The SF Bay Area chapter of an international internet dining group, Opinionated About, had its collective mind blown by a spectacular holiday feast at Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos on Saturday night. Many kudos to Chef David Kinch who is clearly in the very top echelon of SF area chefs. I was so focused on the superb food, I didn't recognize Isabella Rosellini when she entered the restaurant! (No, she wasn't part of our group).
The dinner lasted from 7:30pm--2:00am. I am serious. Twenty-four courses not counting the many substitutions for the people who have food "fetishes"*. All told, our group probably received well over 30 distinct preparations.
Given the number of dishes I'll break this review up into several parts. This post will cover the amuse bouches (pre-bites, appetizers) only.
"Parmesan churros" were crispy and light as air yet dense with flavor.
The "Carrot-orange cocktail with hibiscus" intrigued with a sequential layer of tastes. First the sweetness of carrot juice, followed by the unfamiliar hint of hibiscus (gelee), then the sweet/tart valencia orange sorbet. Once on the tongue they combined to produce a taste that was greater than the parts. Excellent combination.
"Oyster with sea urchin, in its' own jelly" This was my first significant taste of sea urchin. I loved how it complimented the fresh, very cold oyster.
To my never ending chagrin, the Judge doesn't eat seafood or cheese. As a sub for the oyster course, he was served "Orange salad with fennel sorbet". Heh, they didn't know he refuses to eat fennel. He enjoyed it and I took advantage of the moment to tell him I was adding fennel back into the household menu.
I have no pictures for the next three amuse bouches:
"Sayori, shiso and bacon": sayori is a type of fish. I thought the server said "chayote" so I assured the Judge he could eat it. Ooops! He didn't die.
"Fatty bluefin belly, meyer lemon": a rich tuna tartare
"Chestnut croquettes": my notes say chestnut cream with sake, truffles and ?yams? Whatever, this little deep-fried morsel was delicious.
"Beef and oyster tartare" While I am a fan of Beef carpaccio, this was my first taste of ground beef tartare. I was amazed at the depth of flavor and the fact I could distinguish the oyster from the beef.
"Potato leek soup with egg and Manchego". This was a frightening dish for me. My only food "fetish" is eggs. I have no problem with eggs when they are disguised in other foods like baked goods or batters but I absolutely do not eat eggs when they are obvious: even quiches and omelets are precluded. However, given the controversy surrounding one of the egg dishes at Manresa (see Chez Pim), I knew in advance I'd probably be facing an egg and decided I would brave it for the sake of challenged foodies everywhere. I am proud to say that I broke the yolk and ate quite a bit of the egg. It helped that the soup was luscious and redolent with the taste of leek and Manchego.
Well, that is the end of the amuse bouche portion of our holiday feast. Believe it or not, sixteen courses still to come!
* By the phrase food "fetishes" I mean foods we aren't physically allergic to but don't eat. There is no purely rational reason for not eating them...just intense dislike that in some extreme cases convinces us we are actually allergic. For me it's eggs. For the Judge it's fish and cheese. For others it's olives or meat or broccoli. I mean no disrespect of anyone's fetishes or dislikes.