1st time to Manresa
I have a Bday this weekend, and will be going to Manresa Sunday evening for a splurge. DH forgot so we could only get an 8:30 seating. I'm thinking that may be too late in the evening to fully enjoy the tasting menu? (Boy do I sound like an old fart.) Not to mention the kitchen will probably not be thrilled. Any pointers for a 1st timer? Should we tell them its a birthday?
I went there a few months ago with my parents and BF for Mom's birthday. It truly was a great experience and, with just the regular four course meal, still lasted until midnight. The waitstaff is smart enough to know when to let diners linger over their dishes, as we did, and alert the kitchen to our slow pace. I have to say that the timing and level of overall service was far beyond anything the BF and I have experienced here in LA.
I ordered all seafood for some reason, and each dish was delicious, especially the sherry egg. Mom and Dad had each ordered a first course containing egg, and the kitchen was wise enough to send out a citrus salad shot for their amuse, rather than the sherry egg that the BF and I received. The dessert was lovely--all chocolate, with the exception of my cheese-loving dad's course, of course.
Mom did indeed get a candle in her cake, as well as a birthday card signed by the entire staff upon seating. It was a great dinner, and one that we all talk about still.
Happy birthday and enjoy!
I went to Manresa as a birthday celebration last Saturday and it was everything I'd hoped for: a level of culinary artistry I haven't seen in the handful of similarly pricey places I've been in San Francisco. We had the tasting menu, and the pacing and portioning was great, with better balance than we've seen in other tasting menus. The dinner was a reasonable 2 1/2 hours and we walked out feeling sated but not stuffed.
The amuse-bouches were the stars: the savory petits fours, a fresh sea urchin and oyster paired in a shell with a jelly of their juices, a large sugar-cube-sized vegetable croquette , and the signature egg everyone describes.
The main savory tastings comprised a series of seven highly focused dishes, more than half seafood. The highlights were the abalone over a soft-poached egg, the trio of pig (roast suckling pig, boudin noir, and terrine), and the roast lamb (with lamb stew, carrot puree, and indian spices and sauce). The full lamb roast was nicely presented around the room in the middle of the tasting, so we were particularly looking forward to it.
The desserts were all pretty and refreshing, but my notes aren't in arms reach at the moment.
I had the wine pairing, which was as adventuresome as the food to the point where some of the choices (particularly a wine from Corsica and one from Slovenia) had me guessing what the course was that they would pair with. The pairings were so appropriate throughout that it made for a fun game to guess. The pours were tasting-sized (around 3oz) and came out as soon as the previous course was taken away, so I generally nursed them but went through the excellent Santa Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon paired with the lamb that I got a refill. I didn't ask, but it seemed like more refills would have been forthcoming earlier in the evening.
The service was superb. However, while reservations are spaced out intentionally so the dining room was hardly ever much more than half full, it did seem that the more senior staff had more time for us in the first hour (until 7pm). After some interesting exchanges with the sommelier about the pairings, the contrast was noticeable when another staff member poured my tastes of the middle few wines.
I'd be interested to go back and try the four-course menu at some point.
The last time I did the tasting menu (about a month ago), I started at 6:00 and left just after midnight...
You can probably do the tasting menu at 8:00, but it might be every so slightly abbreviated (not that you would necessarily know). My six-hour endeavor was almost too much and I would have been just as happy with half the amount of courses I was served.
My current favorites are the rabbit and everything that was fresh from the garden. Were I to go back, I might actually ask for a vegetarian meal just to eat what is produced from the garden!
"Would the kitchen actually put less effort into a tasting menu that ran too late into the night?"
No. The tasting menu at Manresa is very important and you'll get the same food regardless of when you start. The French Laundry has 9:30 seatings for their tasting menu. Restaurants at this level are not going to vary on quality. Now how you are going to feel about driving home at midnight, might be another matter.
Just thought I'd give a followup to my trip to Manresa yesterday:
My feeling on a restaurant of the caliber and reputation of Manresa can only be appropriately compared with its peers. That being said, while Manresa was a great (and very expensive) experience, it didn't quite live up to its billing.
We had the tasting menu at Manresa: 4 amuses, 7 courses, 4 desserts. Everything was very well done - David Kinch uses lots of interesting salts and sweet/savory combinations to give you unique tastes. I had a few "wow this is good" moments - the slow cooked sherry egg, salmon in its own roe, abalone - along with a few "this is weird" moments, but I appreciate the creativity of the chef. My girlfriend particularly enjoyed a Japanese snapper dish and a lamb dish. However, we were disappointed in the foie gras (felt undercooked) and the ox-tail ravioli (I've been spoiled by pasta). Overall though, mostly "hits" and only a few "misses."
I had hoped we'd see some more items fresh from their garden, given the prime season for many veggies - but none were featured on a course. The ones that were accompaniments were very good, though.
While Manresa generally executed very well on all its dishes, I was not overall wowed to the extent that many others seem to have been (and perhaps I feel like I should have been). The service was good, but didn't feel quite to the level of other top tier restaurants. Still though, Manresa is worth a trip, especially for special occasions.
Tell them it's a birthday, they'll bring your dessert out with a candle if you'd like.
The tasting menu is 3.5-4.5 hours but my first time there, I ordered a la carte (you'll still get the amazing sherry egg) because I also had a 8:30 seating (meal still took 3 hours). The suckling pig is winner. If they have lamb, order it. It's very mild flavored and delicious.
A la carte experience:
Recent tasting experience: