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Jul 24, 2008 10:45 AM

Manresa vs. Chez TJ?

I will be in CA for a week, and I have reservations at both for dinner on my last night, so which should I choose? I know Chez TJ is a little more inexpensive, but how do the food and atmosphere compare to Manresa? And does either seem more conducive to solo dining? From what I've read, I think Manresa is more of a favorite among CHers, but Chez TJ did have a good number of proponents. Care to voice in on the topic? Thanks.

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  1. Highly recommend Manresa. One of my best meals ever.

    1. I'd also go with Manresa. I don't think any other place is doing the same stuff right now. Might be the best place on the West Coast. Service and atmosphere isn't on par with other places (very California and casual) but the food is beyond.

      The tasting menu is $140 and the regular menu is $90..but it's worth it. Order a local California wine and the price for the complete meal won't be so bad.

      1. I would also recommend Manresa, but I haven't been to TJ's in a long time.

        1. Best meal I've had was at Manresa.

          1. Manresa is by far the superior choice. David Kinch is really doing some amazing things. I have been there as a solo diner and they were quite gracious.

            Chris Kostow, the chef who won acclaim at Chez TJ is now chef at Meadowood, in wine country.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Senor Popusa

              I absolutely agree that Manresa is a must. Notes from our July 23 dinner that Chef Kinch labeled The Summer Garden.

              Bottom line at the beginning - Chef Kinch outdid himself – what a wonderful meal.

              We started the meal outside, in the beautiful garden - the air was balmy - the setting gorgeous.

              Petit Fours “red pepper-black olive” This is a visual pun - the madeleine style amuse is actually black olive and the red "gum drop" red pepper

              Lavender lemonade, mint – very refreshing and a wonderful start.

              Parmesan Churros – one of our first meals at Manresa included the churros and it was super to revisit an old favorite.

              Aji and seaweed ice, lemony herbs – I love aji, but the combination with the ice was masterful – all I needed was a seashell to hold to my ear and listen to the ocean.

              Sweet corn croquettes (cromesquis) – insert croquette in your mouth and in one bite the liquid summer corn explodes in your mouth.

              Courgette (zucchini) sorbet, pistachio vinaigrette, garnished with Orache, a member of the spinach family – another refreshing, light, summery palate pleaser

              Farm fresh peaches in argan oil, prime filet of beef (Bresaola) cured in house, thinly sliced – another wonderful combination whispering summer

              Golden beggar’s purses filled with wild char roe and a quail egg – I really messed up on eating this dish. I forgot that I had to pop the entire purse in my mouth. Unfortunately, I lost some of my roe on the table – no problem, just picked them up with my fingers and ate every single one.

              Hand-churned salted butter with house-made bread that took several months to perfect

              Marinated shellfish and golden raspberries, fragrant green curry oil and just for me Iranian caviar – Again, what is striking to me about Chef Kinch's cuisine is the juxtaposition of ingredients – shellfish (didn’t have time to write everything down), raspberries and green curry – we were on a world-wide tour in one meal.

              Pumpkin veloute “petit rouge’, ripe figs. First the bowl was served with the figs and the fig leaf ice cream. The roasted petit rouge pumpkin veloute was poured on top. I wasn’t aware there was a summer pumpkin and there is just no way to describe how delicious this was.

              Vegetables with exotic spice spice, flowering coriander – Dana, our wonderful server, is extremely patient with me – I ask numerous questions and no matter how backed up she is, she always slows down so I can quickly write her descriptions. Basically the vegetables were garden roots – beets, Thumbelina carrots, baby carrots, green garlic, baby leeks in an Indian spice

              Into the vegetable garden – Chef Kinch called this menu the summer garden and essentially this is what this dish was – the freshest and just picked vegetables from the garden – the major seasoning being the jus from the vegetables.

              Monterey Bay Abalone with garden basils and courgettes, slow egg – every time Chef Kinch pairs a dish with this miraculous slow cooked egg, I am in heaven.

              Kokotxas in a young garlic bouillon witth New Zealand spinach. Dana explained these were salt cod cheeks or Cod Jowls.

              Wood pigeon roasted in salt, morels, braised chard and morellos cherries with the pits (Dana warned us in advance) – absolutely perfect

              Roast Sonoma lamb from Dave Watkins with garden vegetable roots, exotic spice, natural jus

              Blackberries and bitter chocolate, caramel popcorn croustillant

              Sheep’s milk yogurt mousse with nectarine, coriander

              Olive Oil ice cream with sea salt, carnaroli rice with plum

              Petit fours “strawberry-chocolate”

              As always this was a wonderful meal. What I found most interesting is the evolution of Chef Kinch's cuisine – it had many global influences, but always with a firm restraint, an insistence on the quality of the ingredients and a true commitment to seasonality.

              Photos here: