he's going to be making, but it will probably be a great way to sample what he's up to without spending $300 plus.

I don't want to promote any individual businesses in here (possibly not cool? I'm a newbie and don't want to offend) but anyone who's interested can email me for details.

Stephanie Kay

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SKinCA:

I'm guessing the wine you had from Oregon was WillaKenzie. That's, as far as I know, one of the highest quality and highest producing vineyards from Willamette Valley (Oregon). I'm a big fan too!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

(far too many photos to link them all here, so please visit Chez Pim for the visual review.)

I had a fascinating dinner at Manresa a couple of weeks ago. A series of somewhat odd circumstances made that happen, starting with the conversation on this very thread, which led the chef to my blog, and finally resulted in an invitation to visit Manresa and try his food. So I did, what can I say, I was easy.

I was accompanied by my usual gourmet gang, Dave (Melkor), Allison (Ms.Melkor) and Malik, and a delightful new acquaintance, Paul, a friend of Malik’s. The gang all piled up in my car to drive down to Manresa in Los Gatos—to be kind to the environment, and so that our dear designated driver Allison could bring us drunken souls back home safely. Malik brought up that we could have been much kinder to the environment by simply eating somewhere in the City rather than trekking out to Los Gatos, I told him sweetly to shut up.

Los Gatos is a small town hidden in the Santa Cruz hills. David Kinch had a smaller restaurant in the area for a few years before he opened his current place. The area is very residential, but with plenty of Silicon Valley riches. I do, however, wonder if the local money can really sustain a restaurant of the caliber that Manresa aspire to be.

We arrived about 45 minutes later at a small and lovely yet unassuming house one block from a main street in the downtown area. I think we must have been recognized by sight, as they knew who we were before I could even finish my first sentence. We were greeted very warmly by Michael, the manager, and shown to a table on the patio outside. We were also asked to surrender the wines we brought so they could be properly chilled, opened, or decanted as appropriate. Our nice waiter, whose name I forgot to ask (shame on me), explained that the chef planned to serve us a few things to start on the patio, then, he would have us moved back inside to the main part of the meal.

The patio is lovely, basking in the soft light in the cool Bay Area evening. Our table was set up some distance from the others, which was just as well because we (read: our dear Malik) sometimes get a bit rowdy when properly inebriated. The waiter brought our bottle of Champagne, a 1988 Salon, and asked if we wanted it opened for our starters. The bottle, unfortunately, had been on a long journey, unchilled, all the way from Dave’s cellar in the wine country. So it needed a bit extra care. A bucket of ice was promptly brought tableside to help our champagne up to proper drinkable temperature.

That bucket of ice was the only service “mistake” of the night. I didn’t want to start the review with a mistake, but unfortunately it happened at the beginning of our meal, so here it is. When our waiter came back by to open the bottle of champagne for Dave to taste, it was still far too warm, so the bottle was relegated back to the bucket. A while later, he tried again, and it still was too warm. Dave finally got up to look at the bucket, and saw that there was barely any water in it. The champagne would never be cold in only ice. We had to specifically explain this to a passing runner to get it rectified.

Our discomfort was dispelled almost immediately when the food began to arrive. Immediately as we sat down a small bowl of olives, a plate of taro chips, and some candied nuts were place on the table to get us started. The taro chips, flavored ever-so-lightly with curry powder was especially nice, unbelievably crispy and extremely tasty, this was a very good start indeed. I also liked the nuts, which were macadamia "Garrapinados", though a bit less so than the chips as I found the macadamia a bit too sweet.

Next to arrive was the strawberry gazpacho. This dish was very interesting. By look alone it resembled exactly a normal gazpacho. The scent, however, was unmistakably that of strawberry, though also mixed with garlic and basil, again bringing to mind regular gazpacho. The taste was also intriguing, undeniably gazpacho, with perfectly smooth texture, yet also distinctly strawberry, and somewhat sweeter than normal gazpacho. It was quite lovely actually. Allison and I had an interestingly similar reaction to this dish, both wondering out loud how it would be had this been served as a palate cleanser between the savory course and the desserts.

After the gazpacho, our taste buds were considered primed, ready for another multitude of dishes that would stream out of the kitchen. We were served a plate of house-made Charcuterie, with a particularly nice rabbit rillette, sweet corn croquettes, very fresh crab beggar’s purses, and anchovy beignets. After which our palates were cleansed, yet again, this time with wasabi-apple granita and citrus and jasmine tea gelee, priming us for the “proper” meal inside.

