Saturday, August 11, 2012

Manresa - 08/03/2012

320 Village Lane
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 354-4330

Working out of an intimate house nestled in the sleepy town of Los Gatos Chef David Kinch has made Manresa one of the top restaurants in the country. Opened in 2002, Manresa has been awarded a slew of accolades including 2 Michelin Stars every year that the guide has covered the SF Area. Having studied in France, Spain, Germany and Japan; Kinch incorporates a wide variety of influences into his contemporary ingredient-driven Californian cuisine. In addition to running Manresa, Kinch recently joined the French Culinary Institute as a dean of their school in Campbell where he will hopefully pass his ideas onto the next generation of up and coming chefs.

Shizuka - Hendrick's Gin / Tonic / Green Chartreuse V.E.P / Love Apple Cucumber / Love Apple Shiso / Aloe
Smoke Signals - Del Maguey Mezcal Vida / Luzardo Maraschino Liqueur / Tamarind Infusion / Lime
Santa Cruz - Osocalis Brandy / Lemon / Love Apple Farm Honey / Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blanc Brut Champagne
We arrived a bit early and were shown to a very contemporary bar area. Naturally I gravitated towards the one with cucumber, which turned out to be a riff on a G&T, not bad but the least interesting of the three. The second cocktail had predictable touches of petrol and smoke with a florid piquancy tempering the harsh edges. The Santa Cruz was my favorite of the three, subtly effervescent with a resonant citrus tang; think adult orange juice.

Petit fours "red pepper-black olive"
N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blanc Brut à Cremant
I don't believe this has changed at all since my visit nearly four years ago. The duo of classic sweet treats re-imagined with savory flavors to tantalize the palate. The Madeline was as delicious as I remembered warm and perfectly textured with an expansive butteriness tinged with the barest hint of olive. The pate de fruit still bears the vibrant flavor of red pepper overlayed with sweetness but the texture was much improved from my last trip. The wine pairing kicked off with a duo of sparklers that was supposed to last us through the amuses. The Roederer Estate is a bit more fruit forward with strawberry and lime notes while the Diebolt-Vallois has an aggressive effervescence and balance between fruit, mineral, and yeasty notes.

Garden beignets and crispy leaves
N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blanc Brut à Cremant
Lurking beneath the warm flaky exterior of the beignet was a medley of delights from the garden. The sheer variety of texture and flavor convey a humble rustic charm while the surrounding savory batter was reminiscent of a fried dumpling.

Local milk panna cotta with abalone
N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blanc Brut à Cremant
A raw milk panna cotta sounds a bit daunting, but it was actually very reminiscent of a mild yogurt but with a smoother slightly firmer texture and its tartness played well with the piquant savor of the dashi-like gelée. Bits of fresh Monterey abalone and breakfast radish add both a crunchy emphasis on the texture as well as darts of brine and bitterness. This dish was so complex and creative my companions and I wondered if the this signaled the start to the actual meal, but it was only our third amuse!

Sweet corn croquettes
N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blanc Brut à Cremant
After the previous course this feels almost too simplistic, but the dainty fritter with its sweet corn filling provided an uplifting playfulness.

Arpege farm egg
N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blanc Brut à Cremant
The cromesquis were the official end to our amuses however one came sans filling and with no replacements, they opted to give us all an extra amuse as an apology. Kinch named the dish for Alain Passard's L'Apèrge where he first learned the recipe. The combination of sherry vinegar, maple syrup, chives, and an egg yolk sounds a bit daunting but key is to get a bit of everything at once. The astringency of the sherry and sweetness of the maple dominate at first but then the while the egg yolk makes itself known, a seductive blanket of golden viscosity, that brings an even salinity to balance the dish.

Marinated oyster, seaweed and lemon ice
2009 FitaPreta Branca Portugal
2010 Tyrrelles Semion Hunter Valley Australia
I couldn't help but compare this to the Oysters and Pearls from the previous night. Where Keller's dish is grandiose and elegant, Kinch's is brash and ebullient. While the smoked oyster has more than enough going on to stand on its own, the bracing snowball of lemon and seaweed heightens and expands the bivalves natural brine. The bits of puffed rice might seem like an afterthought but that doesn't give sufficient credit to either their delightful crunch or toasty savor.

Bonito, lightly smoked with wild fennel, black tea
2010 Botani Moscatel Seco Malaga Spain
2008 Lackner-Tinnacher Gelber Grauburgunder Steinbach Austria
Unlike its more well known cousins, Bluefin and Yellowfin Tunas, Bonito has an abundance of flavor lingering under the surface just waiting to be awakened with a quick sear. The fish's smokey magnificence is further heightened by the tender eggplant and toasty sesame while the fragrance of fennel and tea color the fish with a gossamer elegance.

Into the vegetable garden
2010 Domain du Salvard Sauvignon Blanc Cheverny
2009 Ferrando Erbaluce di Caluso La Torrazza Piedmont
Kinch's signature "Into the vegetable garden" epitomizes his philosophy more clearly than any other course. The treasures on the plate come from Love Apple Farms, a bio-dynamic grower nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains 15 minutes from the restaurant, with whom Manresa has an exclusive partnership. With such a high-quality purveyor of fresh locally sourced ingredients, the vegetables display a complexity that belies their simple treatment. With such an array of textures and flavor it is hard to identify any dominant trait but the overall effect is sublime.

