Chef Benito Molina in town : Manzanilla, Ensenada, Baja California Norte, Mexico
After enjoying meeting the Chef and his wife, Solange, in the country at his out-of-doors restaurant Silvestre, we sought to seek his cuisine in town at his restaurant Manzanilla.
I came to Ensenada for two reasons: to try Fish Tacos and Chef Benito Molina’s food at Manzanilla. Both were reason enough to come. If you live in San Diego, or if you are visiting Tijuana, it is so easy to try Manzanilla. It is right off of Ruta 1 on the north end of Ensenada. It’s such a conveninent drive. Go for it!
Our dinner was on Wednesday, July 4th. We had read that Chef Molina and Solange had entertained Rick Bayless that Monday. This year Chef Bayless took his crew of more than 30 to Manzanilla for their annual 4th of July trip to Mexico. If you follow @benitoysolange you can see pictures of that night like this one and that one.
It was a much quieter night when we arrived for dinner. We recognized one of the servers who had helped us during our Sunday meal at Silvestre. I enjoy using the limited spanish I know and a phrasebook to decipher the menu on my own, they I was a little self-conscious as I shared my discoveries with Erin as the family next to us spoke fluent Spanish. I started with an order of fresh shucked Ensenada oysters. We followed this up with some broiled clams with gruyere. The latter were a one of a kind experience.
Solange appeared right after the clams were brought to the table. She recognized us from earlier in the week and we once again thanked her for her generosity in serving us that night after Silvestre had officially closed. She noted that the waiter hadn’t presented the tasting menu to us and she asked if we might like that. We were thrilled as we had planned on navigating our own tasting menu anyway.
We asked her about Monday night with Rick Bayless and she said that they’d all had a good time. She was pleased that they had an opportunity to entertain him and his crew as several years ago when she and Benito were in Chicago to to teach a class at Kendall College around Thanksgiving, he unexpectedly invited them to enjoy dinner at his house. They had inquired about a good place in Chicago to try and he responded with “How about my house”. Solange said that dinner had been a great experience.
Amuse Bouche – Fish Roe on Black Bean Spread on Micro Tostada
“First Course” – Kumamota Oysters on half-shelf with mignonette
This is in quotes as Erin and I pre-ordered some of our own dishes before Solange invited us to try the tasting menu. I’ll leave the quotes off from here on out. Delicious! Don’t mistake rock salt on oysters for sand.
Second Course : Broiled clams and gorgonzola
A divine combination!
Third Course – Tiraditos a Peruvian tradition similar to sashimi. Pictured our local geoduck, bonita, fish roe, cooked lobster, and fish broth gelee.
Fourth Course : Abalone Two Ways
One preparation was similar to a ceviche with more acid (right-hand side) and the other was a creamy chipotle preparation (left-hand side). Small tostatdos were served with (center)
Fourth Course : Quail Breast/Wing with Quail Egg
Wow! We moved from fish to poultry but great flavors continued. Egg was perfectly prepared. Quail breast/wings were delcicate.
Fifth Course : Yellow-Tail Filet on bed of arroces (spanish dish similar to risotto)
OMG. Arroces was SOOO good. Please bring me for dinner every night!
Sixth Course : Lomo de Puerco (not pictured)
Sometime during our second bottle of wine we forgot to take a picture of the meat course.
Seventh Course : Dessert
Forgot picture again. It was a date cake.