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.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Sweet Maine Shrimp Tempura

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.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Citrus & Jasmine Tea Gelee

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.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Nantucket Bay Scallops w/ Truffles from Alba

5. Oyster in Urchin Jelly, Ficoide Glaciale

This is the sea. Very Good.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Oyster in Urchin Jelly, Ficoide Glaciale

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.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Mesquite-grilled Foie w/ Quince Consomme

9. Salad of Fluke Fin & Osetra Caviar w/ Shiso

Perfect fish, saltiness, with a touch of cool from the shiso. Excellent.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Salad of Fluke Fin & Osetra Caviar w/ Shiso

10. Amberjack Belly & Young Fern Leaves, Pine Bud Vinegar

More perfect fish w/ a touch of acidity. Excellent.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Amberjack Belly & Young Fern Leaves, Pine Bud Vinegar

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.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Just Shucked Scallops w/ Exotics Zests & Olive Oil

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Just Shucked Scallops w/ Exotics Zests & Olive Oil

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.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Garden Vegatables

13. Marinated Sardines & Garden Kohlrabi

Pristine sardines – the kohlrabi may have been a touch overpowering. Very Good.

Manresa (Los Gatos) -  Marinated Sardines & Garden Kohlrabi

14. Monterey Bay Prawn

The most consistent Manresa product – the prawns are as good as eating seafood in Spain. Excellent.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Monterey Bay Prawn

15. Threadfish w/ Savoy Cabbage, both stems & leaves

Again, pristine fish, nice balance of flavors. Very Good.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Threadfish w/ Savoy Cabbage, both stems & leaves

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.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Rustic Stew of Black Radish, Sunchoke, Turnip, & Prunes

17. Manresa Merguez

Tasty spicy sausage w/ the orange zest giving it a nice kick. Very Good.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Manresa Merguez

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.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Beef Rib-eye w/ Carrots

19. Cassis Sorbet w/ Citrus

Intense and bright. Very Good.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Cassis Sorbet w/ Citrus

20. Tahitian Vanilla Souffle, Bitter Caramel

Not a souffle fan and this didn’t win me over. Ok.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Tahitian Vanilla Souffle, Bitter Caramel

21. Garnet Yam Ice Cream w/ Rum Raisins

Not a yam fan, but this was delicious. Very Good.

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Garnet Yam Ice Cream w/ Rum Raisins

22. Parfait Rocky Road

Don’t really remember…

Manresa (Los Gatos) - Parfait Rocky Road

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:
- chuck

  • Eric

    Awesome writeup. These pictures are so tantalizing. I’ve never been to Manresa, but it looks like I’ve been putting it off too long!

  • Cynthia Sandberg

    Thank you for your kind words about Love Apple Farm (the Manresa kitchen garden). I’ve been working very hard on it. My goal is to bring the vegetables to such a peak that they do all they can to help Manresa achieve their rightful 3 Michelin stars. I invite you to come out and visit the farm one day. I’ll pull a carrot directly from the biodynamic soil for you to sample.

  • Administrator

    Thanks Cynthia – I’ve been talking w/ Kinch about it – probably sometime in Apr on a nice sunny day.

  • Aaron

    Wait, wait, wait. I’m slowly catching on here. You’re a regular at my favorite restaurant! Gah, the jealousy rages within me. Haha.
    Luckily, though, I’ll be in the same boat very soon. Come this August, I’ll be a mere 1-hour drive away rather than a 6-hour flight. This is one restaurant I plan to visit again and again. I can’t wait. This place is amazing.