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Robert Rymarz posted a topic in San Francisco Restaurants and DiningI hope this is the appropriate thread for the below post as Manresa is in Los Gatos. I believe the first time I heard of chef David Kinch was in the June 1996 Gourmet. In my opinion this was the first review were Gourmet did not just give a middle of the road description of a restaurant,but actually a review in the sense of the word. The first truly negative review they gave a restaurant was Atlas in NY, if I recall correctly. So this review of Sent Sovi [Reopened as Relish GastroLounge in 2016] sparked my interest in chef Kinch's work,and I recall calling the restaurant requesting a menu to review. Imagine my surprise when a few days later I found a whole press kit in my mailbox. This was almost ten years ago,and I have been reading all I can on the success of chef Kinch sense. So when I had the opportunity to visit the Napa Valley last weekend, I just had to fit in a visit to Manresa. The hours before our reservation were really kind of comical and for awhile seemed it was straight out of a sitcom. The ride down from Yountville went well as I never have seen a seven lane highway before. Something the east coast should consider. But we arrived a few hours early with some time to kill and dressed in shorts. And not knowing what kind of dress code Manresa had we were debating where we could change. Luckily we found a secluded parking lot at the edge of town were we attempted to change. Kind of gave the wife a wink and made a comment about being twenty years younger. We still had some time to waste so we walked around town a little bit. And I mentioned to my wife there seems something out of place here that I could not put my finger on. Like out of a Twilight Zone episode. After awhile I stopped in my tracks,looked at her and said I got it. There are no fat people here. All I saw was muscles and boobs! So I pulled in my gut and headed to the restaurant. I went in knowing I was going to enjoy this meal but after the first few courses I knew my expectations were exceeded. Chef Kinch's cuisine is bold and in your face, and makes you stop to take notice. I just love the dining room with it's well spaced tables and comfortable chairs. If there was one down fall in the evening it was we were pushed for time as we had to catch the Redeye out of SF airport. As each course was sat down, we likely finished it within minutes. And as I watched the dining room fill up I could not help but have a vision of chef Kinch yelling fire the next three courses for that S.O.B!! Maybe if I didn't work in kitchens all my life this would not have bothered me but I tend to work myself up as I know the efffort that must have been taken to keep the courses coming as smoothly as they did on a busy Saturday night. This is the menu we had: Amuses Petits fours red pepper-black olive Radis au beurre Santa rosa plum with hibiscus and strawberry Corn cromesquis Cioppino jelly Broccoli and foie gras royale Marinated fluke, local olive oil Strawberry gazpacho Crenshaw melon soup, almond tofu Dirty girl salad Rouget, anchovy and tomato sofrigit, lemon basil Abalone with pigs feet Cepes en papillote, slow egg Cranberry bean bouillon, foie gras, old rioja vinegar Sweetbreads, braised lettuce with corn pudding Roast farm poularde, delta crawfish Prime beef roasted in its own fat, foie gras Strawberries, raw cream, 30 year old balsamico Pain perdu, roast apricots and corn ice cream Chocolate marquis, condensed milk ice cream Petits fours chocolate-strawberry Again we had a wine pairing and again I failed to take notes. We started with a lovely champagne that my wife and I both felt was the best we tasted on our trip. Regarding the menu,there was not one dud in the entire dinner and I would be hard pressed to pick my favorites. But if I had to chose the roll back your eyes courses, it would have to be the Santa rosa plum with hibiscus and strawberry. Hands down the best amuse I ever had. A burst of flavor that just wakes up the palate. I looked at my wife and said I guess I never had plums before. They were also in the Dirty girl salad. Just wonderful!! The Rouget surrounded the table with a wonderful aroma the moment it was sat on the table. A terrific dish. The abalone with pigs feet was rich and succulent,and I was tempted to tell my wife halfway threw what it was and hope she would give me hers. The pain perdu was a wonderful dessert course. In closing, I wish I lived closer to this restaurant,as I know I would visit it regularly. I wish the best for chef Kinch and I truly think that if he was in the Napa Valley and not in a town with muscles and boobs it would have a two month waiting list. I met chef Kinch at the end of the meal and had a brief kitchen tour and conversation. And walking away I not only got the impression that he is immensely talented but also a down to earth great guy. The type of person that you are glad stepped into your life and entered your world
