The Citrus Mind – Manresa – Los Gatos, California
David Kinch, the esteemed chef at Manresa, is perhaps the most accomplished shape-shifter in American cuisine. But maybe I am the one who has been unable to pin his butterfly wings. I have found French, Catalan, molecular, and Japanese nods in his preparations. Two weeks ago some friends and I attended the nine course Citrus Modernista that he and his friends at Love Apple Farms prepare annually with the crucial contribution of Gene Lester and his citrus orchards above Monterey Bay.
It was a very impressive evening throughout – and surprising. Walking through the doors I expected that it would be citrus all the way down – tangerines, pomelo, and Buddha’s hand. A symphony of pastel. Indeed, there was a lot of citrus: wekiwa tangelo, meyer lemon, etrog citron, Mandarins, bergamot, poorman orange. Still with all this variety, I was startled in that in most dishes Chef Kinch used citrus delicately and supplely.
My wife and I used to amuse ourselves by preparing meals with one ingredient to be found in every dish, the more bizarre the better: the best was the banana meal, the worst, the liver meal. This foolishness is, of course, the conceit of Iron Chef. But when we played the game the goal was that the ingredient would be front and center. This is not Kinch’s style.
Once one overcame the surprise of subtlety, the meal was filled with wonder. The theme of these dishes emphasized Kinch’s love of gathering, of modest ingredients. More than previous dinners it was a meal that paid tribute to the New Naturalism. It was not exclusively found foods (foie gras does not lay about), but the connection of kitchen and ground was evident. The dishes pulled back from the drama of a cuisine of astonishment to reveal the power of a cuisine of consideration.
Perhaps I was more struck by the lengthy Japanese tasting menu I was served last year, but Citrus Modernista was a tour de force, particularly as it is a one-off, never to be tasted again. And perhaps it speaks of Chef Kinch’s desire to cook food, rather than to cook theory.
Foie Gras and Buckwheat Crisps, Marmalade Bouquet de Fleurs. A pungent beginning to the meal. Perhaps it was a twist on a cliche - with foie gras replacing the expected caviar - but none the worse for that.
Garden Leaves, Shoots and Flowers, Roasted Meyer Lemon Mustard with Apple, Spot Prawns with their Head Juices. Two of Chef Kinch's passions combined: greens and local spot prawns with a subtle bit of meyer lemon.
Mackerel Marinated in Sake Lees, Charcoal Grilled with Seafood Salsa Verde , Assorted Clams with Sampson Tangelo, Salted Butter. I felt that this composition was the best dish of the night. It was a wonderful combination of textures and tastes, well-considered. Another of the increasingly popular mackerel dishes.
Scallop Shards and Dungeness Crab, Kyoto Miso with Etrog Citron. This was another fine and considered collection of tastes.
Black Cod, jus of bones and Beef Skin, Brassicas and Flowers with Ginger, Dill and Kabuso Citrus. This was another splendid dish, one of the more beautiful of the night, and the dish most gathered. It had just the right mix of flavors.
Roast Guinea Hen Jelly, Assorted Mandarins with Pickled Cucumber and Roast Peanuts, Bitter Chocolate with Bergamot Orange. Not the prettiest dish of the night, but the flavors were fine and the guinea hen was remarkably tender.
Hot Spring Egg and pure Akaushi Beef Sirloin, Black Tea and Dried Tuna Bouillon, Chestnut with Bergamot Orange. This was my least favorite dish, although it was fine. Chef Kinch likes to mix beef and veal with tuna and tea. The orange was quite subtle, but it couldn't have been more prominent without throwing the dish off.
Ginger Ice Cream and Poorman Orange Sorbet. Here was a well-made paired palate cleanser. Both scoops were luscious.
Yuzu Souffle Cake with Herb Sorbet, Exotic Citrus with Honey and Spice, Olive Oil and Almond Crumble. This was the most sustained and deep tribute to citrus with a nod to molecular cuisine. It was one of the strongest dishes of the night, and sent us into the street with a tangy fruity glow.
320 Village Lane
Los Gatos, CA
5 weeks ago