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Aug 13, 2008 11:22 AM

Manresa report

Finally made it to Manresa the other night. Our plan was to do the four-course but we ended up going for the tasting menu.

The revelation of the meal was "Into the vegetable garden ..." which was a type of dish I've never encountered before. It looked at first like a salad, but some parts were closer to a ragout, and there were some foams and who knows what else. I definitely want to go back to try this in different seasons. A blog entry from the chef on its evolution:

Other highlights were the Parmesan churros, the "classic version" of the corn and tomato salad (who knew that peeling tomatoes was worth the trouble?), and the vadouvan ("exotic spice"). Also the house-made bread, which is almost exactly like Tartine's, no coincidence as the baker used to work there. And the house-churned butter.

Unfortunately, after tasting 16+ dishes and I'm not sure how many wines (we got one each of the two pairings) over four hours, my memory of the meal is mostly a blur. I know everything was delicious. The only dish I thought was a little weak was the amberjack sashimi, since the accompanying fresh green coriander seeds (somewhat similar to caper berries) overpowered the very delicate fish, but it was great to get to taste those.

Among the wines, the Bordeaux-like 2005 Ahlgren Bates' Ranch Cabernet and the very Burgundian 2003 Miura Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir were standouts. I was also impressed by the pairing of a 15.9%-alcohol Sea Smoke Chardonnay with the sashimi, normally I find such high-alcohol wines bizarre and undrinkable but this combination brought out its sake-like qualities.

I'm looking forward to going back, but from now on I'm doing the four-course instead.

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    1. I think the chef's tasting menu is one of the best in the country - it is so well-thought out as well as an incredible experience.

      See here:

      4 Replies
      1. re: lizziee

        sounds wonderful. Manresa is on my list as my next "big ticket" meal. Do you think that as a first experience it's important to have the tasting menu or would the four-course meal suffice?

        1. re: pastryqueen

          Honestly, I think the chef's tasting menu is just so extraordinary that you would be missing something very unique. Chef Kinch just doesn't throw out a laundry list of dishes - it is a carefully composed menu.

          1. re: pastryqueen

            My meal was great and I don't regret having ordered it, but if I'd ordered the four-course I'd probably remember it all.

            Nothing specific to Manresa, but this meal confirmed that personally I prefer larger portions of five courses plus maybe an amuse and mignardises.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I totally agree, I had a similar experience at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago.

        2. Scanned menu (managed to get it halfway readable):

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Forgot the link again:

            Manresa Restaurant
            320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

          2. I had the tasting menu this past weekend and it was truly excellent. I think as Lizziee points out, chef Kinch really excels at creating a thought out menu from start to finish, with the playful amuse and mignardes that resemble each other. It would be a shame to come here and miss the full experience.

            The dirt in the "into the garden" dish adds an earthy element to the vegetables. A unique and signature dish.

            The lamb chop I had was perfection. I was tempted to ask for seconds.

            Service is gracious and not overly formal. A relaxing way to spend the evening.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Senor Popusa

              As discussed in that blog entry I linked to above, the "dirt" is made from roasted chicory and whatnot.

            2. I misremembered, it was the shellfish that had the green coriander seeds. The sashimi was perfect (which explains why it paired so nicely with the sake-like Chardonnay).