Thursday, December 13, 2007

Manresa

Remember how I mentioned that I was going to go to a fancy-shmancy restaurant called Manresa? Well, my prophetic powers proved strong and last night at 6:30, I found myself walking into the restaurant with George, Carrie (George's GF) and a bottle of 2004 Corton-Charlemagne. That's a bottle of wine for you complete noobs and I'll get to that a little later on.

Anyhow, I'm just going to post pictures and menu descriptions...yes, I took pictures of my meal but cut me some slack! Last night was the first time and I noticed 2 other tables doing the same thing! Actually, I don't need to rely on the "appeal to a common practice" argument. I wish I had started doing it much, much earlier...I've been lucky enough to have been a participant in some pretty spectacular meals and a photographic record would've been nice. Oh well, the menus will have to suffice but, in this case, I've got a menu AND pictures so let's get to it:

Let me apologize up front for the slightly blurry nature of the photos...I'm still getting used to the new camera.

Section 1: These were 5 little palate teasers typically called amuses which is short for "amuse bouche." They're simply small, 1-2 bite courses which, among other things, give you an indication of the chef's style and direction of the meal. This is always my favorite part of any meal.

Petit fours "red pepper-black-olive"
(My taste buds are defective because I just don't get the black-olive madeleines...they don't taste black olive-y to me although my roommate thought they were rockin')

Horchata and lightly toasted parsnip
(I get horchata all the time when I go to taquerias but I've never had one like this...it wasn't sickly sweet, it was warm and the parsnips really added something...would drink again.)

Chestnut croquettes
(Fried little cubes which we were instructed to eat in one bite...they exploded with a rich, warm gushi-ness)

Oyster in urchin jelly, nori croustillant
(Not actually an urchin jelly...more like oyster and urchin in sea water jelly...just a filthy-delicious-stopallconversation dish...could've easily consumed a half dozen of these things)

Arpege farm egg
(L'Arpege is a restaurant in Paris...It is CRAZY expensive but considered to be one of the best restaurants in the world...this egg dish is an homage to an egg dish served at L'Arpege. It is a perfectly fresh egg gently poached and flavored with sherry and maple syrup. When you combine all the flavors in one gooey spoonful, it's memorable.)

Section 2: Done with the amuses. Onto some bigger plates.

At this point, they brought bread and butter to the table. This butter is phenomenal. The milk comes from a Normandy cow in nearby Watsonville, CA and is hand churned. The end-product is almost cheese-y in it's complexity. Bovinity Divinity (to quote Ben and Jerry) and I found myself eating the butter all on its own...crazy delicious stuff. I have reason to believe that this is the incredible animal whose milk gave us this lactic gold...yumyumyum.

Golden butterfish and geoduck clam, sashim style, exotic citrus
(Don't remember any geoduck clam in this but I'd like to point out the quenelle of caviar. Yummy dish. The chef has a way with raw fish...judicious use of seasoning which enhances rather than overpowers the fish...)

Shellfish in a pine mushroom broth
(A deliciously sweet, briny piece of crab meat with a juicy mussel hidden underneath. I believe the green is ice lettuce, an especially succulent variety of lettuce. A first for me.)

Spot prawns on the plancha, exotic spice
(Loved this. Curry-ish, I swear there were fermented black beans, prawn roe...nothing to dislike. I am not ashamed to mention that we ate most of the shells and sucked whatever we could off of the head. Really tasty. Oh yah.)

Nantucket bay scallops with lemongrass, leeks
(Neptune himself could not have found more perfect scallops...so sweet and tender...perfectly cooked. The creamy sauce is a scallop jus which was poured tableside. Hidden underneath are some melted leeks which added a bit of oniony goodness.)

Into the vegetable garden...
(Okay, so most of you are probably like, "WTF??!? It's a weird lookin' salad." NO. This is totally incorrect. This is a completely unique dish which evokes a sense of place, which is, a garden. I swear, it tastes like how my hands used to smell after a day of helping my mom in our garden. There must be 30 different vegetables in this dish and you can eat them one at a time or in combination with each other. The individual flavors never really get muddled but remain distinct. A really remarkable dish. Of all the dishes I was served, this is the one I could eat every day for the rest of my life and I would never get bored of it. If you want to learn more about this dish, click here.)

Abalone in its own bouillon, foie gras
(You can smell this one coming...the smoky dashi gives it away. This picture kinda looks a mess so I'll try to help you along...The abalone is on the bottom, a thin slice of foie gras is laid on top of the abalone, the white shreds are enoki mushrooms, the darker green is seaweed and the thin green shreds are green onions (i think). The dashi broth is the broth..duh. As a lover of salt, I rarely complain of overseasoning but the broth was definitely overseasoned for my taste. However, the foie and abalone is a fun combination. Surf & turf? haha.)

