David Kinch (Manresa)
1119 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 11/11/13
David Kinch, chef of two-star Manresa in Los Gatos, CA, is one of the most lauded chefs in the country. I’ve been to Manresa once many years ago and, quite frankly, don’t remember much about it. For some time now, I’ve been wanting to return to the restaurant to retry some of Kinch’s hyper-local modern American cuisine.
Earlier this week I sort of got my chance, as chef David Kinch cooked a collaborative dinner at Rustic Canyon. The chef was in town to promote his new cookbook (Manresa: An Edible Reflection) and reunited with Manresa ex-chef de cuisine Jeremy Fox, who is now executive chef of Rustic Canyon (with a significant stop at Napa’s Michelin-starred vegetarian Ubuntu in between). I dined on Fox’s food a few months back at Rustic Canyon and enjoyed it; combined with the addition of Kinch, I had high expectations for this meal.
Each chef put together a snack and five courses for what really amounted to 12 different tastes. I thought the $95 price tag offered a lot of value for this kind of meal; drink pairing was an additional $45.
crispy cassava and oyster (manresa)
lavender almonds (rustic canyon)
lovely pear cocktail house infused pear ginger vodka, housemade amaretto, lemon, honey, cardamom, cinnamon bitters
Our first course, dubbed “snacks,” were two finger foods. Kinch’s cassava ‘fries’ were crunchy and slightly earthy, pairing oddly well with the oyster cream and nori dust. Very interesting. The home-field lavender almonds featured sweet and salty flavor profiles with a definite lavender essence.
sea bream lightly cured with persimmon, savory granola (manresa)
radish crudite, nori creme fraiche, pear mustard, yuzu (rustic canyon)
2006 domaine weinbauch, clos des capucins, cuvee theo gewurztraminer, alsace
Next up was this duo. Kinch presented thick slices of the oily white fish with sweet persimmons and crunch from the seeds in the granola. Fox’s dish centered around crisp, fresh radishes (whole and sliced) with a selection of dipping sauces. The nori creme fraiche was probably my favorite, adding a ton of depth and just a slight tartness.
mussel, gooseberry and tomatillo escabeche (manresa)
pozole verde of scallops and their tripe (rustic canyon)
2011 birichino, malvasia bianca, monterey
I’ve had a similar pozole when I last visited Fox and this one was just as good. I didn’t even realize there was scallop ‘tripe,’ which kind of resembled squid. Kinch’s mussels were plump and juicy, but I found the gooseberries to be exceedingly tart – not sure everything came together as well as I would’ve liked.
mijote of sunchoke & chestnuts, brussel sprouts with brillat savarin milk (manresa)
monterey bay abalone with turnip (rustic canyon)
2005 andrew robert, grand cru blanc de blancs, le mesnil-sur-oger, champagne
Tender pieces of braised chestnuts and sunchokes formed the crux of Kinch’s dish, brought together with the thick, almost cheese-like milk. I didn’t think this dish showed off the pristine produce, and I wanted something to break up the soft, rich and creamy textures. I enjoyed Fox’s dish much more, with a tender chunk of buttery abalone pairing very well with a sauce of turnip green and onion puree. The turnips were cooked beautifully, being tender with bursts of fresh flavor.
manresa boudin noir and toasted buckwheat (manresa)
potatoes a la flammande, salt cod alfredo, green garlic (rustic canyon)
2001 vina olabarri, gran reserva, rioja
Chunks of Kinch’s boudin noir were rich and flavorful, accompanied by diced braised fruit and an interesting buckwheat popcorn. The rich minerality of the sausage was nicely offset by the fruit, while the popcorn provided some earthy flavor and a bit of chew. Fox’s dish featured a couple varieties of potatoes par-cooked, crushed and fried. The salt cod alfredo was a difference-maker bringing a warm fish flavor to the overall dish, as well as a rich creaminess. This plate resembled the flavors of a salt cod croquette in a totally different platform.
hibiscus pears and gingerbread, smoked pecans (manresa)
andante dairy minuet, beets & berries, pistachio soil (rustic canyon)
nv dumangin, ratafia de champagne, france
Kinch’s final dish centered around a moist gingerbread cake and sweet fruit. I thought the fruit really brightened everything up, while pecans (sitting in a whipped cream) provided a welcome flavor profile and textural contrast. Fox’s cheese course was a rich one, with the creamy cheese brightened up by fresh raspberries and beets.
The drink pairing consisted of one cocktail and five pours of wines (descriptions accompany the paired dishes).
Being familliar with Jeremy Fox’s food, I think he really delivered in this meal. His use of textures and varied flavor profiles were showcased and execution was spot on. However, I was a little disappointed by David Kinch’s side of the menu. Maybe expectations were too high or I just didn’t understand his food, but I didn’t think any individual dish really stood out. With such ingredient-driven food (Manresa sources exclusively from Love Apple Farms), I didn’t think the produce consistently stood out either.