A Sneak Taste of Mentone
Although a 2019 opening was expected for Chef David Kinch’s newest restaurant, Mentone in Aptos, eager diners will have to wait a little longer.
Like most under-construction restaurants these days, permit approvals have taken longer than expected. So, Mentone will likely open in the first half of January 2020 instead.
That’s what Kinch confirmed last week, while hosting a pop-up at Manresa Bread in Campbell, where he debuted some of the lusty, soulful food he’ll be serving at Mentone, the first Italian restaurant by this Michelin three-starred chef.
“People think I’m purposely delaying the opening to build more suspense,” he says with a laugh. “But that’s not true. It’s out of my hands.”
Yes, after conquering the highest echelons of fine-dining with Manresa, artisan bread-baking with Manresa Bread (Los Gatos, Los Altos, and Campbell), and the spirit of the Big Easy with the Bywater in Los Gatos, Kinch is turning his attention to the cuisine of the Italian and French Riviera, from which Mentone gets its name. It’ll also be the first restaurant on the “other side of the hill” of Highway 17 for Kinch, who has called Santa Cruz home for decades.
When Mentone does open, the kitchen will be helmed by Executive Chef Matthew Bowden former Manresa executive sous chef). The menu will spotlight hand-made pastas and wood-fired-oven pizzas made with freshly milled flours from head baker Avery Ruzicka of Manresa Bread.
I had a chance to check out the dishes to come, when I was invited as a guest at one of the pop-ups last week ($120 per person with $45 for beverage pairings), where Manresa Bread in downtown Campbell’s dining room was transformed with more tables and dim, romantic lighting.
The evening began with platters of salumi and gnoccho frito, golden rectangles of bread that puffed up after frying. Crisp on the outside and airy inside, they reminded me of Chinese crullers in taste.
Next came cups of “ciuppin” broth. Yes, think cioppino — but only the broth part of it. Infused with tomato, shrimp and lobster shells, it tasted intensely of concentrated shellfish.
Pissaldiere is akin to French pizza, minus the cheese. The thin focaccia-like crust baked to a nice crunch was dotted with olives, caramelized onions and anchovies for a briny Mediterranean flair.
Next, the course I was most waiting for — pasta, of course. Trenette, wide flat noodles like fettuccini, were tossed with vivid green Genovese pesto given extra richness with avocado. The noodles were supple and the basil especially pronounced.
Chicken fricasse is the type of dish you want to tuck into for carefree Sunday supper. The chicken, braised until tender yet still incredibly juicy, came on a bed of very butter mashed potatoes. Tokyo turnips and green olives were strewn here and there.
Dessert spotlighted the amazingly flaky croissants that Manresa Bread is known for. Split, they were filled with both hazelnut and chocolate gelato. The hazelnut one, in particular, was a standout for its heightened nuttiness.
Start counting the weeks for Mentone to open — for a true taste of la dolce vita.