Everyone loved the corn croquettes. In Allison’s words, she “very much enjoyed the croquettes. Corn tasted very fresh and the contrast in textures between the crisp exterior and the liquid center was excellent.” I couldn’t agree more. It was also very creative, a playful celebration of the season, I love it. I also adore the anchovy beignets, which were light as air and fantastically crispy and tasty.

The citrus and jasmine tea gelee was terrific, a perfect interplay of slightly acidic citrus segments with the perfumed and smooth gelee of jasmine tea. I did not, however, like the other palate cleanser, the green apple-wasabi granita with olive oil. The combination was definitely creative and even intriguing. I could imagine the flavors working together to form a superb result, but this one was not quite there yet. The wasabi flavor was so overwhelming, and the whole thing entirely too salty and, in Dave’s words, disjointed. This cacophony has a potential to be a fabulous symphony, perhaps with a bit more fine tuning it will get there. I certainly look forward to it.

Thus concluded our sojourn on the lovely patio, and we were politely led to our round table in the nicely appointed dining room. Our waiter brought us the wine list again, asking for us to pick our white bottle to start. We emailed the list of the wine we would be bringing to the chef beforehand, so the service staff knew exactly we had. We intentionally brought no white wine, expecting to buy some off the list, but instead of picking off the list, we let the chef select for us instead. I will let Paul and the others infinitely more knowledgeable than I tell you about the wine. (I can’t be good at everything now, can I?)

The next thing that arrived at our table was The “infamous” Egg, the dish which instigated this sojourn to Los Gatos for this particular meal. For those of you who haven’t heard, there was a discussion on eGullet about Manresa. The “egg” in question was lauded as highly creative. I chimed in that it was a copy of a dish made famous by chef Alain Passard of L’Arpège in Paris, one of my favorite restaurants in the world. I called the chef at Manresa on the fact, as I believed it to be, that the dish wasn’t properly attributed. David Kinch, having heard wind of this somehow, came on to my blog and graciously explained his point of view. In the mean time, I heard from another reliable source that the dish, in fact, was properly credited when asked, so I ended up eating crow.

David, I must say, took all this in good humor. The Egg, at least on that day of our dinner, was properly cited on the menu. It was listed as The Egg (For Pim). :-) ha ha. (So, anyone got a good recipe for crow?) It was nice, actually. I’ve had the original version a few times, and I must admit I still prefer it to this one. The taste here seems to be stronger, less smooth, the contrasts were simply too strong for my taste.

The next set of courses is the cold entrees. Those of us faithless shellfish eaters had the dungeness crab with avocado and mango gelee, the others had the avocado and chickpea "frites". Followed by Japanese butterfish with olive oil and chives for the boys, and tuna tartare with cucumber gelee for the girls. These plates were gorgeous, the Dungeness crab came draped with paper thin slice of avocado, so fresh even I who was normally not a fan of avocado ate it. The avocado and chickpea “frite” were also wonderful, extremely creative and playful. I am not a fan of either food item, though I don’t go out of my way to avoid them (unlike my nemesis, beets), but I thought the “frites” here were just fantastic. Malik found his butterfish too “bland”, while I find the cucumber gelée that accompanied my tuna a tad too sweet. We swapped our plates and both our palates were happy again. The butterfish, to me, was impeccably fresh, the subtle taste of the flesh was perfectly complimented by the olive oil, lightly toasted sesame seeds and chives.

It was time again for our palate to be cleansed and primed for the next onslaught. This time it was with a warm and delightful soup of turnip purée. It was one of my favorite dishes that evening, the soup was earthy, smooth and balanced. This proved that even such an earthy and homely ingredient like turnips could become heavenly in the right hands. I was slightly less happy with the accompanying madeleine with black olives, however, finding it entirely too sweet for the soup.

The next set comprised of warm seafood courses. The shellfish eaters at the table received sautéed softshell crab with sauce Ravigote, while the others had red mullet “Mediteranean style”. The crab was nice, crunchy around the edges and pristinely fresh. The sauce Ravigote, on the other hand, was a bit too assertive for the delicate softshell in my opinion. I didn’t have a taste of the red mullet, but Dave seemed pretty happy with it, complaining only that the skin wasn’t crisp. After these two, all of us had another plate of fish, this time a very nice bass à la plancha with octopus. The bass skin was perfectly crisp, by the way, in case you’re wondering.

Apparently, there was a slight confusion in the kitchen as to the meaning of “shellfish”. They sent out two dishes with octopus and calamari, claiming that these were not shellfish. Dave and I had a little chuckle over this, because we’ve have this exact discussion many times with Naka-san, who always insists that octopus and squid are not shellfish as they have no shells! I don’t know about you, but I’m with him. Dave and Allison did not wavered, however. So, I ended up with more than my share of the octopus with my bass, to which I had absolutely no complain.

