I believe the first time I heard of chef David Kinch was in the June 1996 Gourmet. In my opinion this was the first review were Gourmet did not just give a middle of the road description of a restaurant,but actually a review in the sense of the word. The first truly negative review they gave a restaurant was Atlas in NY,if I recall correctly. So this review of Sent Sovi sparked my interest in chef Kinch's work,and I recall calling the restaurant requesting a menu to review. Imagine my surprise when a few days later I found a whole press kit in my mailbox.
This was almost ten years ago,and I have been reading all I can on the success of chef Kinch sense. So when I had the opportunity to visit the Napa Valley last weekend, I just had to fit in a visit to Manresa.
The hours before our reservation were really kind of comical and for awhile seemed it was straight out of a sitcom. The ride down from Yountville went well as I never have seen a seven lane highway before. Something the east coast should consider. But we arrived a few hours early with some time to kill and dressed in shorts. And not knowing what kind of dress code Manresa had we were debating were we could change. Luckily we found a secluded parking lot at the edge of town were we attempted to change. Kind of gave the wife a wink and made a comment about being twenty years younger. We still had some time to waste so we walked around town a little bit. And I mentioned to my wife there seems something out of place here that I could not put my finger on. Like out of a Twilight Zone episode. After awhile I stopped in my tracks,looked at her and said I got it. There are no fat people here. All I saw was muscles and boobs! So I pulled in my gut and headed to the restaurant.
I went in knowing I was going to enjoy this meal but after the first few courses I knew my expectations were exceeded. Chef Kinch's cuisine is bold and in your face, and makes you stop to take notice.
I just love the dining room with it's well spaced tables and comfortable chairs.
If there was one down fall in the evening it was we were pushed for time as we had to catch the Redeye out of SF airport. As each course was sat down,we likely finished it within minutes. And as I watched the dining room fill up I could not help but have a vision of chef Kinch yelling fire the next three courses for that S.O.B!!
Maybe if I didn't work in kitchens all my life this would not have bothered me but I tend to work myself up as I know the efffort that must have been taken to keep the courses coming as smoothly as they did on a busy Saturday night.
This is the menu we had:
Petits fours red pepper-black olive
Radis au beurre
Santa rosa plum with hibiscus and strawberry
Broccoli and foie gras royale
Marinated fluke, local olive oil
Crenshaw melon soup, almond tofu
Dirty girl salad
Rouget, anchovy and tomato sofrigit, lemon basil
Abalone with pigs feet
Cepes en papillote, slow egg
Cranberry bean bouillon, foie gras, old rioja vinegar
Sweetbreads, braised lettuce with corn pudding
Roast farm poularde, delta crawfish
Prime beef roasted in its own fat, foie gras
Strawberries, raw cream, 30 year old balsamico
Pain perdu, roast apricots and corn ice cream
Chocolate marquis, condensed milk ice cream
Petits fours chocolate-strawberry
Again we had a wine pairing and again I failed to take notes. We started with a lovely champagne that my wife and I both felt was the best we tasted on our trip.
Regarding the menu,there was not one dud in the entire dinner and I would be hard pressed to pick my favorites. But if I had to chose the roll back your eyes courses, it would have to be the Santa rose plum with hibiscus and strawberry. Hands down the best amuse I ever had. A burst of flavor that just wakes up the palate. I looked at my wife and said I guess I never had plums before. They were also in the Dirty girl salad. Just wonderful!!
The Rouget surrounded the table with a wonderful aroma the moment it was sat on the table. A terrific dish. The abalone with pigs feet was rich and succulent,and I was tempted to tell my wife halfway threw what it was and hope she would give me hers. The pain perdu was a wonderful dessert course.
In closing, I wish I lived closer to this restaurant,as I know I would visit it regularly. I wish the best for chef Kinch and I truly think that if he was in the Napa Valley and not in a town with muscles and boobs it would have a two month waiting list. I met chef Kinch at the end of the meal and had a brief kitchen tour and conversation. And walking away I not only got the impression that he is immensely talented but also a down to earth great guy. The type of person that you are glad they stepped into your life and entered your world even if only for a short time.