Why David Kinch Deserved to Win the James Beard Award
As far as awards seasons go, one can’t complain too much about this year’s various “Best Restaurants” awards over the past week or two. First, noma shocked the world by displacing El Bulli as the “#1 restaurant” in the world. It is a more than deserving winner; and better than El Bulli. When the world dries up, the fish are gone, and northern Denmark is the last bastion of untainted wilderness, noma might very well be the most coveted reservation in the world. The rest of the list is hit or miss, mostly miss (where is L’Arpege?), but we can delight in its #1 pick.
noma crew by foodsnob (one of their best customers)
Last night, Sean Brock won the James Beard best chef for the Southeast. He, too, is more than deserving and congratulations are in order. My meal at McCrady’s, two years ago, was impressive and insightful, a chef maturing and finding his own style. Here was a guy who had been infatuated with El Bulli molecular techniques but applied a Southern sensibility to them. And then he totally went off the map by creating his own bio-dynamic garden, and raising pigs. It’s like El Bulli, Blue Hill, and Manresa rolled into one – sprinkled with some Southern goodness. Sean will become a great name in American cooking.
And then David Kinch won best Pacific chef.
Readers of this blog know the importance I place on his restaurant, Manresa. There is no need to re-hash all of that – read the archives. When Tastybitz 1 came to town, we decided to share a meal at our mutual favorite – Manresa. So it was and here it is. If there was any question as to why David Kinch deserved his award…
An elemental oyster – a perfect beginning
Geoduck clam in seawater, green apple – followed by another
Pacific mackerel, grilled with yuzu
Mandarin and jasmine tea jelly – one of my all-time Manresa dishes – it really epitomizes the style of dish I love – simple, light, and full of so much subtle complexity. The sweet and floral jasmine played alongside and “cooled” the acid notes of the mandarin. I was served some variation of this on my first Manresa meal (who knows how long ago now) and it remains one of my favorites.
Foie gras and cumin seed caramel – and then this monster comes out – the balance of sweet, fat, and slight pepper was sublime. The texture was impossibly perfect – silky while just slowly dissolving in the mouth – so easy to get lost in the sensation.
Wild sea bream, delicate jus of tuna and walnut
Chanterelles and scallop shards in bonito butter, toasted seeds
King crab and spring peas in olive oil, fumet – Another dish that defied lightness
Into the vegetable garden
Spot prawns on the plancha, vin jaune with truffles – When Monterey spot prawns are in season, rest assured they will appear on this menu. And it will always be a highlight, particularly if one is lucky enough to get the roe. The vadouvan version is my favorite but the vin jaune’s acidity and crispness provided an excellent foil to the fatty, just slighty warmed prawn. The truffles, surprisingly pungent despite it being March in America, were bonus points.
Vegetables and toasted buckwheat, smoked lentils with an abalone bouillon
Halibut with chervil cream, kohlrabi in onion and marrow tears – This sauce, used in a few variations of dishes, is decadent
Braised abalone and morels, a roasted chicken “dashi” – yes, please
Omelet a l’ancienne, roasted asparagus with parmesan “vacche rosse” – Wow
Foie gras spiced with buddha’s hand citron, seaweed croustillant
Spring lamb with turnips, green garlic – A very nice piece of lamb; the others at the table declaring it among the best they ever had
and then dessert…
Deanie Hickox, formerly of Ubuntu fame, has taken over the dessert reigns and blended them seamlessly into the Manresa menu. Her desserts have always began as a bridge – de-emphasizing and deferring sweetness until the very end.
Exotic citrus with honey & tapioca – The best dessert I’ve had in a long time – it just hit every pleasure point while complementing the meal and remaining light. Texture and acidity – while just retaining enough sweetness. It provided a complement to the earlier jasmine tea citrus dish – there are many inside references in these meals. More, please.
White chocolate custard with beet and rhubarb, orange fizz geranium – More experimental, trying to find its way, but the flavors complemented each other quite well; and that custard, despite being white chocolate, was quite delicious
Apple confit with vanilla, parsnip and walnut – not really my style of dessert but still quite good
If there is another meal in America this good, please post a convincing link because I don’t believe it. (Actually, there *is* another meal this good in America – the Manresa meal I ate three weeks later!) Those that have not been have a glaring lacuna on their culinary resume.
And if you have not been, you will want to stay tuned…
1 – one of my favorite bloggers but he has fallen in love with Twitter – oh well