I’ve eaten here a number of times over the past two years or so and have been fortunate enough to have sampled Chef David Kinch’s cuisine. On most occasions, I’ve had his tasting menu. I have some great pictures of one of my latest tasting experiences that I hope to post soon. For this review, I wanted to illuminate an experience with their patio menu.
The Chef’s patio menu is comprised of a prix fixe 3 course menu. The menu also includes some other choices including some small plates if you want to sample a few items. How can I describe his patio menu? It’s not that these menu items are simple per se. Some of the items you will find on the menu can be described as luxe, such as quail or suckling pig, but others show the chef’s love for “country” cooking. These dishes utilize the type of ingredients you might find while dining in the French or Spanish country side. Things like tripe, country style pate, beets, anchovies, olives, and rabbit are often found on this menu. The cooking technique however is of the highest caliber, regardless of which menu or items you order.
On this occasion, we started with two soups. We had the strawberry gazpacho soup and the melon soup. Oh man…. The strawberry gazpacho had a wonderful balance of sweet and savory. The texture of this soup was enhanced by a few wonderful croutons floated on the surface of the soup and some nicely diced cucumber lining the bottom of the bowl. The melon soup was ridiculous…in a good way. The first bite made me laugh with surprise. With only the slightest hint of sweetness, this savory soup was so damn good it made my body and mind wage war. My body was trying to devour it as quickly as possible while my mind wanted to eat it slowly and figure out exactly how the Chef executed it. I’m pretty sure he fortified the body of the soup with a little squash, perhaps butternut. I think he started the soup with some shallots also. My only regret was that I forgot to ask about the preparation.
The main courses cemented my trust in the Chef. We order the market fish, which was John Dory, and the rabbit. The John Dory was perched atop some fingerling potatoes and some chanterelle mushrooms. The fish was cooked perfectly. I think the chef intended you to eat each bite with a little of everything on the fork. This is because the fish was well seasoned but the potatoes were a bit under seasoned. The balance between the two was perfect. It’s that type of thought from a chef that I appreciate.
Now the rabbit… Seasoning was perfect and the skin was crispier than I thought possible. The rabbit was served atop some choucroute (sauerkraut) and a nice piece of boudin noir (blood sausage). This IS cooking – the type of dish that assaults your emotion and your palate with equal vigor. Home-cooking and haute cuisine in the same dish. How much did I like this dish? I ordered another one. I’ve never ordered two of the same entrée at the same time, ever.
Dessert was a wonderful torte with cherries and a peach soufflé with basil crème anglaise. The torte was delicious, with a wonderful caramel cherry sauce decorating the plate. The soufflé’s crème anglaise was delicious. The soufflé was great, however for its size, it could have been a little less sweet. The peach flavor was perfect. For all those who have cooked with peaches, you know what can happen to the flavor of peaches when they are heated too much. The Chef avoided that problem and produced a wonderfully flavored dish.
I highly recommend this restaurant and Chef Kinch’s food. I’m so happy to hear that Manresa was ranked one of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” by London’s Restaurant magazine.
The Chef definitely pushes the envelope and at times puts stuff on the plate that people would not normally expect. If you want a traditional tasting menu, forget Manresa. You know the type of menu. It starts with caviar, goes to fish, then lobster, then foie, then squab, then veal… I love a menu like that on occasion, but after eating as many tasting menus as I have, it’s so damn boring. I always know what is coming out next. Chef Kinch has the most guts of any chef in the US in my opinion. However, he will at times put something out that fails. In my opinion, it usual involves some Asian inspired ingredient or dish. A true artist does unpopular stuff at times, however, the Chef never lets you down in the surprise and excitement department. It also shows that the Chef is evolving and constantly learning – a good thing.
How do I judge truly great food? If I eat the cuisine and it makes me laugh, makes me smile, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, or makes me shed a tear, then I have had great food. Does that sound crazy? Yes. Am I a food freak? Yes. But without good food, you might as well die. How can one deprive themselves of such pleasures?
Chef Kinch’s food is definitely great. I think we’re going to hear a lot of things about this Chef in the years to come. Check out his dining room and this patio when you have a chance.