Then, we moved on to the meat dishes. Our palate was, yet again, primed, this time with a fabulously flavorful crème caramel of foie gras and cumin. This was really very lovely, and very creative. I’ve had foie gras prepared “royale” like this before, but never in this manner of a crème caramel. The presentation for this was also very cute. It was served in a nesting of plates. Dave and I had a fun time speculating about whether every single one of those plates was washed every time.

Next, Paul and I had the mignons of suckling pig, with spicy morcilla, while Dave, Allison and Malik had farmed chicken with sweet potato “allumettes”. Morcilla is the Spanish (near) equivalent of the French Boudin Noir, or blood sausage. I assumed that the morcilla was housemade, which was quite impressive. The suckling pig filet mignon was quite nice too, but I wasn’t happy that it was missing the crackling. Pork without crackling is simply sacrilege in my religion. (I was even more bitter when I found out, a little later in the kitchen, that there was indeed some crackling, which were enjoyed entirely in the kitchen!!)

The last savory dish was braised beef short ribs with marrow, morels and Little Gem lettuce. The short ribs were fork tender and intensely flavorful, smeared all over with what I assumed was roasted marrow. The marrow was slightly too salty, pushing the already assertively flavored short ribs even further. By this time we had already been eating for at least four hours, and we hadn’t even started the desserts yet!

We brought two bottles of red, a 1989 Leoville Barton 1er cru, and a 2001 Groffier Bonne Mare. We only managed to finish one, the 2001 Groffier. This was too bad as I really wanted to try the Barton. The Gouffier was quite nice, a little bit more fruit than other Burgundy I’m used to. Malik brought this one specifically for our friends Dave and Allison, who have quite a New World palate.

We took a little breathing break before the desserts began. Allison even went outside for a little walk. When we were ready for yet another wave of food, champagne glasses filled with tantalizing looking yogurt sorbet covered with Olallieberries arrived to help smooth our transition into the sweet course. This was terrific, the berries bursting with flavors complimenting the tangy yogurt sorbet. Fantastic. Next came a plate of assort biscuits, petites financiers and petites madeleines. There were nice as well.

We had three more dessert courses yet. The first was mini strawberry shortcake served with chamomile tea, then bing cherry crisps and almond toffee ice cream, follow by the last, chocolate marquis “Bunuelos”. They were all very good. I was so happy to see the cherry crisps I forgot to take a photo first, hence the half eaten plate you saw, sorry. I also particularly like the chocolate marquis, which had a perfectly smooth texture and slightly bitter dark chocolate taste. Fantastic.

With these lovely desserts, we had a bottle of '89 Mittnacht-Klack SGN Tokay, which my connoisseur friend Vedat gave me at the Thai dinner I cooked for him. The golden hue was gorgeous, and the wine absolutely delicious. I think this was the best bottle we opened all night.

A beautiful pot of tea arrived unnoticed, a large clear pot filled with fresh mint leaves. We were being served fresh mint tea, without having to ask! It was either a fabulous coincidence or the chef had done his homework, mint tea being one of my restaurant pet peeves of all time. It was a very nice touch indeed.

After another break, some fresh chocolate truffles arrived with our coffee, nicely pulled shots of espresso.

The night finally came to an end, we were the very last table, it was already well past midnight, the chef came out again to have a little chat and invited us into the immaculate kitchen. David proudly showed us his pride and joy, the immense Bonnet kitchen range, made specifically for him, which was so giant it had to be moved into the kitchen before the wall could be finished! The whole staff was still there to show us the kitchen. We were being given a full royal treatment. I felt a little unease—I certainly hope it wasn’t on account of us that everyone in the kitchen had to stay so late.

All in all, it was a lovely experience, the room comfortable and beautiful, the food lovely, the service warm and friendly, if not seemless. It was clear that David Kinch was a talented chef. His style is very interesting, playful, and inventive. His evident penchant for strong tastes and juxtaposing interesting flavors felt jarring at times, but the ones that worked were wonderful. He’s not afraid to push the envelope, test the boundaries, though at times to some not so successful ends, but even his failures were interesting. Some of those clearly had potential, and I would be very interested in trying the results once the tinkering was done.

I must say I find it a bit surprising that chef Kinch appeared to be such an admirer of Alain Passard of L’Arpège. His style is quite different from that of chef Passard, whose well known strive for simplicity and harmony is evident in everything that I’ve had the good fortune to taste. Chef Kinch’s style, not to mention the somewhat roller-coaster ride feeling to his meal, reminded me so much more of Pierre Gagnaire’s cuisine. As with some of chef Gagnaire’s dishes, one has a fleeting feeling that the chef is trying far too hard, and that had he stopped a notch or two below this, the dish could have been perfect already.