Last month my wife and I went on a whirlwind eating adventure in the Napa Valley, that included everything from an In-and-Out Burger to the French Laundry. Last year my wife and I visited Per Se and had a amazing dinner that we believed could never be topped. Well it looks like Thomas exceeded himself with our French Laundry meal. Part of this may have to do with the whole Yountville setting. One of the most beautiful small towns I have ever seen full of flowers and smiles,and street sweepers who drive up and down the road with nothing to sweep. As we entered the restaurant we were greeted by Jen and Larry who treated us like long loss friends. We were escorted to our table in the downstairs dining room and I was kind of surprised by how small and cozy it was. It does not have the grandeur of Per Se, but yet I felt that it suited my style more. I have no doubt that Thomas wishes nothing to distract one from the cuisine. I also fell in love with the china,as each course was presented on a different style plate. Also, all the truffles were grated table side,and had an amazing flavor and aroma for this time of the year. Let me start with the menu and comments below: Warm Gruyere Gougeres Cornet of Marinate Salmon with Red Onion Creme Fraiche Wonderful way of starting. What can I say!! SOUP Puree of Avocado with Sweet Peppers (wife) Puree of Carrot with Medjool Date (me) Cool, Refreshing, and the pure strained essence of what they are. CAVIAR Oysters and Pearls (me) Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Beau Soleil Oysters and Russian Sevruga Caviar, Cauliflower Panna Cotta (wife) with Beau Soleil Oyster glaze and Russian Sevruga caviar Oysters and Pearls is a classic dish that is brilliant. This was the first time tasting the Cauliflower Panna Cotta,and it was delicious. TRUFFLES White Truffle Oil-Infused Custard with a Ragout of Black Perigord Truffles (wife) Eggs Perigourdine, Poached Arcuna Hen Egg with Thomas English Muffin, sauce Hollandaise and Black Perigord Truffles (me) SALAD Salad of Hawiian Hearts of Palm, Pearl Onions and Mint Oil (wife) Warm Salad of Roasted Cepe and Chanterelle Mushrooms (me) My wife loved the Hearts of Palm Salad,and I was in mushroom heaven. PASTA Hand-Cut Tagliantelle with Black Perigord Truffles (wife) Carnaroli Risotto Biologico with Grated Black Truffles and Truffle Cream (me) Two wonderful courses,and hard to pick which one I enjoyed more. Batali should take lessons from Keller as far as I am concerned. The Tagliatelle was presented in a flying-nun hat type bowl. The Risotto was creamy with a slight bite to the rice;executed perfectly. FISH Salt Encrusted Bronzino, with Spanish Capers,Fennel and San Marzano Tomato (for two) Presented to the table whole in a salt crust and taken to the kitchen to be plated. One of our favorites of the night LOBSTER Maine Lobster Tail Pochée Sous Vide (me) Caramelized Fennel Bulb, Crystallized Fennel Chip,Sweet Peppers, and Sauce Noilly Prat Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster, Silver Queen Corn Pudding and Summer Truffles (wife) My god just the thought of this lobster gives me a tingle. Both surpassed my lobster at Per Se by being more flavorful and tender. The Fennel chip can replace the potato chip,and the sauce Noilly Prat was to die for. FOIE GRAS Saute of Moulard Duck Foie Gras, Cream of Arrowleaf Spinach, Oeuf De Caille Poche Au Vinaigre De Champagne Frisee Lettuce and Applewood Smoked Bacon Gastrique (wife) Moulard Duck Foie Gras En Terrine, Masomoto Family Farm Peach Jelly, Pickled Peaches, Peach Melba, Marinated Red Onion, Melba Toast and Crisped Carolina Rice (me) I had the Peach Melba at Per Se, and I'm curious if this dish may have been invented