Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, California, was the meal of a lifetime, thus far at least. In 2005, Britain’s Restaurant magazine listed Manresa as one of the fifty best restaurants in the world. It’s easy to see why. Pots of growing herbs in the kitchen are easily seen and tasted. Impeccable but warm service delivered food that shows creativity and attention to detail that are rarely seen.
The meal began with a course of four amuses-bouches, starting with chef David Kinch‘s signature black olive Madeleines and a big red pepper gumdrop. (Yes, I know it’s a gelée, but it’s more fun to call it a big ol’ gumdrop.) The second treat was grapefruit in a rhubarb horchata foam. Next was the best thing of the evening, a sweet corn croquette filled with corn pudding. Taking the entire croquette in one bite allows the pudding to escape in a luxurious burst. Finally, we were treated to an arpege egg, an egg shell containing slow-cooked egg yolk, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, and chives. A perfect study in flavors that offset and compliment one another.
When it comes to the meal, honestly, I won’t even try to describe the dishes. Except for some minor editorials, I will let the dishes and wine pairings speak for themselves.
Twice-baked duck foie gras with assorted beets and apples
2004 Kiona, Late Harvest White Riesling, Yakima Valley
This was this Southern boy’s first experience with foie gras. The dish was superb. Creamy and rich with no hint of the gaminess that I expected. This dish makes me regret bans on foie gras. That is a ramble for another day, though. Even when we told Squirrelly, Jr. that it was liver, he didn’t care and just wanted a plate of his own.
Corn and tomato salad with a crouton, parmesan, and mint
Midnight Moon, Meibo Yowano Tsuki Sake, Junmai Ginjo
Japanese summer bass, sashimi style, aged ponzu and kaffir lime garden shiso
2004 Txomin Etxaniz, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Soft shell crab, green tomato and young ginger jam with ginger foam
2005 Benessere, Pinot Grigio, Napa Valley Carneros
John dory on the plancha with vegetables from Manresa’s Santa Cruz garden
2004 Michael Austin, Viognier, Borra Vineyard, Lodi
Guinea hen, agnolotti of snails and beef tendon
2004 Marenco, Dolcetto di Dogliani, Bric
Slow-roasted beef with green beans, braised onion, and mushroom
2003 Mas Grand Plagniol, Syrah, Costieres de Nimes
Warre’s Otima 10 Year Tawny Port
Plum sorbet with raspberry and kaffir lime
Apricot cobbler with sweet corn ice cream
Chocolate pave with rikola ice cream
Yes, rikola like the cough drop, but no medicine, just a soothing herbal blend that was the high point of the evening for charm and humor.
The meal ends with symmetry. Once again a Madeleine and a gumdrop are brought to the table. This time, though, the Madeleine is chocolate and the gumdrop is strawberry. A beautiful and sweet end to an amazing meal.
Adding to the wonder of the service was that Squirrely, Jr., wasn’t up for a full eight courses. Manresa waived their requirement that the entire table order the tasting menu and allowed Teh Boy to order a four course meal, the summer bass sashimi, the John dory, roast suckling pig and boudin noir with finn potato, scallion and apple, and beignets with stone-fruit jam. The kitchen timed the dishes perfectly so that Teh Boy’s dishes came out with every other one of our dishes. Enjoying his own sublime dishes and samples of ours, Teh Boy passed a blissful three hours with us. We have to assume that the beignets were sublime: Teh Boy wasn’t sharing those.
The Michelin guide defines a three star restaurant as “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. The Squirrel Squad defines a four acorn restaurant as an event you would have to be absolutely nuts to pass up an opportunity to enjoy. Well, the squad gives Manresa four acorns. I have no doubt when Michelin’s guide to the San Francisco area is published later this year, Manresa will have its well-earned three stars.
320 Village Lane
Los Gatos, California 95030