Sometimes, when visiting a well known restaurant for the first time, it’s nice to spend a day or two in the community where the establishment is located prior to dining. Doing so allows me to get a sense of things at ground level. Great restaurants reflect their surroundings and weave local ingredients and influence with global flavor profiles and, more than ever, contemporary cooking techniques. My deep love of culinary arts is based, in part, on these factors and the way a great restaurant anchors, and is anchored by its community. Manresa is such a restaurant and Los Gatos is proud to claim it.
Walking around Los Gatos California in winter, it’s sunny and temperate. People are out strolling the streets, making eye contact, pausing to chat. The community has a casual yet upscale feel to it with brand name shops mixed in with independent retailers. I pause for a moment at the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company for a fresh cup and sit at a table in the large bay window to watch the world go by. Refreshed, I exit left down the street and discover the Sierra Toy Soldier Company. Sierra produces battle scenes in miniature using a variety of toy soldiers and scaled down military hardware and shows them in the front window of the store. Each displays look like a custom movie set. Los Gatos is both main-stream and unique, approachable but extremely local. It feels nice to be here.
Dinnertime is nearing and I walk over to the restaurant to check things out. Manresa is located on Village Lane, one block over from Santa Cruz Avenue. At first I walk past the restaurant entrance and up the street a few steps before realizing that the small brick ranch style home on my right is actually Manresa. Standing in front of the walkway leading to the front door I am surprised that this single story building is the home to such a great restaurant. The small understated aluminum and steel sign placed on a steel post in front of the restaurant caught my eye just before I passed otherwise I would have missed the restaurant and kept walking. My first impression is that Manresa is small and understated. The grounds leading to the entrance are well kept with tall plants, grasses in pots, paved walk ways and a long window that runs from the left hand side of the entry to the end of the building. I wonder if space on the other side of the window was the living room of a private residence at one point in time.
Entering the restaurant, I am surprised at the size of the dining room; it’s much larger than I expected. There’s room for at least fifty guests in the main dining room and a private room in the back seats at least sixteen guests. The floor is tinted concrete softened with carefully placed carpets. After a quick tour I settle in to a two top along the window.
Chef David Kinch, a professional chef to his core, is easy to admire. After graduating from the culinary arts degree program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence Rhode Island in 1983 he spent the next decade refining his skills working at renowned restaurants around the world including the Quilted Giraffe in New York, the Hotel Clio Court in Fukuoka Japan, the Michelin two-star Schweizer Stuben in Wertheim, Germany, the three star L’Esperance in St. Pere-sous-Vezeley, France with Chef Marc Meneau and Pedro Subijana’s Michelin two-star Akelare in San Sebastian, Spain. Kinch, a New Orleans native who worked with Paul Prudhomme when he was chef at Commanders, opened Manresa in 2002 and has held two Michelin stars since 2006. In 2010 he was awarded best chef pacific region by the James Beard Foundation. Chef Kinch is, without question, one of the best, most influential chefs in the country and a master of the culinary arts.
The best way to describe the food at Manresa is modern American with tremendous French and Spanish influence and a solid undertone of Japanese flavor and technique. Kinch’s background, global travels, and professional lineage are reflected in his cuisine. The menu features dishes that are authentically local and driven by the daily harvest of Love Apple Farm just outside of Los Gatos. The influence of Love Apple Farm and the biodynamic vegetables it produces isn’t just symbolic, it’s authentic. Kinch has designed his culinary system at Manresa around the cycle of food stuffs coming from the farm. The impact on the menu is fantastic. Each of the images below convey what amounted to an incredible meal at Manresa. Considering the quality of the ingredients, particularly the products from Love Apple Farm, the additional courses served, and the excellent preparation and service, Manresa is an outstanding restaurant and a great value.
Amuse Bouche Soft Boiled Egg with Maple Syrup and Sherry Vinegar
Amuse Bouche Fresh Oyster in Gelee with Julienne Nori
Monterey Bay Abalone and Braised Pig Trotters, Avocado Mousseline
In the Vegetable Garden with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Sun Choke Puree, Celery Root
Japanese Butterfish roasted slowly with Chanterelles, Yuzu Sabayon and Baby Leeks
Black Cod on the Plancha with Salsify, Black Trumpet Mushrooms with Oyster Emulsion
Breast of Duck and Leg Confit, Hazelnut Praline and Celtuce, Dates with Wild Fennel
Slow Roasted Rack of Veal Tonnato, Cabbage with Sweet Onion and Porcini Fritter
Pears and Pumpkin Cake with Speculass Ice Cream, Moscato Jelly, Prunes, Dates, Molasses, Pecans
320 Village Ln
Los Gatos, California 95030