Most Memorable Meal of 2010: Manresa Restaurant

MOST MEMORABLE MEAL OF 2010: MANRESA RESTAURANT – Manresa Restaurant, Los Gatos, CA (11/21/2010)

Gregory, Richard and Traci

Once in awhile everything comes together for a memorable culinary moment that deserves to be immortalized. In this case, great friends, good wines and awesome food came together for this pre-Thanksgiving dinner, turning it into my most memorable meal of the year.

Manresa’s David Kinch is the best chef in the Bay Area, and Manresa Wine Director Jeff Bareilles is the most talented wine director in the Bay Area. It’s fair to say, then, that Manresa is the Bay Area’s best restaurant, and I’ve had numerous fabulous dinners there that would bear that out. This dinner, with a couple of dear friends up from Los Angeles, was the most fabulous yet. Instead of ordering off the menu, we turned the menu over to David, who prepared a series of amuses and dishes for us, while Jeff found wines to match from among the wines we brought, as well as including a couple from Manresa’s list.

The meal was like a dream, with so many wonderful tastes and ideas flowing toward our table it was almost impossible to keep up. Fortunately our wines showed almost as well as the dishes, and the whole was a harmonious delight. I can’t recommend Manresa highly enough, and hope everyone who loves great and thoughtful food gets a chance to eat there eventually.

Here’s the play by play on the dishes and wine. You have to imagine the camaraderie over the course of nearly six hours that passed all too quickly, amongst much beloved friends, who also happen to be foodie wine geeks:

Dom Pérignon starters with amuses

Petit fours “red pepper-black olive”

My dear friend Traci loves her Champagne, as does our friend Matt. Champagne is usually the safest way to go with Manresa’s light touch and seafood and/or vegetable oriented appetizers, so we came armed with a couple vintages worth of Dom Pérignon. Both were singing, but the ’90 is definitely in its wheelhouse at the moment, and much more youthful on the palate than it was on the nose. The nose on the ’98 was intriguing–taking on a distinctive coffee grounds note after 90 minutes or so in the glass. These powerful Champagnes saw us through an onslaught of five amuse bouches, including petit fours “red pepper-black olive,” garden beignets with vinegar powder, milk panna cotta with abalone, “an elemental oyster,” and Manresa’s famous homage to the L’Arpège farm egg. These were all wonderful, and I always adore the soft Arpège egg with maple syrup, sherry vinegar, cream, fleur de sel and chive. The kale and Swiss chard vegetable beignets were fascinating and the vinegar powder they were dusted with was just enough to add interest and bring out the earthiness in the vegetables. My friends were pretty amazed that, nearly two hours into the dinner, we were still being regaled with amuses, but we were on magical Manresa time.

Garden beignets with vinegar powder

Milk pannna cotta with abalone

An elemental oyster

Arpege farm egg

  • 1998 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon – France, Champagne

    Light yellow color; nice minerally, tart lemon, subtly yeasty, tart white peach nose, that takes on a coffee ground nose after 90 minutes in the glass; tasty, youthful, tart white peach, mineral, lemon palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

  • 1990 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon – France, Champagne

    Light golden yellow color; mature, mushroom, hazelnut, toffee, marzipan, apple nose; tasty, tart pear, tart apple, mineral palate, more youthful than on the nose; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)

Bay scallops in pumpkin seed oil, persimmon with jasmine tea

For our first course, we moved to a special auction Dönnhoff Spätlese I’d brought. It was a lovely, minerally, stone fruity young Riesling with a hint of petrol on the nose, that went very well with our Nantucket Bay scallops with celery root puree and persimmon, infused with jasmine tea.

Chilled dungeness crab soup with pomegranate and fennel

We moved to the Bollinger Rosé Brut for a chilled dungeness crab soup with pomegranate and fennel. I have to say this was the only dish of the entire night that didn’t excite. The Champagne worked fine with it, but the fact that it was cold and very subtle in flavor made it the least successful of the many wonderful dishes and pairings that night. I didn’t get a good picture of our next dish, which was spot prawns on the plancha, with spiced pumpkin, but it was another great dish, and went very well with our Rosé Champagne.

  • N.V. Bollinger Champagne Rosé Brut – France, Champagne

    Light pink orange color; creamy, light cherry, framboise nose; tasty, angular, tart cherry, tart framboise palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Into the vegetable garden . . .

This is another signature dish at Manresa, which varies depending on the season and the market. This went very well with the lovely, delicate and dry Ott Rosé that Jeff keeps on the Manresa wine list. Chickory and potato form the “dirt” of this light and tasty garden of vegetables and flowers.
Traci, Matt and Karen

  • 2008 Domaines Ott Côtes de Provence Rosé – France, Provence, Côtes de Provence

    Eye of partridge, very light orange pink color; soap, light floral nose; very light, tangy, chalk, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium finish (89 pts.)

An autumn tidal pool

This was one of the most spectacular and thought provoking dishes of the evening. Included in David’s seafood broth dish, which has seen many permutations at Manresa, was poached foie gras. It was completely delicious, and played off the texture and taste of the sea urchin. An unexpected combination, and one that totally worked. The Pepinieres had the creamy texture and acidity to go with the dish quite well, and the Savennières, while not a great wine on its own, had this seafood broth nose and sherried quality on the palate that somehow brought out the subtle lemon flavor in the dish. A very thoughtful course.

