Manresa (Los Gatos, CA) – Best in the Land
My long-time readers know that I hold Manresa in high regard (I think this is my 10th meal this year.) Michelin gave it 2 stars this fall but after all of my travels this year, the food is as accomplished as many 3-star restaurants. This is the best restaurant in the country right now. Their bio-dynamic garden is producing vegetables that are truly phenomenal.
Ironically, the Alice-Waters-derivative-restaurants focused on “ingredients” have nothing on Manresa. As their garden matures, and the restaurant better understands how to divvy up the plot of land, the food will attain official Michelin 3-star status. (My prediction? With the next release of Michelin’s SF guide.)
I may sound like a broken record hyping the hometown hero but the restaurant does it like few others. What other restaurant can serve such a large number of dishes with such consistency? What American restaurant comes close to delivering Arpege quality vegetables? What other American restaurant serves fish that is on par w/ the top-tier sushi restaurants in the country?
1. Petit Fours
2. Sweet Maine Shrimp Tempura
Very lightly battered, minimal grease, a touch of lemon – simple and perfect. Very Good.
3. Citrus & Jasmine Tea Gelee
Taste buds are better this week and the gelee gives the acidity a nice cool finish. Ideally, there would be more gelee but… Very Good.
4. Nantucket Bay Scallops w/ Truffles from Alba
The black truffle/scallop combo has already been proven and the white truffle gives it even more earthiness. Very Good.
5. Oyster in Urchin Jelly, Ficoide Glaciale
This is the sea. Very Good.
6. Autumn Croquettes
Foie and chestnut – Very Good.
7. Arpege Egg
Lucky me, this was the first egg from the farm! As I’ve said in earlier posts, the farm will pull Manresa so far ahead of its competition. This egg was far richer than my previous eggs – extremely sticky yolk that you could almost describe as cheesy in texture. The only eggs I could compare them to are the excellent eggs I had at Mugaritz last May. Excellent.
8. Mesquite-grilled Foie w/ Quince Consomme
The same great dish but this was elevated by the 88 Becker Spatlese we were drinking – the riesling picked up the mesquite flavor and really brought it to the forefront. Excellent.
9. Salad of Fluke Fin & Osetra Caviar w/ Shiso
Perfect fish, saltiness, with a touch of cool from the shiso. Excellent.
10. Amberjack Belly & Young Fern Leaves, Pine Bud Vinegar
More perfect fish w/ a touch of acidity. Excellent.
11. Just Shucked Scallops w/ Exotics Zests & Olive Oil
The scallops were presented in their shells – still moving. They were brought back as the dish. The quality was excellent – off the charts freshness – very tender. In fact, they were so good that I thought the exotic zests & olive oil got in the way this time. Still Excellent.
12. Garden Vegatables (more than 18 things in there)
As I said last week, best Manresa dish ever. If the garden takes Kinch along the vegetarian route ala Arpege, we won’t be in trouble. Beyond Excellent.
13. Marinated Sardines & Garden Kohlrabi
Pristine sardines – the kohlrabi may have been a touch overpowering. Very Good.
14. Monterey Bay Prawn
The most consistent Manresa product – the prawns are as good as eating seafood in Spain. Excellent.
15. Threadfish w/ Savoy Cabbage, both stems & leaves
Again, pristine fish, nice balance of flavors. Very Good.
16. Rustic Stew of Black Radish, Sunchoke, Turnip, & Prunes
And then we jump into the hearty portion of the meal. A little too much too fast but the vegetables were of very good quality. Good.
17. Manresa Merguez
Tasty spicy sausage w/ the orange zest giving it a nice kick. Very Good.
18. Beef Rib-eye w/ Carrots
Again, like last week, those carrots caught my eye – star of the dish for me. The beef was no slouch and Kinch joked the kitchen may stop cooking meat for me if I didn’t start appreciating it more Very tender, nice full flavor, but oh, those carrots. Very Good.
19. Cassis Sorbet w/ Citrus
Intense and bright. Very Good.
20. Tahitian Vanilla Souffle, Bitter Caramel
Not a souffle fan and this didn’t win me over. Ok.
21. Garnet Yam Ice Cream w/ Rum Raisins
Not a yam fan, but this was delicious. Very Good.
22. Parfait Rocky Road
Don’t really remember…
23. Petit Fours
And that concludes my last Manresa meal for 2006. The restaurant was one of my favorites last year but it has catapulted itself into the upper echelon of fine dining in the world. This restaurant is like a growth stock – next year will bring great returns too before the menu starts plateauing. And then, in 2008, it will be a great blue chip.
It’s been a great year for eating. Outside of Gagnaire & Michel Bras, I’d put Manresa up there w/ Arpege, Regis Marcon, Fat Duck, & Urasawa for my favorite meals of the year. Distinguished company indeed.
Here’s another recent review of Manresa: http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/2006/11/manresa-los-gatos-california.html