Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Manresa - Los Gatos - California

A Dining Epiphany

photograph picture manresa restaurant headed by chef David Kinch in los Gatos california

Stupid me. I let a whole year pass between the time I first met Chef David Kinch and a visit to his Manresa restaurant. But I was scared. That's my excuse. How would I manage to persuade my partner in crime to feast on over 15 courses, when he seldom chooses to have as many as two?

Ours was not an anonymous, professional-critic-like visit. I had bumped into David about eight hours earlier at the market and mentioned the fact that I hoped he already knew: "We're coming to yours for dinner tonight and I'm so excited", I blurted out in a manner that wasn't even the slightest bit cool.

When we arrived at 6pm, two beautiful, fat glasses of champagne were delivered to our table immediately, a perfect start to our evening, courtesy of David. We didn't even need to look at the menu. We had already decided on the tasting menu, mine with no restrictions and Fred's seafood free, with appropriate wine pairings to match.

What followed was an indulgent celebration of new experiences and astounding tastes, some familiar and some less so, that spanned no less than 19 courses. Don't expect me to describe each one, but do let me enthuse about some of the delicacies that passed my lips on that evening, the ones I will never forget: My first taste of intense abalone, which haunts my memory with the essence of the sea. David's take on the Arpege egg, so creamy, so unctuous, it defies any level-headed description. A bite-sized cube that explodes with warm chestnut and foie gras when you pop it in your mouth. A spoonful of tomato curd with aged balsalmic that left an aftertaste so bold I wanted the entire meal to stop in its tracks, for ever. Romanesco and foie gras royale with which David persuaded two haters of that particular green vegetable to eat their brocolli with gluttonous gusto. Stolen from Fred's plate, the best boudin noir I have ever tasted, bar none. One buttery, maitake mushroom ravioli I could happily have eaten six times over and a dessert that included the unexpected but successful matching of avocado, citrus and condensed milk. Huh? When did I ever agree to actually take pleasure in condensed milk?

The wine pairing taught me a lesson. Not only did it make me a little too tipsy by the end of the evening when David so graciously paid us a visit at our table (I hope I was coherent at that point), it plainly illustrated that I definitely prefer particular wines over others. Next time I would care less about which wine I ought to eat with which food, and simply stick with the wines I enjoy the most, like my current crush, Riesling for example.

Our meal at Manresa has changed us for ever. David Kinch has knocked the stuffing out of our fear of fine dining and made us brave. We will return, but hell if I'll wait another year for a repeat experience.

320 Village LN
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 354-4330
Manresa - Los Gatos - California


  • At 29/11/06 00:04, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sounds wonderful Sam

  • At 29/11/06 02:17, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    15 courses! Wow!

    Good job you didn't have to photo every course!!


  • At 29/11/06 04:20, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Je suis vachement jaloux!

  • At 29/11/06 06:46, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    I heart Riesling...extra sweet for me!! hehe j/k

  • At 29/11/06 08:37, Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said…

    Will you be ready to go again in January? :-)

  • At 29/11/06 11:04, Blogger Davina Baum said…

    That slow-cooked egg is one of the most amazing things I have ever put in my mouth.

  • At 29/11/06 14:25, Blogger Unknown said…

    I've been pining to go there for a while now. The closest experience I've had to place like Manresa is Mason's here in Sac, which from what I understand is like Taco Bell in comparison.

  • At 29/11/06 14:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    sounds great-i have heard so many nice reviews-i just never seem to get down there to try!!

  • At 29/11/06 16:09, Blogger Kaer Trouz said…

    I rarely if ever do a wine pairing menu. The wines in a tasting menu always must fall below a certain price point for the tasting menu to be fiscally successful and rarely are they methodically chosen to actually go with the dish; more often they just fill a vague criteria.
    I have always been the type of sommelier that has advocated drink what you love love what you drink. I like Chardonnay with steak, so shoot me.

  • At 29/11/06 16:15, Blogger shuna fish lydon said…

    Im hoping to cash in my $200 gift certificate from Menu of Hope at the beginning of '07. I'm on the tardy side, but you've reminded me it's never too late!

    And the kitchen is exceptional. Those cooks are getting quite an education from David.

  • At 29/11/06 17:48, Blogger Carter Lusher said…

    Ok, I've been thinking about going to Manresa for awhile, so this is going to make me go do it! Great post.

  • At 29/11/06 18:20, Blogger Catherine said…

    sounds like a wonderful experience. I like the idea of tiny tastes - would love to have a vegetarian tasting menu!

  • At 30/11/06 05:51, Blogger s'kat said…

    Now that's the kind of meal that makes everything worthwhile!

  • At 30/11/06 12:12, Blogger Thalia said…

    You're right, it's a superb experience (although I think you got the special 'friends' menu - we didn't get anything like 19 courses on our tasting menu!)

  • At 30/11/06 13:24, Blogger Sam said…

    thalia - the people next to us looked like they had the same menu - and the printed menu I was given was the 'menu of the day'
    some of the courses were very tiny, maybe ones you didn't count as a 'course', but they are all listed on the menu.

  • At 30/11/06 16:47, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    manresa is easily the best restaurant in the bay area right now (well, for the past year at least.)

    TFL has its supporters, and an additional star, but the food at manresa has soul.

    and while some SF'ers find the food too 'experimental', the dishes are usually a near-perfect expression of 1-3 flavors. it isn't minimalism ala Chez Panisse; but it is expressing the essence of an ingredient.

    i've eaten at a lot of restaurants in NY & France this year - Manresa is just behind THE BIG 2 - Gagnaire and Michel Bras. And it's probably the best restaurant in North America right now.

    - chuck

  • At 30/11/06 21:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love this sort of dining Sam. I hold off on drinking until the end of the meal so I can concentrate on the food. Then I order a really good glass of wine to make up for all the wine I didn't drink during the meal.


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