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

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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! 

Bill Esparza
The antique bar at Manzanilla, Ensenada

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.  

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.  

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. 

Bill Esparza
Sorpresa marina

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