All of this may not have been due to the penchant of the chef alone. I am not entirely sure how much of his push toward strong flavors and intriguing juxtaposition comes from the need to keep his audience entertained. Simplicity is a virtue that is not always valued. If his audience, who all are willing to shell out substantial sums, demand to be entertained with complex and "fussy" cuisine, simplicity could be seen as far too, well, simple to be worth the money.

And before I leave this review, I must test your (and chef Kinch’s) patience and return to the issue of The Egg one last time. I do understand that his audience may have a little bit of a revolt were they not placated by this now familiar dish, but I really do believe that a chef of this caliber deserves to be known by a dish of his own invention. Thomas Keller has his Oyster and Pearls. As for David Kinch, I think him far too talented to be known by Passard’s Egg, attribution not withstanding.

Edited by pim (log)

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks pim for the thoughtful write-up. Sounds like Chef really threw down for your group. I am always pleasantly surprised when I hear of restaurants taking extra steps, such as doing some homework on their guests or doing more than the average hello, here's your food, here's your check, thanks for coming.

I look forward to my meal at the end of the month even more.

Quick question/discussion topic: does Passard make his egg with maple syrup and whipped cream also? (If it is, then disregard the following rant) If he doesn't, is it fair to call Chef Kinch's egg a copy, or anything more than a dish inspired by Passard? What aspect of the dish would allow us to make this distinction? Are there similarities beyond the obvious fact that an egg dish is served in its own shell (If so, I could site MANY other chefs that have served spectacular egg dishes using the shell as the vessel, Keller being one of them)? Once again, as I may have done already in previous posts in this thread, I don't want to come off as a ranting crank, but as a young cook, I find the related subjects of creativity, inspiration, and plagiarism very interesting; subjects that I have started to think a lot about.

Thoughts, everybody?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quick question/discussion topic: does Passard make his egg with maple syrup and whipped cream also?

Yes, he does. Well, whipped crème fraiche and maple syrup. It wasn't simply the vessel the dish was served in that caused the uproar. But, I digress. I respect Pim's opinion perhaps more than any other foodie, and thus, if she is at peace with the issue, I am as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

is this  a normal menu?  seasonal tasting menu?

mike

This was the "I'll eat anything the chef put in front of me" menu. His kitchen, his food, he was in complete control.

It was fun. I love being surprised.

We did email him ahead of time of the bottles we intend to bring, and of the various dietary restrictions, so he knew what to expect.

It was indeed fun.

Edited by pim (log)

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quick question/discussion topic:  does Passard make his egg with maple syrup and whipped cream also?

Yes, he does. Well, whipped crème fraiche and maple syrup. It wasn't simply the vessel the dish was served in that caused the uproar. But, I digress. I respect Pim's opinion perhaps more than any other foodie, and thus, if she is at peace with the issue, I am as well.

why thank you sashimi. :smile:

From the beginning, my criticism was not personal. It was only aimed at the lack of attribution. I was later told that the egg was properly attributed, and I moved on.

I must also admit that I was charmed. One would have a heart made of stone to not be charmed by the gracious gesture chef Kinch had shown us, and by how he took it all with good humor and self depricating charm.

What do I know anyway? I just eat!

Chef Kinch, to his credit, has made the egg his own, by adding his own touches to adapt to his taste. Serving it to every night to every diner at his restaurant is a marvelous feat of execution, which should be lauded in and of itself. But the fact remains, that it was first identified with chef Passard.

I can't wait for David Kinch to replace it with something entirely his own. With his daring creativity, I fully expect to be most delightfully surprised.

Edited by pim (log)

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Had a wonderful meal here last week and as I found the place through the site thought I'd join in - its my first time posting here after a good deal of browsing...

Had the tasting menu, lots of things different from what other people seem to have eaten so I'll try and remember it all, which is a pleasure in itself!

Amuses - Strawberry gazpacho. Hmmmmm.... A bit confused by this really. I think in retrospect seeing how sweet and savory flavours and even 'concepts' were combined throughout the meal I can see what this was on about, but I'm just not quite convinced it actually tasted that good... Looked BEAUTIFUL and obviously well made though.

Corn croquette things, great fun, gorgeous hot liquid insides, very imaginative, I gather made by gelantinzing corn and cheese, which then melts inside a breadcrumb coat when its deepfried.

