Manresa 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA
We celebrated our 10th "first date" anniversary last night at a Michelin 2-star restaurant/Mobil Travel Guide 4-star restaurant. The dinner was truly amazing. We were 20 minutes early and Michael Kean, the general manager got us a table right away. The decor was nice, comfortable and inviting..not too plush, a nice balance of modern and warm. We were seated along one wall where we can see the door to the kitchen and get a good view of the wine storage and most of the room. The crowd looked a little bit on the older side wearing business suits. I had double checked opentable.com to read more on how to dress for the restaurant. I went for a safe outfit and wore all black with a hot pink shawl. J did the whole black look with a silver button-down shirt. Can't go wrong with black.
The room didn't feel overly crowded or noisy. I'm wondering if this is just a more sedate crowd or if it was because they didn't try to cram too many tables in the restaurant.
The restaurant location is actually quite quaint and tucked away in on a little street between University & Santa Cruz. Parking was a bit of a challenge since this part of Los Gatos is quite popular with all its shops and restaurants. I thought with the cooler weather there would be less folks, however arriving earlier than we expected we didn't mind waiting for a space to open up in the lot just behind the restaurant. There is no valet service.
This had to be the most memorable meal we've ever had. Considering our first date dinner was more of a college type fare with spaghetti, salad and soda which was over in 20 minutes. The time of our dinner party included a viewing of Toy Story. The Manresa experience was the extreme opposite on the spectrum of dining experiences.
When we were reviewing the menu we wanted to try the tasting menu and we didn't want our dinner to take 3-4 hours. We were starving since we ate so little during the day and it was already 8 o'clock. So we both decided to do the 4 course dinner and selected different dishes so that we could try the variety of food. Since we were celebrating we also opted for the wine pairing for our dishes.
After we browsed the menu and enjoyed the bread and sea salted butter, I manager came up to show us their latest prized possession, a nice white truffle from Italy. The truffle was a little bigger than a golfball and was sitting on a bed of uncooked rice in a nice black lacquer box. It was quite a beautiful presentation. For an extra $65 you can have a few shavings of this amazing fungi during the second course.
Spoon of acorn squash puree with evoo and a little crushed sea salt.
Slow cooked egg with something like sour cream and chives...(i need to learn more about how to taste seasonings and distinguish creams and stuff) This was quite heavenly. You had to mix it all around to make sure the dressing was incorporated with the egg.
Deep fried parmesan stick(similar to a cheesy churro), not too greasy and just a slight taste of saltiness.
This was paired with a Cava sparking wine. This was a nice way to start our celebration dinner.
Butterfish sashimi with a really nice olive oil dressing. The fish was really like butter, a slight transluscent pink color touched with a bit of olive oil, the serving was a good portion to be able to enjoy and to share.
Sweet onion-brioche soup with a slice of manchego cheese and slow-cooked egg. Poured into a bowl, the soup was amazing and the wine really brought out the flavors. The cheese and slow-cooked egg were really nice balance to the sweetness of the soup. The cheese gave the nice saltiness and the egg gave some weight and texture.
Arctic char with some greens. This was a nice light fish that resembled salmon but not as heavy or oily. A nice balance with my super light chardonnay or was it a sauvignon blanc...can't remember.
The john dory on the plancha(style of cooking on a cast iron plate), drenched in Indian spices, yogurt & cucumber sauce. This dish was an amazing mix of fish in a slightly spicey sauce. The wine pairing was excellent and it truly brought out the spiciness but balanced with the buttery feel of the wine.
Squab, nice medium rare really red. However the server warned us and said that if it was cooked well it would have become rubbery with no flavors. He was right, the rareness released the nice balanced flavors of the meat with its accompaniment and sauce. The dish was not salty and the wine pairing was amazing; a 2005 Jezebel Pinot Noir from Oregon. That was the only thing I wrote down because the wine was amazing.
My veal cheeks braised in apple cider, celery root and maitakes, roquefort was absolutely amazing. The earthy French syrah I had was a nice balance to the earthiness of my dish. The veal was tender and felt like it was melting in my mouth. We both ate in silence as we enjoyed our meals.
Enough time paced our courses and gave us a chance to enjoy our wine. James, our server was quite helpful in explaining our meal and the accompanying wine. He asked if we were there celebrating an occassion; we told him it was our anniversary. For our last course, dessert, he served both our plates with a little candle on them. It was a nice gesture and made our celebration dinner feel more festive.
Chocolate marquis , cashews and white coffee ice cream. A highly sophisticated Snickers-like bar with white chocolate ice cream. The small portion was enough to close out the dinner but not too much to overpower the flavors from all the courses. This was paired with a nice velvety late harvest red wine.
Date cake with Tahitian vanilla ice cream with carmelized bacon and dried pear slice. I really don't even know how to describe this one. The carmelized bacon was an unlikely pair with the date cake but somehow it was a really nice touch to the dessert.
Great presentation of loose tea and served in individual teapots. I'm hoping for Christmas I can get a nice loose tea presentation box. We both had a lemongrass herbal tea. This was a nice way to top off our dinner and warm us up before we headed outdoor.
What was more amazing about this dining experience was the General Manager gave us a tour of the kitchen. Executive Chef Kinch was somewhat busy so all he could manage was a subtle wave to acknowledge our presence. Not too bad considering we've never been in the kitchen to see a kitchen's choreographed dance. One of the highlights of the kitchen was a professional stove that was imported from France. It cooks with even heat at various tempertures. The chef basically moves the pot over the French top(not open but smooth so fuel smell of gas doesn't affect the food) of the stove which was made of cast iron. You can read more from the SFGate Review.
After so much wine(we don't usually drink), we went for a walk on Santa Cruz Ave in the extremely cool November evening...it was getting close to midnight when we headed home. I guess dinner did take over 3 hours! But we really didn't notice the time since we were savoring each bite of our meal and enjoying spending quality time together.
4 Course Meal was $85 and another $52 for the wine pairing
Chef's Tasting Menu(seasonal and spontaneous) was $115 and another $72 for the wine pairing.
Next time we'll plan for an earlier dinner and try the tasting menu.