by Cory Lee as he is now at the French Laundry. MEAT Rillete of Rabbit, Ginger Glazed Santa Rosa Plums and Melted Endive (wife) Pork and Beans All Day Braised Hobb's Shore Pork Belly, Cassoulet of Early Summer Pole Beans and Whole Grain Mustard (me) The rabbit was moist and succulent, and just wonderfully accented with the plums. I bet the beans were supplied by our own Rancho_Gordo that came with the pork belly. I made a mental note to order some in the future. MEAT Snake River Farm Calotte De Boeuf Grillee, Roasted Cepe Mushrooms, Braised Cipollini Onions, Crispy Bone Marrow Scallion Salad an Sauce Bordelaise (for two) My god, being in the restaurant business I must have thrown away hundreds if not thousands of these caps. Surely I will pay for it one day as I meet my keeper. This dish was also presented whole,and plated in the kitchen. CHEESE Abbaye De Belloc, Roasted Heirloom Beets, Beet Vinaigrette and Frisee Lettuce (me) Adante Dairy Acapella with figs and Fifty Year Old Balsamic Vinegar (wife) Thomas has been criticized over his cheese course by some in the past but I have no complaints as they were both delicious. ICE CREAM Thyme Ice Cream with Warm Olive Oil (me) Olive Oil Ice Cream with Valhrona Chocolate (wife) The Thyme Ice Cream was presented with a thin chocolate shell covering the bowl, in which the warm olive oil was poured over to melt. Both were smooth and satisfying!! SORBET Hayden Mango Sorbet, Yuzu Scented Genoise,Goma Nougatine and Black Sesame Coulis (me) Napa Valley Red Verjus Sorbet, Szechaun Pepper Gelee, Raisin Puree, White Verjus Emulsion and Vanilla Marinated Muscat Grape (wife) By this time we were really full,and had been at the table over five hours. But these sorbet's were wonderfully refreshing,and added a much needed wake up call for our palate. I especially enjoyed the Verjus Sorbet. DESSERT Coffee and Donuts (both) Cappucino semi-fredo with cinnamon-sugared donuts (for two) I have been reading about this signature dessert for years,and it exceeded my expectations in every way. As full as I was I could of ate a half a dozen. CHOCOLATE Valrhona Bitter Chocolate Souffle Dry Apricot Marmelade and Mascarpone Sorbet (me) Tentation Au Chocolat Noisette Et Lait, Milk Chocolate Cremeux,Hazelnut Streusel with Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream and Sweetened Salty Hazelnuts (wife) At this point Larry said to us, "its chocolate" and not a living thing. You don't have to finish it if you don't want to. We struggled but did, as it was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal. Mignardises to Go For the wine lovers reading this I apologize as I did not receive a print out of the wines served. We had a pairing which had to be eight to ten different wines,which started with champagne. A few comments on the service: What can I say about Larry the maitre d'. He is a man at the top of his game and just as much part of the French Laundry experience as the cuisine itself. Our main server's name escapes me as I believe it may have been Joe but he could not have been more professional,and had a personality so warm that one would think we known each other for years. Another young server named Jeremy I believe, was fantastic. After spending years in the restaurant business I would have paid this young man half my own salary to keep him in any restaurant I managed. He is that much of a asset to any front of the house. I can understand that I may be a minority,but I enjoy engaging in conversation with staff, and they were very open and friendly to the point where I would of loved to pull up a chair and have them join us. Before leaving I had the opportunity to have my second kitchen tour of the night and meet Thomas as he and the staff were discussing the next days menu. He could not have been more gracious as we talked for fifteen to twenty minutes,and also was kind enough to take a photo with us. Keep in mind it had to be at least 1:00 a.m. at this time. A unheard of time for most chefs of this caliber to be in the kitchen. This truly was a meal of a lifetime that will never be forgotten. Robert
I went to Quince a year ago and it was brilliant; by far the best meal I had in SF. Resembled a dressed-up version of Komi more than any Italian restaurant in DC. Very intimate & elegant, with proper but friendly service and small menu where everything was a highlight.