Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 22
Manresa, Los Gatos
If you’ve been thinking there’s no way I can afford to get takeout at a Michelin three-starred restaurant, think again.
While pre-pandemic, a dinner at Manresa would have dented your bank account, its Manresa Family Meal selections offered at this time are actually quite affordable, especially considering the quality of what you get. That’s what I found when I picked up dinner last week.
Manresa’s takeout is offered Wednesday through Sunday, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The family meal not only changes each week, but actually each day of the week, too.
When I spied last Saturday’s Japanese-influenced spread, I went for it. For each family meal, there is a vegetarian counterpart option offered, as well. I got one of each, with the soy-braised short ribs with beef jus option ($67) for my husband Meat Boy, of course. While I’m not necessarily a vegetarian, the Jidori hen egg omelette with toasted nori vegetarian substitution ($43) proved irresistible.
You order ahead of time and choose your pickup time. Pull up curbside, roll down your window to give a nattily suited server your name, and a runner will pass your bag of food to you. Yup, you don’t even have to get out of the car. You’re on your way, just like that.
You’ll have an assortment of containers inside, including quite a few with sauces and garnishes. Fortunately, there is a printed card inside that not only lists the menu (handy so that you can figure out what sauce goes with what), but also heating directions. If you order both a vegetarian option and a non-vegetarian one, labels are clearly marked to distinguish which containers are vegetarian-based.
Miso soup needed only to be microwaved for a few seconds to rewarm. It was loaded with custardy cubes of soft tofu, wakame, fresh shiitakes, and green onions.
Maitake mushrooms were wonderfully earthy and smoky, their edges crisped and singed from the grill. A thick creamy bonito aioli added a rich umami note. For the vegetarian option, it’s swapped out for shallot aioli instead, which was tasty but not quite as powerful in taste.
A tangle of nutty tasting soba noodles was served cold, garnished with sesame seeds, green onions and Japanese sudachi citrus. Pour over the dashi vinaigrette, and garnish with crisp nori and bonito shavings, then dig in. Lightly pickled carrots, daikon and radish come as a side to eat however you like during the meal.
Now, let’s talk about the Parker House rolls. Because we must. They are golden, buttery, and squishy soft. And you get two per person! The non-vegetarian ones are brushed with beef fat — oh my! The vegetarian ones get lashed with brown butter. The rolls are served with a fabulous whipped scallion butter with a big bright onion taste. Normally, I just eat my rolls plain. But in this case, I couldn’t help but smear that butter on with abandon.
My rolled egg omelet, spiraled with briny nori, was so creamy at the very center. It’s a simple homey dish that I always find is a great antidote anytime you’ve had too many rich meals of late.
My husband’s short ribs came as two sizeable boneless blocks that were incredibly tender and finished with a deeply savory sauce.
For dessert, there were containers of orange mousse that only needed to be garnished with a sesame seed crumble. Bright and light, the creamy citrusy mousse was shades of my favorite Chinese mango pudding but far softer in texture. The buttery crumble was a nice crunchy addition, especially with its subtle flash of sea salt to round out all the flavors.
You might fear that a restaurant known for its lavish tasting menus of tiny course after tiny course might leave you still famished with its takeout option.
But honestly, my husband and I both ended up with leftovers, which made for a nice light lunch the next day.
Pro Tip: The weekly menu gets posted at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays for your consideration. For something else to look forward to, be sure to mark you calendar for March 23, when Chef-Owner David Kinch’s newest cookbook, “At Home in the Kitchen” (Ten Speed Press) will debut. Unlike his “Manresa: An Edible Reflection” cookbook, which came out in 2013 and spotlighted signature dishes from the restaurant, this one features home-cook-friendly recipes for mere mortals like us.
Uncle Tetsu, Daly City, San Mateo, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara
If shelter in place has resulted in anything, it’s the fact that I’ve never eaten so much cheesecake in my life. You would think I’ve swapped toilet paper-hoarding for cheesecake-hoarding.
That’s not the case, but in just the past two months, I’ve admittedly chowed down on the famed Basuku Cheesecake and the similarly Basque-style version by Manresa Bread. Then, last week, a friend gifted my husband an Uncle Tetsu Japanese cheesecake.
Pre-pandemic, I’d been googly-eyed to see the huge, long lines that formed at the Uncle Tetsu locations at various malls. But I’d never actually braved the crowd to try one.
The 6-inch cheesecake ($10.80) is whimsically branded with a caricature of Uncle Tetsu –Tetsushi Mizokami, who founded the original establishment in Japan in 1985 and turned it into a worldwide craze.
Unlike a New York-style or Basque type, a Japanese cheesecake is feathery in weight and texture. It’s not decadently rich and tangy like those others, but much more delicate in taste. The texture is fluffy and cottony, akin to a stiffer French souffle. It’s like cheesecake-light.
It’s quite delicious, and especially appealing for those who find other cheesecakes just plain too heavy and leaden to enjoy often.
Pro Tip: Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese cheesecakes come in a variety of flavors, including strawberry, chocolate, matcha and ube flavors. It also recently joined the Basque cheesecake craze, offering an original burnished one ($19.80), and even an Oreo version.