John dory and butter beans, squid and clams with vin blanc
(No, John Dory is not a man...ya noobs. Hidden underneath the fish are thinly sliced clams, squid and beans. Nothing really "out-there" about this dish but it's executed really, really well. My only regret is not having a spoon served with this course because I couldn't get at all the sauce!)

Sweetbreads, roasted whole, cereals with parsley root
(What's a sweetbread, you ask? Click here to find out. Anyhow, I have mixed feeling about this one. I kinda enjoy sweetbreads more when they have a crunchy exterior and that provides a contrast to the creamy interior. However, the parsley root provided the contrasting texture in this case...meaning, i found the roots a little undercooked. Love the wheat berries tho...I'm gonna have to find some...The red bits are cranberries. Very autumn-y, winter-y. Felt like Thanksgiving.)

Beef roasted in its fat, chestnut with horseradish
(A big meat course here...40 day aged beef. Some mushrooms underneath, the green is a kale (i think) puree and the little pucks off to the side are really, really cool. Chestnut and horseradish bombs. They're PERFECT with the meat. Grab a bit of meat, swipe a bit of green puree, grab a horseradish bit and it's a great mouthful of food.)

Section 3: Sweets.

Parsnip pain perdu and caramel ice cream, toasted barley gelee
(I'm tired of writing so I'll just leave pictures and menu descriptions)

Cranberry and pecan involtini, apple preserve with buttermilk sorbet

Milk chocolate coffee mousse, oat crisp and stout ice cream

Petit fours "strawberry-chocolate"

And, with that, the meal came to a close. All in all, a memorable meal. Not much more to say. I love the focus on veggies and seafood. This is my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area...and I need an excuse to go back...Maybe when I graduate?

Anyhow, I said that I'd talk about our beverages for the evening so here we go. Keep in mind that I'm not a great person to ask about wine.

We started with some complimentary Cava. Cava is Spanish sparkling wine...think of it as their answer to France's champagne. Most of it is produced in the Catalan region of Spain...think eastern Spain on the border with France. Chef was kind enough to send flutes out for us and we drank the cava with the amuses.

After that, the Corton-Charlemagne. Corton-Charlemagne is the name given to a set of vineyards in the Burgundy region of France. For white wines, you're primarily looking at wines made from the Chardonnay grape. Corton-Charlemagne is designated as a Grand Cru wine which is the highest rating one can achieve in Burgundy. I don't know what else to say but damn I'm tired of typing. I hope someone reads this!

edit: I e-mailed the chef with a few questions and here are the answers:
1. How is the beef cooked? the beef was roasted in a slow oven.
2. Do you consistently get prawns with the roe? I love the roe. Do most people eat it? We also ate some of the shells. I guess we're weird. yes, all prawns with roe. i go to a market and pick them out alive myself 4 times a week.
3. The veggie dish is amazing. Are all the veggies from your garden? All veggies from the garden, is rrequired.
4. The shellfish with pine mushroom broth...i assume this means matsutake mushrooms? yes, matsutake
5. The chestnut croquettes...an homage to your time with Marc Meneau? yes, Meneau.
6. How'd you insert the parsnip flavor into the horchata? Make some sort of parsnip milk? yes, parsnip milk.
7. Was the (incredible) butter from Pim's cow? yes, pim's butter.

8 comments:

Lindsey said...

sigh...can't even tell you how jealous i am right now...and that cow is so damned cute, by the way. i want to take her home too!!!

LoveAppleFarm said...

I'm glad you liked the vegetable garden dish. The chef is very particular about his veggies. I'm not much of a photographer myself, but the times I've dined at Manresa and seen people take really good photos, it's with an itsy bitsy tripod set on the table top, which steadies the camera while it takes a very slow shutter speed shot (to compensate for the low light conditions). Just a suggestion. And the "ice lettuce" is called ficoide glaciale. A very interesting plant.

alifewortheating said...

mike, great post. thanks for sharing. like you, manresa is my favorite restaurant in the bay area. more than that, it's also my favorite restaurant anywhere. chef kinch's food simply continues to amaze me every time. the next time you're looking for an excuse to go back, definitely shoot me an email. i'm a first-year grad student, so i'm always looking for such an excuse myself! cheers, aaron.

Anonymous said...

Who made the CCharlemagne? I am dying to get down there for a Krug / Martray / DRC night.

Mike Czyzewski said...

boillot something or other. although, i'm sure that doesn't help, especially in burgundy.

George said...

I have one of those mini tripods somewhere, we should definitely try that next time.

Mike Czyzewski said...

I feel strange enough taking pictures in restaurants...setting up a tripod on the table would definitely cross the line...

Joe Ziomek said...

Thanks for the post Mike. Now those of us who fell victim to Highway 1's terrific curves and missed our reservations can live vicariously ...