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Manka's

r
Robert Lauriston Aug 12, 2004 11:23 AM

Finally got to Manka's, which I've been hearing about for years, last Sunday, and had a great meal ($58 prix fixe):

- amuse bouche of chopped liver on a warm crouton with a wedge of crabapple jelly

- salad of seared albacore, salt-cured black olives, and baby romaine

- rabbit meatballs in thin vegetable soup with raw baby dandelion greens

- warm tomatoes and baby green beans with salt cod puree and basil custard

- pulled pork, grilled tenderloin, and house-smoked belly with roasted new potatoes

- fresh goat cheese with roasted figs and huckleberry sauce

- meyer lemon cake with sliced peaches

- flourless chocolate cake with raspberry ice

Portions were generous, overall good value for the money. Excellent wine pairings, particularly the Durban muscat Beaume de Venise with the chopped liver and a Thackrey Pleiades with the pork.

The wine list is almost entirely California, dominated by $125-250 cult wines (Turley, Sine Qua Non, Duckhorn, Williams Selyem, Peter Michael, etc.) but there are some good bottles in the $30-40 range. No spirits; if I go again I'll bring some armagnac or calvados, it's definitely the kind of rich meal that calls for a digestif.

The room and setting are lovely but I could have done without the Enya-ish music and twee menu copy (e.g. "A Soup Fashioned from the Bounty of Coastal Gardens Dotted with Wee Balls of Local Bunny Draped with Bolinas Baby Dandelion Greens").

  1. w
    wedgeheadjunkie Aug 12, 2004 12:55 PM

    Thanks for the nice review. Glad to hear Ms. Grade's operation is still going strong. Is she still in charge of the place? How about Louis the big Dog? Is he still around? In addition to the woodsy feel and the Arts & Crafts furnishings, I thought he was one of the best ambassadors of goodwill and certainly one of the best features the place has to offer. Was the place crowded on a Sunday?

    When we were there last year (our third visit), we paid something like $95 per person for a meal that featured venison and were disappointed at its very undercooked nature -- despite two repeated attempts to cook to our order. The entire feast took almost 3 hours to complete. Also, we found service to be luke-warm/tepid at best. Hopefully, that was not the case during your visit? Please elaborate. Thanks!

    3 Replies
    1. re: wedgeheadjunkie
      r
      Robert Lauriston Aug 12, 2004 01:36 PM

      Margaret Grade's still there. Didn't see a dog. Service was professional. Both the dining room and the accommodations were fully booked.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        j
        jennifer Aug 16, 2004 01:43 PM

        Margaret Grade is an immensely talented cook, visionary and forager. She and her partner, Daniel Delong ( I think I have butchered the spelling of both names) have been cooking together at Mankas for a few years now and I had the best meal of my life there, two months ago.
        She is meticulous about finding local ingredients and her menus have always been written in her own, clever, funny and whacky way. If you find it weird or odd, you don't "get" Margaret.
        She is still running the whole place and unfortunately the dog died, I think just this past year.
        You can eat there without staying at the inn and the beauty of the 4pm Sunday Supper is that it is a terrific value and you can still drive home if you aren't staying in the area.

        1. re: jennifer
          w
          wedgeheadjunkie Aug 16, 2004 04:53 PM

          Thanks for the follow-up. Sorry to hear about Louis the dog -- I still remember seeing him ambling down the large driveway to greet us (and most other diners) before we even got out of our car as we drove up on our first visit over three years ago. He even followed us into the waiting area up the main steps.

          During dinner, he was free to roam from table to table, gently rubbing himself against willing diners. He was quite the goodwill ambassador and will be missed.

    2. s
      sailorbuoys Aug 12, 2004 01:26 PM

      Robert, do you need to be staying at the Inn?

      1 Reply
      1. re: sailorbuoys
        r
        Robert Lauriston Aug 12, 2004 01:38 PM

        You don't have to stay at the inn to eat dinner there, but apparently it's harder to get a reservation. Sunday dinner's early, 4pm, so one could have plenty of time to sober up and drive home.

      2. p
        Paul H Aug 12, 2004 02:13 PM

        "A Soup Fashioned from the Bounty of Coastal Gardens Dotted with Wee Balls of Local Bunny Draped with Bolinas Baby Dandelion Greens"

        Ugh. For a moment I thought you must be making this up, but then I figured you weren't capable of such. I know I'm not.

        Where is this place?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Paul H
          r
          Robert Lauriston Aug 12, 2004 02:27 PM

          Inverness. The full name is Manka's Inverness Lodge.

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