Dinner at Manresa
We celebrated Valentine's Day a few weeks ago with an evening out in the South Bay. We got some free tickets to Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night at the SJ Rep, which turned out to be one long, depressing play (the fact that it was described as heartrending and searing kind of tipped us off ahead of time). It was well-performed, but I think we would've enjoyed a more upbeat show. We had to leave a few minutes before it ended to make it to our dinner reservation on time, which made me feel kind of bad. Hopefully nobody took our early exit the wrong way.
We drove on down to Los Gatos, where we had a dinner reservation at Manresa (Tree, their logo looks awfully familiar! They totally ripped you off!). This was our first visit, and based on reviews by internet food celebrities (not to mention those two Michelin stars), I was looking forward to it!
We had some trouble finding it, but once we did, everything went smoothly. The hostess was very nice, as was our waitress. A group near us seemed to be a little drunk and was being loud, but other than that, it was a very nice atmosphere. The older couple sitting next to us must have been important, because the chef sent them extra food (which we didn't get, sadly--I was really looking forward to getting the baba au rhum in a jar for dessert, but it wasn't part of our lineup) and invited them to tour the kitchen after their meal. There was a little kid (maybe 9 years old) at another table. It's such a nice restaurant that I bet they put something nice together for him so he wouldn't feel left out.
We went all out and got the chef's tasting menu. So many courses! Needless to say, they were all awesome. I didn't take any pictures, but other people have.
- Tiny red bell pepper pate de fruit and black olive madeleine - These were yummy! A good combination of sweet and savory flavors, with complimentary textures. Even Patrick liked them, and he hates olives.
- Winter croquette filled with foie gras and chestnut - We were instructed to eat these in one bite. Patrick likened them to Gushers fruit snacks. Tasty and surprising!
- Oyster in a sea urchin gelee - We weren't sure whether to slurp this or use the teeny utensils that accompanied it (we got new utensils with every course, many of them very small and endearing).
- Foie gras royale with layers of custard, turnip soup, and apple infusion
- The famous soft cooked egg with sherry vinegar cream and maple syrup - This is one of the chef's signature dishes, and for good reason--it was yummy! One of my favorite dishes of the night.
- Wood-grilled foie gras with apple puree and quince consomme - Our first non-amuse-bouche. At this point, we were feeling a little foie gras overload. Luckily, this was the last foie gras of the night. I guess you're not supposed to complain about eating too much foie gras.
- Sashimi-style sea breem
- Monterey Bay spot prawns with exotic Indian spices - We were presented with full prawn halves, head and all, with what we believe was the roe still attached. We weren't sure if we should eat the roe or not. It didn't separate from the shell very well, so we left it. The exotic spices complimented the prawn meat very nicely.
- Monterey Bay abalone with cauliflower and anchovy - I was excited to have another chance to try abalone, but once again I was underwhelmed. Our waitress said it was her favorite dish, but I didn't agree. Oh well, it's better for us if I don't like abalone, since it's so expensive. I just keep thinking that since it comes in such a pretty shell, it must be delicious!
- Black cod with roasted meat juice
- Suckling pig confit, boudin noir, and a tuille of chocolate chile - I actually thought Suppenkuche did a better suckling pig, though this was delicious too. We were both a little wary of eating blood sausage (boudin noir), but it was fine. Not my favorite sausage ever. I liked the tuille though.
- Milk-fed veal on black trumpet mushroom puree with green garlic - As with the other entrees, this was very good, but overall the amuse bouches were more exciting and innovative, in my opinion.
- Citrus salad with candied rhubarb and citrus granita - A delicious palate cleanser. It was nice to have something sweet and light after all the meaty dishes.
- Mini Belgian waffle, bananas in passionfruit syrup, condensed milk ice cream - The waffles, bananas, and ice cream were great. I was less taken with the passionfruit syrup.
- Rocky road parfait topped with housemade marshmallow - This was awesome. There was a hidden nugget of nut-studded chocolate in the middle of the layers of chocolate mousse and marshmallow. Halfway through this dessert, it finally struck me how full I was. This was one of my favorite courses though.
- Strawberry pate de fruit with chocolate madeleine - I liked how the meal began and ended with a gelee and a madeleine, but with very different flavors. So clever!
I definitely liked the amuse bouches and desserts the best. I think it's hard to make main dishes exciting for me. It was all delicious and super-high-quality. I think it was worth the price, but after eating at Manresa, I felt like I'd had enough decadent super-fancy restaurant meals for awhile (this could have been exacerbated by our five-day-long fancy restaurant extravaganza in Portland the week prior). It almost made me not want to go to the French Laundry because the French Laundry costs even more, and I think I'd inevitably be disappointed in the meal. Even though our meal at Manresa was awesome and creative and flawless, I felt a little disappointed by it too, just because we were paying so much money. Judging by my experiences at Chez TJ and Manresa, when we pay so much money for a meal, I'm bound to be a little disappointed no matter how great it is or how many courses we get. I just wasn't enchanted by the experience at either restaurant, and for that much money, I think I should be. Perhaps that is expecting too much. And really, on a price-per-dish basis, Manresa is a bargain :)
Anyway, it was a great special occasion meal (we're so lucky to be able to splurge like this every so often), and I would gladly go back if we weren't paying, but I think I've had my fill of Michelin-starred restaurants for the time being. I don't think I'm able to fully appreciate them yet. Maybe in a few years I'll have a better appreciation for super-upscale places. Right now, I prefer restaurants that are more laid back and cozy with an emphasis on local ingredients (and we certainly have plenty of those kinds of restaurants around here). Of course, the most important thing is being able to spend time with Patrick, no matter what we're eating.