Apple-wasabi sorbet - i REALLY liked this. A much more succesful version of the kind of combination I guess the soup was on about too. It seemed like the apple and wasabi tastes appeared on differnet parts of the tounge simultaneously but separately. I'll have to smear some wasabi on an apple and see if i get the same effect. I doubt it.... Edith, my partner in culinary crime, had a citrus gelee which was fine but less WOW....

the egg - lots said about thuis already, but I thought it was great, rich, unctuous, loved the mix of slightly cooked and raw bit of yoke.

meal proper - foie gras 'creme caramel'. Yum. foie taste very good and lovely super creamy texture. Couldn't taste the cumin apparently with it at all, but there was some lovely fresh balck pepper on top which cut throught the richness fantastically.

melon soup with crab - fresh, clean , light, very pleasant.

fluke sashmi with geoduck - Excellent, one of my faves of the whole meal. the incredibly sweet, smooth fluke was beautifully offset by the slightly chewy and briny clam without either overwhelming the other.

grilled sea bream with polenta and baby fennel - nice thick fillet, beautifully cooked, with amazing skin, polenta perfect, creamy inside, falouvred with something else as well, anchovy maybe? Some of the little stalks coming up from the fennel bulb hjad been crisped on the grill as well, which was a great texture.

chicken with petite poi - (incredibly little) sweet potato fries and corn puree. I didn't think chicken could surprise me anymore. this did, just by the quality of the meat itself.

rack piece of suckling pig with an apricot, slice of foie gras stuffed trotter, apple jus. Incredibly tender meat, cooked rarer than I've ever eaten pork beofre and a good thing for it. great sweet saucing, beautiful upgrade of english sunday lunch... could probably have eaten two or three of the rack pieces, but that's just me!! I also enjoyed listening to the waitress at the table next door trying to explain pigs totter without using the word 'foot'....

lots of desserts. running out of steam here and not really a dessert person, but they were all very nice. Funny one was a banana milkshake served in a shot glass with a straw. A very good, entirely unscrewed around with, banana milkshake!

General impressions - an amazing meal, one of the very best I've had. I especially liked that for all the technique and incredible number of preparations, the core of all the dishes was simply the flavor of their principle ingredient , which almost speaks of a certain simplicity. My own natural taste isn't terribly inclined to sweet flavors, but they were so well handled here that their predominance never bothered me at all. The only thing I felt I really could have done with in this kind of meal is some cheese, which just seems an integral part of eating in this sort of progression to me. in general the food is very light, much more so than I've found in the other places at this level of cooking I've eaten at, and the portions smaller, which was actually a good thing. I have a huge appetite and was still hungry going into the main courses, but that meant that I was even more eager to eat..... I had the wine parings which were all pleasant and excellently matched with the food. Very nice Sauternes with the foie and Madeira at the end, everything else less striking but no complaints. Also a lot of wine - 7 glasses... Being really quite greedy, and not the one driving, tried to order an Armangac at the end and was amazed to discover they have no liquor license! Saw Chef Kinch and a few of the crew having a smoke outside afterwards and they were friendly, interested in what we thought, knew that we'd been eating off the tasting menu which was nice, showed they knew what was going on in the dining room.

A wonderful meal, for the two of us cost exactly 1/2 of what I pay for a months rent and worth every penny. Hope I can go again but can only go to this kind of place a couple of times a year so don't tend to repeat. Anyway, a long first attempt at posting here, but a great meal and thought I should return the favor of all you who have written this place up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

My new bride and I had a wonderful meal here on June 30th. As a little time has elapsed, and since our following week in the Napa Valley was spent bathing in wretched excess, I choose to simply list the menu, point out the highlights, and discuss some overall feelings about the experience.

The menu:

Overall a very good menu, I thought. I personally would have changed the order of several of the courses, as my wife and I experienced a couple of times some monotonous textures. However, in defense, I would probably overlook that because it seems like chef really put the spurs to our table and sent out everything he had. If you are reading this chef, thank you for that. Your efforts were greatly appreciated.

Strawberry Gazpacho

Petits Fours "Beet-Black Olive"

Taro Chips with Curry

Corn Croquettes

Ciccoli with Mustard

Crab Beggar's Purses

Melon Soup, Lightly Cooked, Almond Tofu

Anchovy Beignets

Citrus and Jasmine Tea Gelee

Corn and Tomato Salad with Dungeness Crab

Fried "Torahaze" with Smoked Bacon and Shiso

Sea Urchin and Saffron Soup with Orange

Japanese Butterfish and Geoduck with Olive Oil and Chives

Stimpson Clam on the Plancha with Fried Avocado

Scallops with Porcini and Arugula

Horse Mackerel with Squash Blossoms and Morels

Saddle of Rabbit "Prune-Lemon," Bulghur and Vegetables

Trip with Slow-Cooked Egg

Suckling Pig "Foot-Belly-Rack" with Rice Crepinettes

Apricot Compote with Yogurt and Apricot Sorbets

Fig and Raspberry Crisp, Honey Mascarpone

Nectarine Frappe with Hibiscus

Chocolate Marquis, Almond Toffee Ice Cream

"Bunuelos"

