Manresa (Los Gatos, CA) – Near Perfection Yet Again

Last week, Oteich, Oren, and I went to Manresa. The Teichs liked it on their past visits but they didn’t quite understand my unbridled enthusiasm. Phoned the chef, put in my requests, and we were off.

Of course, as luck would have it, I came down w/ a vicious flu bug that day. I couldn’t finish the meal (3 courses were left out) and I didn’t eat a real meal til last night @ Morimoto (a week later.) It did detract from my complete enjoyment of the meal but the meal was still stellar.

The first half of the meal was about as good as dining gets. Period. Nearly every dish was flawless and exceptional – met w/ surprise, grins, and proclamations of greatness. (And this is a very tough crowd )

The latter half was equally good but far more challenging. The meal was definitely tailored towards my tastes (which veer towards the raw) when i should have asked for more cooked dishes. Next time i’ll get it right for the Teichs and they’ll love every last dish

New Exciting Stuff
1. Needle fish w/ pancetta & shiso
This was a sheer burst of flavor – Kinch showing off some excellent frying skills. The pancetta gave the dish a nice serving of saltiness with the shiso giving it a good kick at the end. The frying was nearly at the level of Masa – which is the ultimate praise.

2. Oyster & Urchin w/ meyer lemon jelly
3 people who dislike oysters – 3 people who sucked them out of the shell and wanted more. The lemon was faint, if memory serves me correctly, augmenting the fresh taste of sea w/ that extra bit of brightness.

3. Mesquite Grilled Foie Gras, Calamondin Caramel
Wow! The foie had an incredible smokiness throughout that just permeated & coated your entire mouth. Exceptional quality, creamy, perfect.

4. Carpaccio of Sweet Maine Shrimp w/ just-pressed Olive Oil
The shrimp were very rich & buttery and the, rather strong, olive oil cut right through it. The olive oil was intense.

5. Shellfish & Dried Sardine Broth
A potpurri of shellfish (geoduck, giant clam, squid, & sea breem) resting in the sardine broth. the broth was very subtle – an essence of sardine just a touch on the saltier side – just enough flavor for the shellfish.

6. Fresh Spot Prawns & Parsley root
Just a near perfectly cooked prawn – just a touch raw in the inside and golden on the outside. This was approaching the quality of the magical shrimp from Urasawa (again, the ultimate compliment.)

7. Vietnamese Lobster with its roe & caviar
Barely cooked in its own fat – very sweet, very rich – the saltiness of the caviar was a great equalizer for the richness of the fat sauce.

8. Uni w/ Fino Sherry
This wasn’t as good as previous Uni dishes. Served in its own shell, this one just too bitter from the sherry. the sherry & “sea” tastes didn’t go together for me. Bring back the original Uni in its shell i had w/ the Thai-influenced sauce.

9. Warm Escabeche of Mackeral w/ Grapefruit
Dont’ remember much except for the acids of the grapefruit cutting through the fish fattiness.

10. Salt Cod Confit w/ Saffron & Parmesan Risotto
Very very salty; the cod was salt made fish – a bit too strong. The risotto was good on its own but the parmesan made it a tad too salty considering the saltiness of the cod. Interesting – i’d like to see variations on this dish.

The Complete Affair:
1. Petit fours
2. Urchin shooter – very good
3. Fried brioche & Prawn Roe – one of my favorite manresa dishes – must try
4. Fatty Bluefin Belly – excellent
5. Needle fish w/ pancetta & shiso – excellent
6. Foie Gras Croquettes – excellent, the best flavor yet
7. Oyster & Urching w/ Meyer Lemon Jelly – excellent
8. Arpege egg – excellent as always

9. Mesquite grilled Foie Gras – excellent
10. Carpaccio of sweet main shrimp & olive oil – pretty good
11. Shellfish & Sardine broth – pretty good
12. Spot Prawns & parsley root – excellent
13. Vietnames lobster w/ roe & caviar – pretty good
14. Uni w/ Sherry – not good
15. Escabeche of mackerel w/ grapefruit – good
16. Salt cod confit w/ parmesan rice – interesting
17. Farm poulade & matzoh w/ black truffle – too full

18. Gratin California Citrus – excellent
19. Saffron Panna Cotta w/ sour cherries – too full, good, oteich *loved* it

Overall, hard to find a more consistent dining experience operating at this level. The first 12 dishes were phenomenol; after that, the table became more divided w/ each dish. I liked the meal more than the Teichs but i know how to adjust the meal to make it sing for them – reduce the number of courses to 16 or so and replace the rawer shellfish w/ some cooked dishes.

Olivia has written her review of the meal with beautiful photos.

- chuck