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A Dissenting Opinion on Manresa


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A Dissenting Opinion on Manresa

Tom Armitage | Jan 21, 2009 01:36 PM

Chowhound’s San Francisco Board is full of praise for Manresa, including comments like “perhaps the best restaurant in Calif. currently,” “exceptional,” “amazing food,” and “truly something special.” If there are dissenting views, I haven’t yet found them. So this Seattle (formerly Los Angeles) chowhound was excited to go there last Sunday. I selected the Menus of Tradition three-course special which included a mussel salad, cassoulet, and a chestnut-chocolate desert, served with two glasses of wine for a fixed price of $75 . The mussel salad was basically mussels served on half-shells. The texture was fine, but the mussels were bland to the point of being almost flavorless. I’m a big fan of letting natural flavors shine and not overpowering them with extraneous tastes, but the mussels were too austere even for me. The cassoulet was a sodden mess of mushy beans and bread crumbs – a very inferior version compared with the cassoulet I’ve had in southern France and at other U.S. venues. The only saving grace was a tasty house-made boudin noir on top. The desert was excellent, with a nice combination of flavors and textures. My sampling of the dishes ordered by the other three people at our table yielded mixed results. A sea bream sashimi was fabulous. A suckling pig was beautifully cooked, moist and flavorful, although my favorite part of a suckling pig – the crisp, golden skin – was noticeably absent. A mixture of seafood (including abalone and sea urchin roe) and foie gras in a “tide pool” of dashi-flavored broth was conceptually interesting, but only so-so in the mouth. The foie gras didn’t fit in at all with the tide-pool concept and detracted from the dish. I talked my wife into ordering roast squab as her entrée, over her initial choice of short ribs. The squab was okay, but nothing special. So here I am in the unexpected and lonely spot of having to file a dissenting opinion on Manresa. I know that David Kinch is a highly regarded celebrity chef, and that Manresa has a lot of cachet. But, despite a few standouts like the sea bream appetizer, I just wasn’t all that blown away by the food.

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