I believe the major strength of the meal sat in the amuses. The flavors felt very controlled: intense and purposeful. Flavorwise, I don't think there were any major misses; most things came down to personal preference (such as in the beet jelly, I prefer the taste of roasted beet, whereas my wife really enjoyed the jelly, as it tasted almost like a raw beet. I found the earthiness a little overpowering. I also wished that the jellies were smaller; it was a pretty big bite of 100% jelly). I really enjoyed the corn croquettes, but really wish that they were shaped and fabricated without the use of gelatin since the use of it would turn out to be quite frequent throughout the meal. The strawberry gazpacho had a great savory aspect to it which I enjoyed a lot. Good black olive madelines. Excellent crab beggars purses, which were served on a lime slice - good reinforcement of flavor components. Very nice, fresh flavor.

The more complex dishes were also very good. Very nice flavors in the uni and saffron soup. This "orange dish" harmonized very well, and once again came down to personal preference: I prefer uni raw, but my wife liked the slightly more firm texture of that used in the dish - very lightly cooked. The butterfish and geoduck was very good as well: good flavors and textures, with an overall lightness about the dish. I think the big winner was the trip with slow-cooked egg. I found the egg to be a little large in porportion to the amount of tripe, like maybe extra small eggs should have been used, but the texture of the egg put next to the texture, flavor, and preparation of the tripe was outstanding. The exact flavor profile of the dish is not completely clear in my mind now, but I keep thinking pimenton when I think about the sauce, as it made me think of my time in Spain. The suckling pig dish was very good as well, but my palate was starting to exhaust itself by the time it arrived.

Overall, I found the desserts to be quite refreshing, waking up my wife's and my tired palates. The bunuelos were a very tasty end, although both mine and my wife's had a glob of cold chocolate in the very center of the molten poppers. I don't know if that was intentional; I just found it rather strange.

Service: the service was comfortable: formal without being stuffy, and relaxed without being common. The service staff seemed generally concerned about the guests and wanted to put on the best performance they could to enhance the dining experience. Just a few hiccups. A couple of the amuses arrived not only before the last had been cleared, but almost as we were taking a bite; plates changing hands with our mouths full of food, unable to thank the runners. In addition, most of my questions about basic components of the dishes were met with "I don't know," or "let me ask the chef." I don't know if the dishes I asked questions about were new, so that's a possible reason for the confusion, but still, nothing makes me happier than knowing a wealth of information about the restaurant and the cuisine, enthusiastic and energetic, is serving me my meal.

We got the wine pairing with the meal also, the wines of which I remember being well-matched.

The two of us were out the door for $500, which I didn't bat an eye paying. I thought that to be a great price for the meal, and with the amount of below-average meals we experienced in Napa (Terra and La Toque), a bargain and a pleasure on top of that.

It's definitely a place I would go back to, and I get the feeling that both the chef and restaurant are rapidly evolving and improving, with clear goals set out ahead on the horizon.

Cheers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw the egg go out to many other tables, but we did not receive it. I am certain that this was intentional; I am guessing to prevent repeating an egg dish, as the tripe with the slow-cooked egg, depending on how one looks at it, could be all about the egg (although the tripe with it was FANTASTIC - as I said in the review but I think it's worth another mention).

Chef, I hope that if you are reading this, that you offer up any corrections or feelings that you might have on my descriptions of the experience, relating to techniques, ingredients, and flavor profiles used, and any goals that you had with the dishes that maybe I missed or overlooked.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Rather than type up the Tasting Menu that Chef Kinch created for my friends, I photographed it. All these courses will not be represented below.

i10466.jpg

All of these images, below, were taken by my beloved friend, Nikki, aka Monique Feil, who is a portrait photographer specializing in weddings.

© 2004 Monique Feil (I have her permission to post them here):

Crab Beggar's Purses

i10464.jpg

Tomato Cocktail

i10463.jpg

The Egg

i10460.jpg

Strawberry Gazpacho

i10461.jpg

Local Sardine "Escalivada"

i10465.jpg

Japanese Butterfish with Olive Oil and Chives

i10459.jpg

Sea Urchin and Saffon with Orange

i10462.jpg

---------------------

She is still ecstatic with their experience.