Saffron and shellfish broth with yarrow, sorrels...
2011 Château La Canorgue Rosé Luberon France
2011 Côte de Provence Domaine Ott Château de Sell Rosé
The shellfish broth was satisfyingly creamy with an arresting flavor of lobster coral and exotic spice that lingers on the palate. The soup comes with chunks of snappy lobster that add a concentrated shellfish sweetness to the broth.

A summer tidal pool
2009 COS Rami' 50% insolia and 50% grecanico Sicily Italy
2004 Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling Alsace
When the previous course was brought to the table, I asked after the tidal pool and though it wasn't an official part of the menu, our server was kind enough to add it to our tasting. A paleagic riff of the vegetable garden, this clear broth is imbued with the bounty of the sea. Featuring abalone, uni, and mussels in addition to seaweed the tidal pool radiates a satisfying umami essence while an undercurrent of citrus is felt as a satisfying tension on the tongue.

Sea bream, almond and orange, fennel jam
2010 Domain Mastracchi E Prove Blanc Vermentino Corsica
2009 Macon Village Le Heritiers Comte Lafon Burgundy
This was as good an example of cooked Tai that I've ever tasted. The skin is like a fine crystal while the flesh nearly falls apart at the merest touch. The almond, orange, and fennel are sweet but restrained enough to compliment the delicate flavor of the fish. A dollop of concentrated goma shio gives the dish a touch of Japanese mystique as well. The interaction between the food and wine really picked up with this course. The Vermentino in particular had a light funk and roundness on its own but the fish gives the wine a smokineses fits beautifully with the dish.

Roasted sweet breads, apricot soubise
2010 La Fenênetre Côte Anderson Creek Vineyard North Coast
2009 Olivier Jouan Pinot Noir Hautes-Côtes de Nuits Burgundy
Finally we get to the weighty part of the menu. I thought my sweetbread was a touch overcooked but both my companions' though theirs had the characteristic slickness. The savory sweet soubise heightens the chicken nugget sapor of the offal while the vegetables offer a keen counterpoint. I loved both the paired wines on their own but I thought the more robust Cali pinot worked better with the sweetbreads than the more delicate Burgundy.

Lamb and cucumber, blueberries with juniper
2007 Zuazo Gaston Tempranillo Crianza Rioja
2008 Captaz Malbec Mendoza Argentina
Our final savory of the night managed to deliver loads of flavor but still have that delicate feel that pervades the rest of the meal. The meat itself is meltingly soft on the tongue; the silky flesh dissolves leaving behind a game-tinged smoky savor that feels almost illusory. The juniper adds a poignant herbaceousness while the yogurt and cucumber feel classically suited to the lamb. The Malbec paired beautifully with the lamb; with touches of wild herbs, smoke, and fruit, everything on the plate has an analogue in the glass.

Garden tisane
In keeping with the ethereal feel of the meal, we were given a tisane; a delicate aromatic elixir of mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, chamomile, and hyssop to mark the transition from savory to sweet instead of the more traditional fromage. I immensely enjoyed the break afforded by the tisane and consider its addition a very evident sign of how much the restaurant has grown since my last trip.

Berries, anise hyssop, kefir and verjus sorbet
I recall my first dessert at Manresa felt a unfocused, by comparison this course unfolded much more deliberately. The strawberry has a pronounced jammy character that is tempered by the icy acidity of the kefir and verjus sorbet. The anise hyssop might have been a bit much on its own but the medicinal tinge works well with the bounty of fruit. Bits of floral pink peppercorn act as a final flourish on an already masterful dessert.

Milk and Chocolate
N.V. Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco Emilia Romagna Italy
2006 Chateau Les Justices Sauternes
Built around a decadent chocolate mousse and cocoa nibs, this dessert might have been too weighty were it not for the sweetness of the dulce de leche custard and the piquant zing of the buttermilk. The pervasive flavor of fresh mint provides yet another uplifting element to the chocolate. The combination lacks some of the cerebral finesse of the earlier dessert but the flavor is no less satisfying.

Apricot chamomille macaron
These treats were a nice touch; the simple attraction of fresh stone fruit couples nicely with the soothing floral quality of the chamomile.

Petit fours "strawberry-chocolate"
The meal ends much as it started with a Madeline and pate de fruit. The chocolate and strawberry duet is perhaps less unconventional than the red pepper and olive but the care that went into their creation is no less meticulous.

As good as my first visit to Manresa was, Kinch has really upped his game since then. The food has become even more polished and refined but still maintains the simple purity of flavor and ephemeral nature that I associate with Kinch's cooking. I had high expectations for Manresa, but this was the best meal of the entire trip by a wide margin. Manresa is one of the frontrunners for a third etoile in the next Michelin Guide, and based on this meal they certainly deserve it.


Anonymous said...

SO happy you had a great time at Manresa dude.

I've been lucky to try around half of the dishes you had and completely agree w your thoughts.

the milk panna cotta with abalone is one of my favorite Kinch's dishes.

man, we haven't shared a meal in a damn long time! if you're ever in Asia... do let me know :)

Epicuryan said...

It was awesome. Now I really wish I took your advice and went to Saison instead of Sawa Sushi.

We definitely need to meet up again. I'm sure I'll get around to visiting Asia eventually but it looks like you come here far more often. Let me know when you are in town or even in the vicinity, maybe I can revisit Saison with you.