Manresa Review - Dish by Dish with Pictures (very long)
If you plan to go to Manresa in the near future (within a month), I suggest you not to read it. Keep a little surprise to yourself =)
The bread and butter: they offered olive or sourdough. I am never a fan of sourdough myself, so I picked the olive. A very rich olive taste and aroma (I could smell strong olive the minute I entered the restaurant). The butter wasn’t as good as Bouchon or Hog Island Oyster Bar, it has a very mild flavor, that I could not really tasted it until it started to soften an hour later.
Amuse Bouche #1: Olive Madeleine: this little Madeleine was very powerful. I like the texture, crispy outside and a little chewy within.
Amuse Bouche #2: Citrus Cocktail: very refreshing. The grapefruit (I believe it was) was peeled nicely. Combined with bubbles on top, that makes a good match.
Amuse Bouche #3: Corn Croquette: surprisingly good. The filling was amazingly creamy and soft. Unlike the Japanese corn croquettes, the filling was more watery. It’s the best corn croquette I’ve ever tasted.
Amuse Bouche #4: Egg with Sherry Vinegar and Maple Syrup: everyone talks about this egg dish, Capriana and I had very high expectation on it. Previous postings were right, the egg was very creamy yet a bit overcooked. The yolk started congealing around the sides. Regardless, it tasted very good. The yolk, sherry vinegar, and maple syrup made a nice harmony with each other. Capriana asked how they removed the top of egg, one of the server explained the top was removed with mechanically with a device (we thought it was done by hands).
Foie Gras: the whole lobe duck foie gras was poached in milk to accomplish this heavenly dish. Texture similar to all seared foie gras at other restaurants, but does not have that seared coating. A very intense and full flavor. The accompanying beet and other condiments did not provide the expected sweetness and sourness complementing to the dish, yet the foie gras tasted too great even if it stands alone.
Tomato Salad: a new version of “salad”. I am very impressed that the chef jumped out of the frame and introduced this creation. Corn puree sits at the bottom, topped with half tomato and cucumber jelly, and basil oil; then garnished with Parmesan cheese flakes (like bonito flakes in Japanese dishes, I remember having it at West, Vancouver) and crispy Parmesan. The tomato was unbelievably sweet and juicy. The juice splashed out of Capriana’s mouth to my side of table (see pictures with spots on the tablecloth). We were told that the tomatoes were picked daily at their own organic farm in Felton.
Risotto with Monterey Spot Prawns: a very powerful dish, we could smell the aroma of prawn when it arrived at the table. It’s never easy to prepare spot prawns, as it will be dry and chewy when overcooked. Chef Kinch chose to prepare it medium well. Risotto was nicely prepared with prawn broth from the heads and shells. Decorated with a think layer of foam on top.
Sardine with Saffron Sauce: garnished with fennel. No surprises. The fish smells and tastes very comparable to the Japanese dish Saba-Shioyaki (grilled saba with salt). We thought it’s not very outstanding, so did the couple next to our table.
John Dory with Fennel and Corn Pudding: we were surprised to be served another fish dish. And yes, corn again. The fennel overpowered the dish, I had to leave that aside.
Guinea Game Hen with Mashed Yukon Potato: hen was remarkably juicy and tender, almost the best I had ever tasted. Just a little awkward when mashed potato was served. Again, topped with foam of some sort (can’t really call this foam, it’s very thin, should call this “bubbles” instead).
Lamb with Deep Fried Corn Meal and Eggplant: Lamb was roasted in its own juice, not surprisingly too good. To me, it’s just regular lamb, nothing very special. Lamb, corn meal, and eggplant did not complement with each other at all. The deep fried corn meal was too salty; the eggplant was too sour. With all those nice dishes up front, I was expecting to end my savory dinner with a more decent meat dish.
Fig Sorbet with Fig and Muscat Grapes: if this is designed to clean my pallets, I don’t think it serves its purpose. This is a very mild sorbet, I could hardly taste the sweetness. It wasn’t very smooth either, I could taste little ice within.
Buttermilk Beignets: Chef Kinch topped this dessert with a slice of peach and his signature foam again. The peach was lovely, guess it’s ripe on the tree. As for the beignet, I personally didn’t like it, had to pass mine to Capriana.
Chocolate Cake: my last hope to better desserts, yet I guess Manresa is not found of its pastries. At least, it’s the best among all. The toffee filling with peanuts tasted like Snickers to me. Chocolate mousse on top was fabulous, very smooth.
It was a very nice dinner at Manresa, if they can work harder on their pastries, it would have been prefect. The corn croquette, egg, foie gras, and spot prawns were excellent. I thank Chef Kinch for introducing new ideas to culinary, the tomato was remarkable. It was a very good experience at Manresa, and it’s awakened my interest to tasting menus again.
Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful report w/ photos. Chef Kinch seems to be having fun w/ foam and corn these days...Too bad the desserts were relatively weak for you. I can't say if they've had a recent turnover in pastry chef, but I'm under the impression that their pastry chef may rotate more frequently than most upscale places. Can anyone confirm?
Did your madeleine amuse not include any red pepper gelee/gumdrops? First time I've not seen them included and also noticed they didn't close the meal w/ the sweet counterparts of madeleine w/ strawberry gumdrops. Maybe that was getting too predictable?
What did you think of the wine pairings and how full were you at the end of the meal?
PS. Congrats on whatever you were celebrating (I assumed from the candle). I liked how the candle was "floating" on the plate.