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On modifying a tasting menu: Manresa

After years I am finally heading to Manresa next week (hubby got a bonus for washing his hands. He's a surgeon. This should scare you : )).

Anyway, we have done tasting menus at TFL (twice), Chez TJ (twice), Meadowood, Cyrus and in France and each time I have enjoyed myself but I am almost universally meh about the red meat. I eat red meat, but for the most part it just doesn't do much for me. I would much rather have fish and vegetarian dishes.

I don't want to be a pain to the chef (already have an allergy), but I would love a perfectly cooked egg over the most expensive cut of beef. I know I am weird that way.

Would you ask for no red meat on a tasing menu or would you just leave it in the chef's hands? Experience at Manresa particularly applicable, but interested in the discussion at all Bay Area tasting menus.

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Manresa Restaurant
320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

Chez TJ
938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

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  1. I wouldn't ask for a specific dish at Manresa, and certainly not beef, since that's not something they often serve.

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    Manresa Restaurant
    320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

    1. You can definitely request no red meat -- you won't be the first or the last. Since you also have an allergy, I would suggest calling in advance and discussing both the allergy and the red meat issues with them.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Allergy is already noted. I know I can do it, but I am torn whether it would really defeat the purpose of a tasting menu. However, Manresa specific, if meat isn't their strong point and their beautiful garden is, maybe I would come out btter.

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        Manresa Restaurant
        320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

        1. re: jsaimd

          There's always some red meat on Manresa's tasting menus, it's just usually pork and lamb.

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          Manresa Restaurant
          320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

      2. If you don't want red meat just tell them. You're paying a lot and it's not an uncommon request.

        If you're getting the chef's tasting menu it's worth noting it's a non-listed menu, although they do a few items as standard or on a rotation...so you sorta have to say something upfront for allergies and stuff you don't like. I wouldn't feel bad, it's a 2-star place and paying on the top end.

        I had beef as part of the tasting menu. Aged NY strip with potatoes roasted in hay. It was good. Also had soft egg with sour cherry vinegar + maple. No harm in saying instead of red meat you'd love an egg unless it's already on there.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          Manresa's menu is structured so there is no red meat until the last savory, which typically does have red meat. The meat is usually two or three small slices on the side of a plate. For the full tasting menu you've already had an Arpege egg. "substituting" at that point means nothing - it's the structure of the meal.

          I think you should tell them, simply because Manresa does take pride in lots of new dishes and custom work. I don't know the effect it'll have on your menu, but that's part of the fun when you sit down to a 4 hour experience with no menu.

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          Manresa Restaurant
          320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

          1. re: bbulkow

            I was at Manresa recently, and after asking why we hadn't been served the famous Arpege egg which I enjoyed on the last trip and which the chef has become known for, our main server said "We quit doing that at the beginning of the year." I asked why I had seen it going out to other tables and the response was that they requested it when they reserved the table. The server also asked me if I had looked at the menu (?!), and I pointed out that the "seasonal and spontaneous" tasting menu is just a list of ingredients (including farm eggs), not dishes. The server went back to ask the kitchen if they could make me one and they did. However, our server brought up again at the end of the meal that if I wanted the egg again on a future visit, I needed to request it when I reserved. I didn't really appreciate feeling lectured after a meal that cost several hundred dollars and wasn't nearly as good as my previous visit (which was a top 5 meal of all time). So...definitely request the egg in advance if you want it.

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            Manresa Restaurant
            320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

            1. re: rlm

              Interesting! I thought I had one of the eggs this year. I also don't like being lectured, but I also appreciate that when you go in for the tasting menu, you get what the chef wants. That's the whole point of the chef's menu.

              1. re: bbulkow

                Does not sound like a lecture but a way of getting easy satisfaction in the future without putting extra pressure on the kitchen, but then I wasn't there to hear the tone of voice.

                Have either of you worked in starred kitchens putting out long complicated tasting menus?

        2. There's an element of surrender in ordering a tasting menu. One gives oneself up to the kitchen's choices, take what comes. If you're that concerned about what will be brought to the table, perhaps you should forego the tasting menu, and order from the regular menu.

          Having said that, I certainly think that if you have allergies, dietary restrictions, or preferences/aversions that are deal breakers, there's nothing wrong with alerting the restaurant--in advance of your visit.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Rapini

            Yes, Rapini, I understand how tasting menus work, having ordered them for years (Per Se, Babbo, Quince, Masa’s, Redd, Fleur de Lys, etc.). My advice was for the OP since most everyone assumes they will get the Arpege egg, as Chef Kinch has been known for it and so many articles and reviews mention it. Bbulkow posted in this thread: “For the full tasting menu you've already had an Arpege egg,” and I wanted to share what I had been told by the restaurant.

            Further, if you are saving up money, buying a plane ticket, and going to a destination restaurant, I don’t think it’s too outlandish to expect you’ll get a marquee item (nor should you be made to feel bad if you simply inquire about it). It would be like going to the French Laundry and seeing salmon cones going out to every table except yours and then being told “We quit doing those at the beginning of the year.” Well, no, clearly you didn’t quit doing them. Moreover, once you have communicated the information, you don’t need to bring it up again or it will come across like a lecture.

            Meals of the sort you are served at Manresa are out of reach for many Americans and still quite an outlay of cash and time even if you are in more fortunate circumstances. I can understand a chef not wanting to be painted into a corner, but if he’s tired of making the egg or they’re too time-intensive given the other things he wants to do then quit offering them to anyone so other diners aren’t sitting there with anticipation only to be disappointed. Or clearly list on your website and OpenTable page and have your reservations personnel communicate that the chef’s most well-known item should be requested in advance. Not everyone is a local in-the-know, and not everyone has the opportunity to eat meals like this often.

            Even though I was over-all quite disappointed with the experience compared to my first trip, some highlights I will mention are the lovely salt caramels and cookies we were given at the end of the meal, the excellent house-made breads, the fact that they now have a small lounge with well-made cocktails, and the presence of a cheese cart.

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            Manresa Restaurant
            320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

            The French Laundry
            6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

            Masa's Restaurant
            648 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

          2. I called Manresa to confirm my allergy alert and let them know that I wasn't a huge fan of red meat, prefer fish or vegetarian, but will eat it if the chef feels it is an important part of the menu. I figured if I were a chef I would probably want to know assuming the patron was fairly open about what else to put in its place. ACtually, looking at others' experience I think my husband that doesn't eat anything that swims or otherwise water dwelling will have the most different menu.

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            Manresa Restaurant
            320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030