Edited by tanabutler (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

And here I am. The Big Ass, with a partial review. (winky thing)

Course 1, 6:20 PM: Strawberry gazpacho (no photo).

Course 2 & 3, 6:26 PM

Not the correct names, but next arrives a little plate with two pairs of dark objects on it (black olive madeleines, and something I want to describe as beet gumdrops). The actual menu calls them "petits fours 'beet-black olive.' " The other plate has parmesan churros on it, and Bob wanted them to supersize it.

i10514.jpg

Course 4, 6:31 PM

Citrus salad with jasmine tea gelée.

i10520.jpg

Course 5, 6:36 PM

Watermelon with hibiscus.

i10515.jpg

Course 6, 6:38 PM:

Dungeness crab beggar's purses (or carpetbaggers, if you listen to Isaac).

i10516.jpg

Course 7, 6:44 PM:

Ciccoli with honey mustard.

i10517.jpg

Course 8

Sweet corn croquettes.

Here is one of the many great servers at Manresa, George (I snapped his photo when he was saying "George," can you tell?) with the croquettes, which Bob dubbed "corn on the cube." These were one of my favorite little bites in the world, and we discussed how on earth Chef Kinch got the flavor of summer corn so condensed, so creamy, so utterly warm. It was like comfort food that bordered on sinful, in one mouthful. (You're supposed to eat them in one bite, but I didn't get those instructions until I'd bitten it in half. So I got twice the pleasure as Bob. I think.)

i10523.jpg

Detail:

i10521.jpg

Course 9, 6:49 PM

Tomato parfait with taro chip.

i10524.jpg

Course 10, 6:56 PM

Creamy cooked Crenshaw melon soup with silken almond tofu. This is another course (Tammy was so sweet: she wasn't afraid of germs, and just insisted, "Take a bite. You have to taste this!") with so many flavors, so much going on. It was a choir. But more like a children's choir, with sweet and simple voices.

i10518.jpg

Course 11, 7:04 PM

Arpége egg. (Ahem. Attribution noted, and too bad it was necessary. Wouldn't it be fun if he called it "Fabergé Egg" and put diamonds on it? I know, that would up the price.)

i10519.jpg

[i do apologize that my camera has ADD (it can't stay focused). I am having serious issues with it, though it's brand-new, and it has to go back to the shop for the second time in less than two months. I apologize if these are not the usual quality. I am a little self-conscious because I just haven't been able to get the shots of this camera that I could with my little G1, 3-megapixel camera. It was stolen from my car last month.]

Isaac will have to post the rest of his menu, and describe their evening. I do know they had fun, and stayed late, because my phone rang at 12:24 a.m. and it was Isaac saying they were just leaving the restaurant. And that they'd been just treated to one of the most amazing meals on earth. Did I mention that it was 12:24 a.m.? :raz: (I was actually touched that he wanted to share his joy with me. He probably didn't know that the geezers don't turn off their landlines when they go to bed.)

I also learned that Manresa has a flamenco guitar player on Friday nights, out on the terrace. He is supposedly excellent. One more reason to love it there.

Thanks, Isaac and Tammy.

Thanks also to the chef.

People: if you can manage it, get there. You will not be sorry.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

We managed to have dinner again at Manresa recently, and we had the Chef's tasting menu again. This time, my camera caught the same disease as Tana's, and all of the photos were out of focus, so no photos.

But I did good with the wine names this time (thanks to the printed menu they gave us; the printed menu had mistakes, i.e. it did not match exactly the food served, but the wine names were all correct).

Here are the dishes that were served:

Amuses (Wine served was a Cava):

#1: Some sort of croquettes made of sweet corn liquid center

#2: Olive Madelines with Beet Gelee

#3: Tomato Soup

#4: The Egg

#5: Citrus Salad with Jasmine Tea Gelee

Courses (and the wine served with it)

#1: Foie Gras and Cumin Caramel

2000 Chateau Grillon, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France

#2 Dungeness Crab with Corn Puree and Tomato Gelee Corn and Tomato Salad

2001 Grand Perreau, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Bordeaux, France

#3 Chilled Crenshaw Melon Soup with Tofu:

2000 Navarro, Gewurtztraminer, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California

#4 Black Cod with Lobster Mushrooms and Green Onions

2000 Faiveley "Les Joncs", Montagny, Burgundy, France

#5 Chicken Wing Confit (stuffed with Foie Gras) with Leek Soup

2000 Domaine Andre Vatan, Sancerre Rouge, Pinot Noir, Loire Valley, France

#6 Roast Suckling Pig with Eggplant Puree and Boudin Noir

2000 Abadia Retuerta, "Rivola", Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempanillo, Sardon del Duero, Spain

#7 Dry Aged Strip Loin with Spinach and sweet Garlic puree

2001 Benziger, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California

Desserts:

