David Kinch and Manresa Restaurant For: The Best Reinvention of A Culinary Cliché
By now, everyone knows what Surf and Turf is. It has been spun, calqued, and re-imagined a thousand times. If someone tries to serve me lobster and a steak on the same plate ever again I swear I will get up and leave the restaurant. That stuff just doesn't belong together, thank-you-very-much.
Yet just when I thought beef and seafood could never find a happy marriage, along comes Chef David Kinch, of Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, California with something so simple, so unexpected, it took my breath away.
I never would have ordered it off of a menu, but when I received it as an amuse-bouche before a dinner a couple of months ago, of course I ate it. Trust me when I tell you that this concoction is one of the most innovative and remarkable things I have put in my mouth in years.
The dish tastes nothing like you would imagine, but just like it should. Remarkably, both the beef flavor (with a hint of olive oil and herbs) and the briny ocean freshness of the oyster come through as distinct yet intertwined. The whole spoonful melted in the mouth and I was left in the realm of fantasy.....so if mermaids had herds of cows that they raised on the ocean bottom, this is what they would taste like...the organic, free-range bovine Sirens of my dreams are calling.
The kitchen at Manresa has now added this dish recently as a menu item and has been experimenting with adding small hints of other flavors which they believe help support the dish in when consumed in a larger quantity than the spoonful I received as an amuse. The version pictured above has tiny bits of caper berries and a few herbs mixed in, which gave it a slight sour flavor to play off of the briny and buttery elements. My preference is actually for just the unadulterated beef and oyster version of my first experience, but Kinch maintains that serving it as a full dish rather than an amuse bouche is a different game. "When served as part of a tasting menu it has to hold up on its own -- it has to be something that can be looked back on as an integral part of a complete meal, rather than just a palate cleanser or playful amuse. Hence the need for more complexity."
It is truly the mark of culinary genius to be able to transcend all of the past history of a dish, and still remain true to its essential concept. Bravo Chef Kinch.
To experience Chef Kinch's innovative Japanese and Spanish influenced French cuisine, please visit them in Los Gatos, California:
320 Village Lane (just off North Santa Cruz Avenue)
Los Gatos, CA 95030
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
Warm Up: The North Fork of Long Island I'll Drink to That: Kareem Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards 2015 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 16, San Francisco I'll Drink to That: Ryan Looper of T. Edward Wines Lost Treasures in the Sierra Foothills: The Wines of Renaissance Vineyards Warm Up: The Wachau I'll Drink to That: Leo Alzinger of Weingut Alzinger Petaluma Gap Wine Tasting: August 8th, Petaluma, CA I'll Drink to That: Monica Samuels of Vine Connections Vinography Images: Cool Climate Chardonnay
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune