Dinner – Sunday, February 17, 2019
I last visited Manresa in 2012 – over 6 years ago! That’s a lifetime in the food industry, and indeed the restaurant has risen from the (literal) ashes twice, having suffered serious fires in 2014 and 2018. The cooking is evidently none the worse for wear, as the restaurant received 3* in 2016 and has retained them since. I decided to rectify my long absence and visit on a quiet and chilly Sunday evening.
Granola crisp and goat cheese
Red bell pepper pâte de fruit, black olive madeleine
Leek, black trumpet mushrooms, Perigord truffles
Golden Osetra caviar
Shellfish essence, puffed rice, citrus marigold gelée
The gelée had a really well-calibrated acidity that offset the brininess of the caviar and shellfish cream – the dish would probably have been pedestrian without it, but instead was transformed into a star.
Hokkaido red uni, turnip, kohlrabi
Char roe, Mermaid’s hair seaweed, lemon myrtle consommé
“Into the vegetable garden…”
Tonight’s rendition was heavy on the brassicas and edible flowers, with apple and gooseberries for sweetness. Some farro added more texture, and a creamy koji hollandaise tied all the vegetables together.
Kinmedai, Dungeness crab
Oro blanco, crab oil, koji butter
Perfect pairing of ingredients, and perfect cooking (I mean, look at the wonderful blistered skin on the kinmedai). My dish of the night.
Big fin squid
Morels, tapioca pearls, grilled onion jus
The pearls were rehydrated in squid jus and colored with squid ink, to mimic caviar. The morels were stuffed with cream, Parmesan and ham for a burst of umami. Rich and satisfying – a great winter dish.
Potato-coffee mousseline, truffled beef jus, black garlic
So many places abuse sweetbreads by treating them like a chicken nugget. This kitchen gets it right, serving them plump and juicy. The accompaniments were strong but complementary. Extra point for serving it all up on a Jeff Koons plate.
3-week dry-aged roasted squab breast, confit leg
Braised endive and its jam, squash, honey, sauce Albufera
Pleasant Hill Reserve Extra Aged cheese, Perigord truffles
Kaffir lime ice cream
Fermented shishigatani squash purée, milk panna cotta, pistachio brittle
Wow, a standout dessert. Funky, creamy, tangy, crunchy – a nice jolt to the palate.
Roasted pear, cocoa nib and fennel ice cream
Licorice molasses, milk chocolate crémeux, dark chocolate arlette
Dinner was brought full circle with a serving of strawberry pâte de fruit and chocolate madeleine. These were accompanied by matcha and orange praline macarons, a Meyer lemon bonbon, citrus caramel, and almond dragée. Just the right amount of sweets – and I took some home too.
I don’t believe that every 3* restaurant in the Bay Area warrants its rating – Manresa does, in spades. This was a strong meal with very little to nitpick about. If I had to, I’d criticize the offerings from Manresa Bread (which somehow have never jived with me) or the use of fairly mediocre truffles (why bother?). Otherwise, I really loved the flavours this evening. Shame on me for waiting so long to revisit.