Alice Patis | May 31, 200502:41 PM     4

We celebrated our anniversary at Manresa Sunday night. Overall we loved it, and liked the creativity and service best. My only quibble is a few things did not have the right salt balance. All the praise has been said before (and it’s well-deserved), so it’s hard not to repeat what’s been said. The menu last night was similar to the one currently on their website. We opted to do 4 courses, and you can really choose any 4 (all savories was perfectly fine); they just ask that you go from lightest to heaviest (i.e., from top to bottom on the menu). Doing 4 courses left us really full but very happy (they were not miniature servings).

The amuses were:
Strawberry gazpacho
Parmesan “churro”
The Egg
They were as wonderful and unique as everyone says, especially the Egg. A couple of quirks: my husband thought his gazpacho was salty, but I hardly detected salt; and they presented only one churro, which we had to restrain from fighting over ;-).

Our first dish was the Japanese Kampachi, a kind of Jack, related to Yellowtail, with chives and olive oil. The fish was pristinely fresh, and the serving quite generous. We both scraped off some of the chives and sesame so that we could taste the mild olive oil. I thought the thin sauce was too salty but my husband tasted the salt only after being able to taste the olive oil (weird or what?).

The next dish was ‘First of the Season’ Soft shelled crab with mashed avocado and ravigote sauce. We both selected it partly on the recommendation of our server, but I wish I had gone with a different choice, and simply tasted my husband’s. My husband liked it, and it wasn’t bad, I just don’t like soft shelled crab with its chewy texture (though I give credit this was less chewy than usual). The server did come ask if it was ok, but I didn’t complain because it was more a bad choice on my part than anything wrong. It was quite a large serving, I gave my husband half after I got a little bored of it.

My next dish was the Japanese bass on the plancha with mushrooms and wild asparagus. I loved it except my first couple bites were so salty, as if it had a full layer of sea salt coating the top. After I squeezed some lemon (served with our iced tea) the saltiness was gone, either dissipated into the rest of the dish, or my first 2 bites had a clump of unseen salt. The lemon juice unfortunately made the crispy skin soft, but it didn’t detract from the dish. The shitakes and morels were so flavorful in earthy muskiness. The saffron broth (more like a sauce) wasn’t overpowering but added a wonderful complexity. The tiny wild asparagus were so cute!

My husband the salmon lover had the Local (wild) King Salmon. I think he would’ve gone with 4 courses of this next time if he could. It was perfectly cooked to medium rare, very simple prep but wonderful execution. It came with English peas and two chickpea frites (they were more like chickpea croquettes, but were crispy and tasty).

My last dish, the Roast squab and confit leg, was the best. The squab had a slight gamey taste that I loved but my husband didn’t like as much. There were many meaty textures in the squab: the confit leg (& thigh) had a crispy skin and almost shredded texture but was not dry. The breast pieces were soft and chewy and moist all at the same time. Not a piece of rubbery skin in sight. The wisps of sauce was amazing, it’s like a balsamic reduction but with duck essence or something (I’m probably totally wrong here), and it was just enough to add an extra dimension. With the generous amount of arugula, fava beans and cherries, every bite exploded in rich, meaty, nutty, tangy, fruity tastes in my mouth.

My husband’s last dish was the braised beef short rib. It had the texture from long braising. The ramps (a kind of green onion) were a little awkward, since they were stringy you had to eat the whole thing in one bite. I thought the house made pasta was too soft but my husband loved it. This was another dish that seems simple but tasted richly complex.

We didn’t order dessert because there were none that appealed to me while the savory menu had too many that did. But we were brought a plate of 3 mignardises, with a candle and a wish for a happy anniversary.

About the service, we liked that it was both formal but casual at the same time. They were all very well trained in formal service, but nothing was stuffy about it. Our glasses were constantly refilled so we never had to ask for water or iced tea (which was a good strong brew). I really liked that it made me feel like I was at a neighborhood restaurant and not a kind of place that serves drinks in tall tiny glasses and doesn’t refill iced tea. The bread service made me smile thinking about the FL bread post, because the bread guy would come almost as soon as you finish your piece of bread. But he could tell when I didn’t want anymore, so it wasn’t as if he was constantly by my side offering bread. Our server was very nice about answering questions about the menu, and had to go ask the kitchen twice to get my answers. He checked on us a few times, less towards the end, but he was easy to catch and was very prompt when we asked for the check and explained we were in a bit of a rush.

Lastly, we got the most perfect location, a two-top in a corner of the Fireplace Room. It felt wonderfully isolated but we were never ignored in terms of service. We made a point of arriving early, and for the first reservation (5:30 PM), since we were told that’s the best chance of getting the table we wanted.

All in all, we both loved it and are now looking for an excuse for another visit. We rarely feel eating out at this price range is worth it, but at Manresa it seems it is.

Note: photos below are in sequence to descriptions above (i.e., top row, L to R, then bottom row, L to R).

Image: http://img154.echo.cx/img154/1641/man...

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