Sunday, April 15, 2007

Manresa: A Culinary Experience (with pictures, of course)

Last week, as I was wandering from John Wayne Airport to the office, Karen called me and asked if I would have any interest in going to Manresa this weekend. She had just taken a quick look on OpenTable and saw a couple of available seatings. We had talked with Tesha and Jeremiah about going to Manresa, which they had never visited and which we had visited previously for our one year anniversary. Unfortunately, our friends were unable to join us, but we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to pay another visit to the two-star Michelin destination.

Yesterday afternoon, we made the hour-long trek from the City down to little town of Los Gatos, nestled near the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Though we arrived a bit early for our reservation, we were warmly greeted at the door and promptly seated at a window-side table. We didn't even really need to look at the menu, as we both assumed that we were going with the chef's tasting menu. Once again, we would leave our dinner in David Kinch's very capable hands. We also ordered the wine pairing for the tasting menu, splitting one flight between the two of us.

Our dinner started out with several amuse bouche offerings. First we were presented with some petit-fours: olive madelines and roasted red pepper gelées. Our previous dining experience at Manresa started in the same fashion and once again, Karen loved the madeline and I really enjoyed the gelée. It was a nice way to kick off our dinner.

Our next amuse bouche was a garden green croquette, of which I did not get a picture. Similar in appearance to a tater tot, each croquette is filled with a liquid center and meant to be eaten in a single bite. Our croquette was bursting with the essense of seasonal spring vegetables from the Manresa garden, though it was not quite as good as the corn croquette that we had during our previous visit, which was utterly amazing.

After the croquette, we were served oysters with uni and sea water gelée. As you might know from reading past entries in this blog, we love raw oysters on the half-shell. With the uni and gelée, I was expecting a very briny tasting dish, but the tasty was more subtle and really brought out the flavor of the sea without overwhelming the palate.

The next amuse bouche was a kohlrabi and foie gras royale served with apple cider. The custardy foie gras mousse was velvety and rich, which went very well with the cider and the wine pairing. Karen thought that this was one of the best dishes of the evening.

Our last amuse was the famous Arpège egg. As some of you may know, I've made these eggs myself at home with the help of a Clacker. It looked like they also use a Clacker or another similar device in the Manresa kitchen. I also noticed that they sliced open the bottom part of the egg as I did, probably to help keep the egg balanced while it is coddling on the simmer water. The egg was fantastic as always, just a great balance between sweet, savory, sour, and bitter flavors.

Our first main course was a preparation of twice-cooked foie gras with strawberries over a strawberry-Pedro Ximénez sauce. The foie gras was unbelievably rich and absolutely exquisite. (You can probably guess that Karen and I both love foie gras.) This was definitely my favorite dish of the evening.

Our second main course was a fatty blue tuna belly salad over a seaweed pistou. The toro salad also contained a few tender leaves of Ficoïde Glaciale, an ice plant harvested from the Manresa garden. The salad was very rich and extravagent - two thumbs up.

The next course was a smoked sturgeon over red thumb potatoes and beets from the garden. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo until we had eaten the plates clean. The dish was very good, much better than a similar dish that I had on a Lufthansa flight a few months back. Karen even admitted that she liked the beets, which is quite a statement if you know her feelings about that root vegetable.

Our next dish was a Monterey Bay abalone with peas and asparagus and a vanilla soubise. This was fantastic. It was the most tender plate of abalone that I've ever had. The vanilla foam was quite subtle and enhanced the flavor of the shellfish without overpowering it.

The last fish course was slow-roasted monkfish with exotic Indian spices, naval orange, citrus foam, and spinach. While the flavors of the spices and citrus worked well in this dish, the fish was less tender than I expected, as was the spinach. While the taste was quite good, this was probably my least favorite course of the evening.

Moving on to the white meat course, we were treated to some slow-roasted pork belly of suckling pig in a green garlic stew with a fava bean maro. A fabulous dish, the pork tasted as good as it looked.

Our final main course of the evening was milk-fed spring lamb, prepared two ways, with a carrot puree and carrots from the garden. We were treated to a nice slice of loin, roasted to medium-rare doneness. The lamb was quite tasty but we both really liked the braised lamb, generously portioned and falling-apart tender. Another excellent dish.

Having finished the main dinner course, we had an intermezzo of strawberry sorbet with rhubarb soda. It was very refreshing and cleansed our palates in preparation for dessert.

Our first dessert course came in two parts. First was a caramel soufflé that was simply ethereal.

Accompanying the soufflé was a shot glass filled with butterscotch, espresso, and caramelized banana. This dessert was stunning. Even I, the non-dessert guy, really liked this offering. The flavors melded extremely well together to form a delicious and decadent dessert.

The final dessert was chocolate marquis, which our server described as a "deconstructed Rocky Road". It was okay, but as I'm not a huge fan of Rocky Road, it didn't do that much for me.

The end of our evening was bookended the same way it started, with madelines and gelées. This time, we were presented with a chocolate version of the madeline and a strawberry gelée. I enjoyed this course, especially the gelée, which tasted like an intense strawberry jam, but Karen liked the olive madeline better.

Once again, we had a fantastic evening at Manresa. Tim, our server, was great, as was the rest of the staff. They did a great job with the pacing of our meal, slowing things down as the courses became heavier, and were very attentive to our needs. Tim effusively answered our many questions about the restaurant, the food, and the wine. It was another fabulous dining experience, one that we hope to repeat with our friends in the near future.


Tesha said...

You are killing me softly with those beautiful pictures and delicious descriptions. I simply cannot wait to find a reservation that suits all of us! The caramel souffle made my mouth water...

Loren said...


Find a date and time that works for you guys and we'll take you there!