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Note: This meal took place on August 16, 2008

David Kinch’s restaurant is set in Los Gatos, in a neighborhood that is completely surrounded by houses. If there is any commercial real estate here, they look like homes as well. Manresa is a Michelin two star but many argue it should be three. The same people say it bests The French Laundry, making it the best restaurant in California, and possibly the country. You can see why I was so excited to eat there. I had no problems getting reservations, though ours were a bit late. We did the extended tasting menu, which is not even listed. I also made a special request: pig trotters with abalone. The receptionist could not have been friendlier, and even called me a few times to confirm details.

Prakash, his friend (and former project manager), and I  arrived early and were asked to take a seat while they got the table ready. The wait wasn’t long. We were shown our seats and the usual drink orders and diet restriction questions were asked. Then dinner started!

Petit fours “red pepper-black olive”

Normally, petit fours are served at the closing of a meal. Kinch serves it at the beginning and is quite effective with his choice. I loved the red pepper jellies and if I recall correctly, got a bonus one from Prakash’s friend!

Lavender lemonade, mint

I don’t really remember much about drink except possibly I thought it was mediocre. Or at least not memorable. At this point, I was a few words into my notes when our waitress asked me to put it away and to not take notes. She offered to give us printed menus instead. Needless to say, I was embarrassed and taken back by the “confrontation” (for lack of a better word). For the next few dishes, I was kind of stunned and bummed.

Parmesan churros

Ah, the infamous churros. Oversalted. Pass! Maybe they should take a look at Suzanne Goin and paired it with some rich chocolate to cut the salt.

Courgette sorbet, pistachio vinaigrette

Hmm, I think while the lemonade was just ok, something about this dish really did not please me. I actually think I hated it. Was it the foam? I think the sorbet was good, so it must have been the foam.

Arpege farm egg

I was waiting for this. The Arpege egg was created by Alain Passard of L’Arpege in Paris France. To me, it’s one of the ultimate examples of what good pairing can do. It’s a soft boiled egg with heavy cream, maple syrup, sea salt, sherry vinegar, and minced chives. I gobbled it up and so did my dining companions. Finally, the first great dish since the petit fours.

Foie gras, gently roasted, beignets of picked cherry, licorice

Foie Gras? Two of my favorite words. Soft, delicate, fatty, buttery, and veiny? Yeah, sort of threw me off. I don’t know much about preparing foie but all the recipes I have seen has you removing the veins. Shrug, it didn’t (seem to) affect the flavor at all. The best part? Whatever that brown crumble is on top. I think it was brown sugar. Great dish.

Shellfish and bonito broth, fragrant green curry oil

I don’t remember this dish. I love shell fish. I love curry. I should love this dish. I actually don’t think I thought much of it. Is anyone seeing a trend here? Very forgettable dishes and a couple bad ones.

Tomatoes, both raw and cooked, smoked roe with roast tuna consomme

Chef Kinch is a huge fan of sustainability and growing and harvesting everything himself. These tomatoes, no doubt, are from Love Apple Farms which he maintains a close relationship to. Fresh, refreshing, not memorable though Kinch gets extra points for the tuna consomme.

Potimarron pumpkin soup, nasturtium ice cream

A little early for fall but I love pumpkin soup. The whole hot cold sensation plays out well here with the ice cream. I remember really liking this dish. Tableside service from a cast iron teapot did not hurt!

Into the vegetable garden …

Infamous Kinch dish highlighting the fresh pickings of the day. I remember cucumber being the standout flavor here. I am not sure if it was positive or not. Very green dish which I tend not to like (see a similar dish at Ubuntu).

Abalone in brown butter with braised pig’s trotters, avocado

The dish I requested was made! This was delicious. It was fatty and slightly chewy and savory. Oh boy, and the avocado cream? It was like a cherry on top. Wonderful!

Atlantic cod and roasted peppers and charred garlic with clams

Simply do not remember this dish. Sorry.

Blue fin tuna cheek, exotic spiced vegetables and flowering herbs

Tuna cheek? Sign me up. Yummy. Exotic spiced vegetables. Do I recall some curry or vadouvan flavorings? Possibly. Many people say foam is played out. I say they are idiots. Foam, if used correctly like in this dish, is great. Not a fan of thick pieces of carry. Or even thin ones, mostly. I don’t really like carrots but that did not detract too much from this dish.

Sweetbreads, roasted whole, morel soubise with lemongrass

You know who loves sweetbreads? Me. Ok that’s a lie, I mostly like them but slightly gag when I think about their weirdness. This was a good dish though and especially inventive using the lemongrass which I feel is underused. A little goes a long way though. Check out the Proof review to see more sweetbread adventures!

Roast lamb with eggplant and dates, anis hyssop

I’ve always thought lamb was a very exhausting meat to eat. Meaning, when I am eating meat that is gamey, I sort of “think” very hard about it and end up giving myself a headache. No lie. This was delicious though. Simple and I remember it being quite tender.

Cheese plate

Pretty much on par with our service the whole night, we had to flag someone down to request the cheese plate. The cheese server actually quite friendly. Cheeses were great, the accompaniments were good too. We had to flag someone down to ask for extra bread, which was also great. The bread, not the flagging. Prakash asked for honey and drizzled it on every bite!

At this point, the restaurant was practically empty. There was only one more table which seemed to be enjoying a very late night birthday dessert. The crew was cleaning up all around us, with people standing literally five feet to my right wiping glasses. That is not something I want to really see during my meal.

Chocolate blackberry napoleon, cucumber sorbet, shiso

Shiso has a very interesting flavor. Another cucumber centric dish. Good.

White chocolate creme, burnt meringue kisses with raspberry

At this point I think we were kind of “over” the meal. I remember being very surprised that it was so short. I mean it was long in length because of the ridiculous time we had to wait between dishes. There was seemingly no explanation on why the times varied as well. I was not stuffed when I left. I was moderately full but could have downed a burger if one presented itself.

Petit fours “strawberry-chocolate”

The meal comes full circle with some more delicious petit fours. It’s quite obvious by now that the staff cannot wait for us to leave. But we want coffee, so we ask for some. On the way out, we are presented with some candies for the road. I forgot the flavor but they were homemade so that was appreciated.

So what’s the verdict? Well, it’s very hard to not absolutely love a restaurant that everyone else seems to adore. You almost feel guilty or wrong but I just did not have a positive experience at Manresa. Before the meal, everything was daisies. But the service was full of holes and the food was not stellar enough to save it. I am hoping I went on off night and it redeems itself in the future.

Total for three: $800

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