Dishes with mature Burgs

Jeff moved us on to our Burgundies for the next few dishes. They included a roasted black cod with watercress, walnut oil and Burgundian summer truffle, that had a fabulous aroma. The Grivot had the maturity and structure to stand up to this dish quite nicely. Then there was farm chicken roasted with sunchokes, porcini mushrooms, a kohlrabi choucroute and Riesling emulsion. Finally we had a Napa Valley spring lamb tongue and rib with celtuce and onion sous vide in a Moroccan influenced preparation that was the most fabulous dish of the evening, and a gorgeous pairing with our flavorful Magnien Chambertin-Clos de Bèze.

Black cod with walnut oil, watercress

Farm chicken roasted with sunchokes, kohlrabi choucroute

Napa Valley spring lamb tongue and rib

  • 1986 Domaine Jean Grivot Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Boudots – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru

    Bricked medium red color with pale meniscus; roses, rosehips, mature, mineral, dried cherry nose; tasty, tart dried cherry, rosehips, mineral, mushroom, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

  • 1997 Frédéric Magnien Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Cuvée Unique – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru

    Cloudy, bricking, medium red color with clear meniscus; mature, chicken broth, brine, tart red fruit, cranberry nose; tasty, tart cranberry, mineral, tart cherry, dried red berry, rosehips palate; medium-plus finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)

  • 2003 Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Orveaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru

    Dark garnet red color; tart red fruit, cranberry, brine nose; silky textured, tart red fruit, cranberry, brine, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Dessert courses

The pleasure continued with an overflow of wonderful desserts, and my favorite sweet wine of 2010: a 6 puttonyos 2000 Tokaji from Árvay János. This was my third and last bottle of this sweet nectar, and I only wish I could come by some more, but no one has it. The perfect end to a long evening that had to end, I suppose, though none of us really wanted it to.

My thanks to Traci for sparking this dinner. She’s one of the few people I know who has been to El Bulli, and she preferred our dinner the previous year at Alinea (my most memorable meal of 2009). She and I have been to French Laundry a few times together, as it has declined over the years. She’s heard me bragging about Manresa for some time, and decided to make a point of going there on the way to Hawaii for Thanksgiving. I was delighted that another L.A. friend of ours, Gregory, who is now cooking for Hollywood director Bryan Singer, was able to come up for it as well. Our friends Matt and Karen, whom we got to know in L.A. but who now live here, filled out our party. My thanks also to Jeff for his inspired wine guidance and service, and to David, for his delicious creations, as usual.

Coconut panna cotta and lime tapioca, passion fruit sorbet

Muscovado beignets with condensed milk ice cream, white chocolate

Petit fours “strawberry-chocolate”


  • 2000 Árvay János Tokaji Tokaji Aszu 6 puttonyos – Hungary, Hegyalja, Tokaji

    Medium orange color; honeyed, baked apricot, clementine, tart orange nose; rich, honeyed, apricot, orange sorbet, lime cream, tangerine palate, with great acidity; long finish (96 pts.)

Our amazing Chef, David Kinch

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5 Responses to Most Memorable Meal of 2010: Manresa Restaurant

  1. Zach says:

    Richard: Thank you for this wonderful write-up and the beautiful photos! Ashley and I have only been to Manresa once, but our meal was spectacular. You have inspired us to return soon.

  2. Gregory says:

    Richard, I’m honoured to have been able to attend your dinner of the year, which was almost certainly, mine as well. The range of wines & food we sampled during the quarter of a day we happily sat, politely gorging, was both at the time and in reflection, utterly astounding. If there were Oscars for food, I’d say it would be a toss up for the Most Creative Dish between the Vegetable Garden & the Autumn Tidal Pool and I’m not just referring to their names! While the Lamb Tongue (more than it’s Rib counterpart) would win the Meat so perfectly cooked you don’t have to chew it, award.

    I also am having a very hard time thinking of another restaurant in the Bay Area, I’d want to eat at more than going back for a second round at Manresa.

    Stuck here in London, I’m suffering as you can imagine. The task ahead seems daunting. Over 100 Michelin starred restaurants to get through, not to mention the big hitters, Fat Duck, Le Manoir, Hibiscus and The Square. So far, standouts have been Yashin, River Cafe, St. John, Terroirs (you would be mad for) and Petersham Nurseries, who just received their first Michelin Star.

    Ask me again about Terroirs, you would simply die over this place. Imagine a restaurant, where the menu changes frequently, with never too much on it. The wine list is made up entirely of geeky wines, you won’t find in any guide and they are packed every night.

  3. Richard Jennings says:

    I’m glad you were able to join us for Manresa, and I’m glad you’re finding ways to pass the time in London. Terroirs sounds awesome. Looks like I need to plan a trip. And I need to let me friends Philip and Ida know you’re there. Will do.


  4. peter gelfand says:


    Great write up/fantastic wines and descriptions

    i believe vinfolio occasionally lists the 2010 Arvay Tokaji …(although my preference is the ’93 Esszencia)..the wine specialist there Catherine might be able to help and provide “advance notice” of a listing.


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