Chef Benito Molina in 12 Courses at Manzanilla: The Birth of the Cool

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Bill Esparza


I first walked into Chef Benito Molina's Manzanilla sometime in 2007--it was located on Av. Riveroll, before moving to it's current location along Ensenada's industrial waterfront. Molina--a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute--had already made a name for himself in Mexico City when he arrived in Baja. He was lured to Ensenada by Mexican enologist Hugo D'Acosta-- here, Molina would pioneer the use fresh local ingredients,Mexican olive oil, and Baja wines in a new approach to Baja cuisine.   . 

It had been more than a year since I'd dined at Manzanilla's bordello-esque warehouse space, and I was due for magic clams and seafood surprises from the local waters of Baja California. What surfaced was a seafood-intensive 12-course tasting that brilliantly flowed from ocean to plate at times as subdued as the night's sky in El Valle, and others as explosive as La Bufadora. Molina is a West Coast cool jazz chef, and he's swinging harder than ever. Check out these tasty riffs! 


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Bill Esparza
The antique bar at Manzanilla, Ensenada




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Bill Esparza
Botana salpicon de pescado sobre tostada pintada


El Menu Degustacion 8 de Julio de 2012

1er tiempo
The first taste of the evening a salpicon de pescado with a faint brush stroke of dried chiles to brighten delicate bits of fish balanced by a dab of guacamole and vegetables whose flavors fused to the airy tostada.  


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Bill Esparza
Ensalada de tomate heirloom-mermelada de albaca-queso Ramoneti

2do tiempo
From the gardens of the Valle de Guadalupe, a fresh picked and vivid, grilled salad of heirloom tomatoes sweetened by a traditional Valle marmalade, given pungency by nasturiums, and salted by a fine Ramonetti cheese.  


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Bill Esparza
Sardinas curadas en sal y vinagre de Jerez-jocoque-pepino-hinojo salvaje


3er tiempo
This ever evolving dish is one of the great tastes of Baja California. The light dressing and wild fennel marry the pristine slivers of umami with a dreamy cultured cream--take your time with this plate as you would a slow ballad. 


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Bill Esparza
Sorpresa marina



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2 comments
Bill Esparza
Bill Esparza

It's quite reasonable given the products. A blowout 12-course tasting like that is going to run just over a $100 depending on the products. An average meal at Manzanilla is in the $45-$60 range for shared appetizers, a main, and dessert including drinks.

Carrion Fairy
Carrion Fairy

This all looks incredible!  Please tell, what is the price range of this place?

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