I have heard about Manresa and its Chef-Proprietor David Kinch for the past several years from the food media and it’s been placed on my list of restaurants I must eat since then. (Within the past 6 months, Manresa was earned a 2* Michelin rating and a spot within The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.) With the timing of my then graduation from my Master’s program and my dad’s birthday, it’s just one of those very good reasons not to pass up this opportunity to celebrate and dine at Manresa.
(I wrote back on my post this earlier week about Love Apple Farms to see and possibly understand how it plays an integral part to Manresa’s cuisine before our chef’s tasting menu dinner.)
Driving to Los Gatos from Love Apple Farms, we’re slightly amused that the town that Manresa is located vaguely looks like the Southamptons in Long Island, NY – small town feeling with local shops but upscale.
When walking up to Manresa, the patio is rustically natural and pretty, basking in the warm sunset. We were greeted by the hostess and our head waiter of the evening when we stepped in. They were somewhat surprised/in awe that we journeyed from New York, staying in San Francisco and drove down to Love Apple Farms and here at Manresa for dinner. And not look like a mess after visiting the farm.
We were escorted to our table and there was a single envelope with a “Happy Birthday” printed and it did contained a signed card of Chef Kinch and his head staff’s signatures. How sweet.
Overall, this meal was very good and interesting, especially how it frames and highlights Love Apple Farms’ products. The cuisine is very French but Chef Kinch added Japanese flavors and modern cooking techniques making it light, flavorful and different than what I’ve eaten. Service was very professional and every detail was attended to. (We even had dinner the second time around (the prix fixe), as you’ll see on my other photo set.)
Since I don’t want to bore you with the minute details of the meal, I’ll give you the highlights:
First and second amuses: Black olive madelines and roasted red pepper pâtes de fruit and Coriander ice, fig leaf, strawberry, cardamom, Marcona almond with strawberry gazpacho flavored with coriander blossom
The second amuse we were served Coriander ice, fig leaf, strawberry, cardamom, Marcona almond with strawberry gazpacho flavored with coriander blossom was very intriguing. Cold, brittle shards of herbaceous, gently spiced, coriander ice with the cool, thick, sweet strawberry gazpacho made me pause to think about these unusual collision of flavors in my mouth. It’s delicious and I would have never thought of pairing coriander with strawberries.
The third amuse of foie gras royale, garden veloute, summer white truffles was divine. A thick, velvety custard of foie gras and a small fluffy mound of musky white truffle shavings was a heavenly combination. (I am aware that California started its foie gras ban earlier this month and most likely Chef Kinch removed it from his menus.)
The fourth amuse of local milk panna cotta, Monterey Bay abalone, breakfast radish, braised abalone, abalone gelée with yuzu was divine. Rich but not dense and it hits it on the nail on the unique, briny abalone flavor with intensity.
Kinch’s third course “Into the Spring Garden” vividly reminded me of the carrots and various vegetables I’ve nibbled on a few hours earlier at Love Apple Farms. I know there’s a lot more work than just Chef Kinch and his team to wash, dry, and slice a couple of vegetables, sprinkle some ground almond-oat mixture to mimic soil, and set it on a plate but it almost literally tasted like I am eating the produce at Love Apple Farms’ but in an upscale, fine dining setting.
The fourth course of Mediterranean-style fish soup, saffron broth, lobster, squash blossom, sorrel was one of the best seafood soups I’ve ever eaten. The soup was luxuriously rich and intensely sweet of lobster and saffron flavors. The super tender large lobster claw meat made it too easy to be enamored of this bowl of soup.
The garden herb tisane of mint, lemon balm, chamomile, and lemon verbena, was served in between the savory and dessert courses was the a very refreshing hot cup of herb tea. Perfect for this chilly Bay Area evening, as we were approaching close to 10 PM.
Of the two desserts we had, I did love the first one more. The cool, clean, sweet, refreshing combination of cucumber, strawberries with a hint of almond milk was unexpected and it was delicious. The crisp ribbon of strawberry on top added a textural contrast that I was seeking.
The birthday cake was pure, unabashed chocolate decadence. Even though it’s very chocolate-y, the chocolate mousse doesn’t weigh you down and the small two or three-bite portion was the perfect size.
When we’re served mignardes, the one particular item that stuck out on my mind the most were the addictive chocolate lovage macarons. Lovage tastes vaguely minty in this French meringue cookie. Even though if you taste that plant’s leaf solo, it’s kind of like a celery. Beyond the delicious flavors, the cookie was perfect and same applies to the filling ratio.
By the time we paid our check, the most unusual thing to note is that all female diners leave with a take home bag of pistachio shortbread cookies. The pistachio shortbread cookies were great to snack on the next morning for breakfast. Buttery, not too sweet, and it’s loaded with pistachios.
To view more of my photos of this meal and the restaurant, please scroll through the slideshow below (or click through my Flickr set):