Text Size:-+
03.25.2005

Just How Good Is Manresa?

Regular readers will know that I'm a fan of Manresa Restaurant. I've reviewed it, given it an award, and even held a wine dinner there. It pleases me to no end, then, to be able to congratulate Chef David Kinch and the whole staff there for being named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by Restaurant Magazine in the UK. The full list and official results will be out in three weeks, but Manresa announced the news today. Bravo.

Comments (5)

Amy wrote:
03.25.05 at 8:16 AM

So does this mean I won't be able to get a reservation?!

Marga wrote:
03.25.05 at 10:51 AM

I just read your blog for the 1st time, looking for info on Quince, and you've convinced me to go to Manresa instead :) I just made reservations for my birthday next month, and had no problem getting one.

Alder wrote:
03.31.05 at 9:29 AM

For those interested, here's a great Metroactive article on Chef Kinch that came out recently.

Heather wrote:
05.22.05 at 11:36 PM

After carefully studying the reports by Alder and Pim, I decided on Manresa for my birthday dinner (this after Gary Danko last year). I'm not a food blogger, but I feel this meal requires a post, if for no other reason than to give a "normal" person's perspective (i.e. no special treatment because the chef knows I'm coming!) So here it is in a nutshell:

The two amuse bouche were delightful!! First to arrive, the strawberry gazpacho, at once savory from delicate onions but also sweet from the just-in-season berries. Then "the egg"--a dreamy soft boil but somehow intertwined with sherry vinegar and maple syrup, the white perfectly whipped around a barely warm yolk.

My dinner (I of the delicate appetite disposition):
Veal Tongue and Watercress Salad, Griddled Leeks with Oyster Dressing
Roast Squab and Confit Leg, Rapini with Almond-Honey, Trumpet Royal Mushrooms
Warm Pecan Tart with Brown Butter Ice Cream

My companion's dinner (he of the robust, voracious nature)
Escabeche of Local Sardines, Oranges and Leek Salad
Twice Cooked Foie Gras, Asparagus with Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Hibiscus
Roast Suckling Pig and Crispy Trotter, Gem Lettuce and New Potatoes with Ravigote
A Selection of Artisan Cheeses

The Observations: the sardines were incredible, so fresh and tangy, the saltiness nicely complemented by the orange segments. I loved the veal tongue (I'd never had it), how it was tender and melty, but with an intensity of flavor, much BETTER to me than foie gras which (and I sigh having to say this) is just too pure...fat for my palate. Also, though meyer lemons are wonderful, the marmalade accompanying the foie gras seemed just a bit too contrary. Yes, of course, the point of the marmalade is to cut that fattiness somehow, but I would have preferred a more subtle pairing rather than such a black and white contrast (if that makes any sense). My squab was "to die for," the confit a perfect ruby rare. (This is an aspect of the "fancy" meal that I appreciate: not having to articulate the doneness of meat. You simply select your entree and it arrives the way it is done best, no negotiating degrees of rare/medium/well/poached/roasted/confit, etc.) My companion enjoyed the cheese plate very much, but (perhaps with last year's Gary Danko lingering in my mind) we were both surprised that it arrived at the table under such generic terminology. I guess because nothing specific was indicated on the menu, I almost expected a cart from which we would specifically choose. Very little information was given even when the plate was presented. A little odd, no? My pecan tart an amazing tumble of nut and caramel, but by this point I was forming my assessment of Manresa: it had peaked early and not again. This impression was reinforced with the tart: yes, I ordered a three course meal and yes, one of those courses was dessert. But really, all I needed was a tasting portion of dessert. That tart was simply way too much. I would have traded half the portion of that tart for just a half portion of something else savory. So what's a person to do with the 3 or 4 course menu but a desire for a micro-size dessert? I almost prefer what I opted for at Gary Danko last year: a multi course (not tasting) menu with cheese as the dessert course (selected by me from the cart) which the restaurant then (oh giddy surprise!) finished off with a plate of tiny cookies and chocolates. (I was a bit astonished that Manresa offered no such sweet ending of mignardise!)

On the service: overall, very very very good. I have no complaints, but it didn't blow my mind either. For example, I had emailed a day in advance that I would like a little extra assistance choosing wine, but (perhaps because I started with a glass of champagne and was sipping away at it for some time) NO ONE asked me about wine until AFTER my first course! The server then chose something lovely (a Cartlidge & Browne Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley; certainly NOT what I would have chosen if I had perused the wine menu, but in the end I'm glad I just left it in his hands) to complement my main, but I felt a little discombobulated by the disconnect between menu and drink service. This could have been remedied by an overall slower pacing to the meal. I felt rushed into the dessert course, and again no one inquired if we would like drink--a dessert wine or coffee--until after we were more than halfway into that course. ALSO: in my advance email I wanted to make sure that we were not slated to sit on the patio as I do not like sitting outdoors. The host wrote back and said of course we would be inside the restuarant. But then our table was immediately next to the door leading out to the patio, so for the entire dinner I was aware of every little draft of every opening and closing of that door! I found that bizarre considering that I had specifically indicated my cool/breezy weather aversion.

Overall, Manresa was definitely incredible. I had reason to be in Santa Cruz all day which is why I chose to make that my birthday meal. In the future...I'm not sure that I--as a "normal" customer--was sufficiently wowed to go out of my way for Manresa. I might be just as happy at one of the many high end San Francisco restaurants that I haven't yet tried (Boulevard, Fifth Floor, etc.) But with any of these restuarants, it seems if you are "known" in some way (or if you maybe present yourself as someone "to be known"), you experience a much different side of service, food, little treats, etc. That's a difficult nuance of dining that I still haven't gracefully mastered.

I hope that offers a little different slant on Manresa for all you devoted blog readers out there. Alder definitely has a special connection at the restaurant and it SHOWS in his experiences there! I kept imagining what his story-wine event was like, where people sat, how the tables were arranged...I'm sure it was fabulous. And I definitely want to acknowledge that Alder and Pim were spot-on with descriptions and assessments about the food.

Alder wrote:
05.23.05 at 7:31 AM

Heather,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a detailed review! Sounds like it was a good experience albiet with a few areas for improvement.

I've never had the cheese course at Manresa, so thanks for the insights there, clearly there's some work to do there.

The one thing that seems VERY odd to me is that you received no final course of mignardise! I know that is a regular feature of the Manresa service and a huge surprise that you didn't get any -- however I've always opted for more than 4 courses, so perhaps they leave off the final mignardise on the 4 course -- it would seem strange of them to do so.

Thanks for reading Vinography! Also, there will be another Vinographt wine event in the near future at Manresa. I hope you can join us for it.

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)
Yes
 

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Pre-Order My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Images: Rising Light Book Review: The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert The Beauty of 2011 Burgundy: Highlights from La Paulee de San Francisco Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 8, San Francisco Vinography Images: Autumn Cellar Vinography Images: Vines and Sky Are You a Red, Pink or a Purple Wine Stater? 2014 TAPAS Iberian Varieties Tasting: April 27, San Francisco Taste Washington Day One in Brief Vinography Images: Trailing Vine

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month

 

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.