The meal to end all meals, I had the culinary experience of a lifetime at Manresa. Oh, the endorphins! A non-stop rush of gastronomic happiness that lasted course, after course, after course – only to peak at the end with an invitation into the kitchen. I was in HEAVEN!
Nestled in the quaint village area of Los Gatos (about an hour south of San Francisco) Manresa is the home of Chef David Kinch, the recently awarded Best Chefs in America for the Pacific region from the James Beard Foundation. An award that is most certainly deserved, and I have the pictures below to prove it!
In addition hosting such an amazing and gifted chef, Manresa also boasts a proud partnership with the nearby Love Apple Farm. Any given plate on any given day will reflect only the best of what the garden has to offer – the freshest most vibrant produce and herbs. If there was anywhere to go in search of the perfect preparation of fruits, vegetables, and herbs harvested at their peak, one would most certainly be led to Manresa. Did I mention I was in heaven?
Enough chatter. Let us begin…
We had a beautiful seat next to the back patio window, so I had some light to help with pictures. Foodie friend Brian was a little bummed to be away from the main dining room as there weren’t as many dishes to ogle on the way to other tables. Wouldn’t have expected anything less from the ultimate gastronome!
Petit fours – Black olive madeleine and red pepper gelées
Oh the butter in the madeleines! A perfect bit of a crusty outer shell with a rich and warm center. The accompanying gelées had a soft but distinctive red pepper taste.
Strawberry gazpacho with a marcona almond
A wonderful savory take on strawberry. So light and refreshing but perfectly satisfying with a touch of salty goodness floating on the top.
Mustard ice and carrot
A gorgeous mix here. The mustard ice was lighter than I had anticipated, but I think it was really there to boost the carrot to new heights. I’m a bit of a carrot snob lately, only buying the smaller ones with tops still on because they actually taste like carrots. (What a novel idea!) This carrot concoction showcased how a carrot should truly taste, and it was a beautiful thing.
Arpege farm egg with sherry vinaigrette and maple syrup
An homage to Alain Passard’s L’Arpège in Paris, the flavors that were packed into this tiny eggshell were indescribably brilliant. The richly golden egg yolk, with the perfectly salty and acidic vinaigrette, and that touch of sweetness from the maple syrup was truly a work of art. I could have had a dozen, easily.
House mackerel in flowering coriander ice with green strawberries
An in your face burst of coriander. A lovely taste and texture contrast to the mackerel, which was served sashimi-style.
Summer squash shoots and soft shell crab in bonito butter with toasted seeds
There’s no way I could possibly pick a favorite course, but this one was definitely one of the highlights. I could have bathed in the bonito butter. There was so much flavor and depth in the butter that once it was paired with the beautifully crisp soft shell crab and the squash the entire dish became a wondrous symphony of flavors with a richness that wasn’t overpowering, but perfectly suited for every element on the plate.
Into the vegetable garden…
Okay, I’m not picking a favorite but the signature dish of Manresa did not disappoint; in fact it was heavenly, and the perfect dish to follow the crab before it. A playground of different textures and tempatures, each vegetable is individually braised, and their juices fused to created the dewy foam. The quinoa “dirt” was a wonderful touch to add the perfect bit of crunch. All in all, a beautiful tribute to the garden.
Atlantic cod and carrots in exotic spice, coriander
The rich aromatic spices coming from this dish made my mouth water before it even hit the table. Perfectly cooked cod with a spice that reminded me of my dad’s Chinese black bean sauce. Once again the carrot was a gorgeous addition.
Monterey bay abalone with smoked lentils and porcinis
My first abalone dish and I was in love. The texture was perfectly chewy, and the broth with the porcinis was light but still with a deep smoky taste.
Suckling porcelet and green shallots with celtuce
A very nice dish, but not quite as melt-in-your mouth fatty as I had expected. The boudin blanc with the celtuce (tasted to me of asparagus and celery) was my favorite part. Oh yeah, and the crackle on the top of the porcelet.
Young lamb with nasturtium pesto and pine nut pudding
A wonderful way to end the savory courses, this dish was magical. So tender and flowing of natural juices the two preparations were really all about showcasing the natural flavors of the lamb. I swear the radishes were poached in butter, oh they were so good.
We couldn’t decide whether or not we should do the cheese course, but oh how happy am I that we did. I’ll forever add it if only just to see the cheese cart wheeled tableside. Really though, it really was a great way to transition from the savory courses to dessert. I didn’t note which we selected, but they were all terrific, one was even served on a spoon, scooped right out of a wheel. (The apple compote was heavenly.)
Cherry tapioca and nasturtium ice cream with citrus granite
Talk about a citrus smack in the face! The granite was incredibly tart, but it packed with all the reasons why I am a citrus junkie. With the perfect texture of the tapioca and the rich nasturtium ice cream it was an inventive journey in tastes and textures that I’ve never had in a dessert.
Black pepper tuile with roasted strawberries and buttermilk ice cream
Where have roasted strawberries been all my life? So, so sweet with a wonderful chewy-but-not-sticky texture. The sweetness was perfectly balanced by the tart buttermilk ice cream and fresh raspberries. The hint of black pepper from the perfectly crisp tuile was a welcomed addition as well.
Petit fours – chocolate madeleine and strawberry gelées
A bit of deja vu at first, but this sweet take on the savory amuse was wonderful. Still can’t get the buttery taste of the madeleine off my mind. So clever!
A rich and decadent pad from a chocolate terrine. It had all of the best qualities of a homemade cake batter, but the usual grit found in batter was happily missing here, and instead replaced with a silky-smooth texture.
I tried to keep myself under control, but I really couldn’t help but gush as each course made its way to our table. After a few gasps and a lot of making out with each dish, we were invited into the kitchen. I can’t tell you the elation, but also the nerves I felt at the thought of seeing Chef Kinch at work.
The wonderful Esteban and our server Amanda escorted us back after our meal, and at the height of dinner service I realized just how generous the invitation was. Not frantic or crazy, but with purpose and focus, the kitchen was beautifully organized but also blistering hot! I bowed a quick hello and thank you and suddenly noticed Chef Kinch coming forward to say hello. Oh, I was dying! He was so lovely and generous and took a quick moment to say hello and pose for a picture. It was all a bit of a blur, but I gushed a quick thank you and a sawasdee kah to my favorite food blogger (and his sweetheart) Pim and suddenly it was over just as it began. The most wonderful meal of my life had come to a close; but in true form I was already planning my next visit on the long ride home.
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