Monday, February 13, 2006

Manresa, Los Gatos

When Restaurant magazine came out with its 2005 list of the top 50 restaurants worldwide, I couldn't help but notice that not a single San Francisco eatery made the cut. In California, honors went to Chez Panisse (#13), French Laundry (#3) and Manresa (#38).

Of the three, Jon and I had not yet been to Manresa. So we decided we should check it out some time... And that time was last night.

First of all, let me start by warning you that this restaurant is tucked away behind Santa Cruz Avenue (a main drag in Los Gatos). It's not the most convenient location, and the quaint exterior of the restaurant belies the extraordinary culinary experience that awaits you once you step inside.

Although most people in the dining room seemed to order the chef's tasting menu, Jon and I opted for the three-course meal. Partly because a good number of the tasting menu items at restaurants like Manresa scare Jon (he doesn't eat foie gras, shellfish, sweetbreads), and partly because we just didn't have the energy for a marathon dinner.

There was not one, not two, but THREE amuse bouches. First up was a salty mango lassi. I love me some mango lassi, but I didn't care for the saltiness of Manresa's version. The second amuse was a salt cod fritter. Delicious. Finally, there was "The Egg" -- a custard-like egg, sherry vinegar, chives and maple syrup layered in an eggshell. On the first bite, the contrast between the egg and the maple syrup was a bit too strong. But subsequent bites -- once the runny yolk had been broken -- were much better.

Now, on to the actual food that we ordered! Jon started with the butterfish, served sashimi-style with olive oil, chives and sesame seeds. It was light and fresh. I went with the abalone in brown butter, which sat atop layers of onion