Wine served: NV Fox Creek, Vixen, Sparkling Shiraz, Mclaren Vale, Australia

#1 Honey Twill Cones filled with Watermelon and Honey Dew Melon Sorbet

#2 Forgot what it was

#3 Plum Frappe with Yogurt

#4 Chocolate Souffle with Almond Tofee and Butterscotch Ice Cream:

#5 Petit fours -- chocolate and grape madelines

My notes:

* The sweet corn croquettes (Amuse #1) were outstanding. We (as instructed) popped them whole inside our mouths, and the soft center just melted in our mouths.

* The Egg, as usual, was outstanding

* The Foie Gras (Course #1) with cumin Caramel was outstanding. The wine pairing for this particular course was also superb.

* So was the Black Cod (Course #4) .

* All the other dishes very good.

* The desserts were all very good, and the Chocolate souffle in particular was outstanding. The Plum frappe was refreshing as well, and it reminded me of a Lassi.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Desserts:

Wine served: NV Fox Creek, Vixen, Sparkling Shiraz, Mclaren Vale, Australia

What did you think of the Vixen?

This was the first time I ever had a "sparkling" Shiraz. Surprisingly, it was very good, and indeed went well with the desserts, especially with the Sorbets.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A recent dinner at Manresa reminded me how important good service is to the complete dining experience.

While the food ranged from okay to extraordinary, the service was lousy. Just getting a glass of water seemed like an ordeal. The structure of the menu (2, 3 or 4 courses picked by the customer at a fixed price) allows each customer to tailor a meal to their own preferences - but it seems to present inordinate difficulties in the sequencing and timing of the courses.

It seemed that the waitstaff is so burdened delivering all the various little courses to customers that they cannot attend to the basics.

I would recommend this restaurant for foodies who are willing to invest the effort to enjoy the chef's creations, but not for a relaxing experience or for a business meal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The structure of the menu (2, 3 or 4 courses picked by the customer at a fixed price) allows each customer to tailor a meal to their own preferences - but it seems to present inordinate difficulties in the sequencing and timing of the courses.

Having spent time working in a restaurant that dealt only in fixed price menus, I can tell you that alot of time was spent working on the timing of the dishes from the kitchen to the table. toss in wine pairings with every menu, and we're talking about a ton of table service. it's a lot of work, and it takes alot of time and practice to pull it off successfully.

mike

Edited by mikeczyz (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would recommend this restaurant for foodies who are willing to invest the effort to enjoy the chef's creations, but not for a relaxing experience or for a business meal.

Skepticalgourmet:

Sorry your experience at Manresa was less than positive. We've been supporters of the chef since his days at Sent Sovi, and have always had exceptional food and service. Reviewing other posts here, I'm wondering if another visit might not be in order. Even the critics give a restaurant three tries before writing a review, and, unless I misread your post, this was your first and only time.

FWIW

Edited by samgiovese (log)

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the service was lousy.

Very strange, I had the complete opposite experience. I think either something is up or you where expecting something extra-extraordinary. (because Manresa is extraordinary)

Isaac Bentley

Without the culinary arts, the crudeness of the world would be unbearable. - Kate & Leopold

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In response to several of the posts above:

mikeczyz - I agree that expediting numerous courses to multiple tables is very tough on the staff. I have worked in the industry as well and can very much appreciate the challenge.

samgiovese - I agree that any serious reviewer should visit a restaurant several times (mid week, weekend, lunch, dinner etc.) to form a comprehensive viewpoint. But this goes both ways, clearly many posters here were quick to share their positive experiences after just one visit.

tanabutler - My opinion is just that - my views and perspectives based on my experiences. If you disagree with me, thats fine, but you should not cast aspersions as to my motives. To doubt my intentions just because I did not have the same experience of other posters is sour grapes in my view.

In fact, I was so surprised at my experience that I looked online for some reviews of this restaurant to see if the professional reviewers had similar comments, and through a Google search found this site (and this thread). Given the glowing reviews by other posters, I thought it would be fair and relevant to add my own experience. As for my moniker "skepticalgourmet", I can only say that most accurately reflected the mood I was in after dining at Manresa.

painting - I did indeed receive poor service - I would say worse than I received at lunch today at Chevy's. Anytime a customer is looking repeatedly around to try to flag the waitstaff down at a high end restaurant there are serious problems afoot. I can share specifics but I don't know that there would be a point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...