For one night, Angelenos were able to put a stop to guessing where former Church & State chef Walter Manzke would cook next. The humble culinary heavyweight resurfaced at BREADBAR Century City for the first anniversary of the company’s “Hatchi” series. He took the sold-out crowd on a tour “Around The World in Eight Dishes,” with a spectrum that ran from “refined and creative” to “filling and rustic.”
Manzke treated the blogger-heavy crowd to a shrimp cocktail Amuse Bouche, with a skewer grilled shrimp resting on top of the glass of tangy “juice.”
Our opening salvo was a softer-than usual epi ($8), served warm and paired with a brick of velvety foie gras butter that came capped with lavender honey gelee and decorative gold leaf.
Manzke turned to Mexico for his silky yellowtail ceviche dressed with oil (jalapeno?), citrus segments and mache. One side of the plate featured creamy avocado puree, the other side tangy tomatillo sorbet that melted over the rosy fish.
Manzke is associated with French food, but his nods to Asia all worked out well. Thailand consisted of white corn curry soup with a hit of spice at the finish and small but plump mussels. The bottom of the bowl held a hidden cache of coconut tapioca beads, a nice surprise.
Spain was another highlight with sweet Santa Barbara spot prawn split in half and lavished with garlic, sherry and a Mediterranean mix of tomato, almonds and olives.
The night’s representative from Vietnam was “Banh Mi” pig’s feet. This was a twist on a popular dish from Manzke’s Church & State days called Pied de Cochon that involved lentils, frisee aux lardons and a poached egg. In this case, he made smaller fritters with crisp breadcrumb coats and gooey, gelatinous cores of trotter and shoulder meat. He delivered a quick hit of acidity using pickled carrot and daikon. Cilantro was the only other traditional banh mi component. Manzke made soft brioche buns instead of standard baguette and included cucumber, Boston lettuce and a judicious amount of aioli with Sriracha and hoisin sauce. This dish might not be a sign of things to come at his eventual restaurant, but it was still the best slider ever.
His bowl of Italy hosted English pea ravioli, salty Parmesan shavings, crushed pistachios for texture’s sake and a quivering poached egg that washed yolk over the rest of the ingredients. The texture of the ravioli filling wasn’t my favorite element, and the dish was too rich for me, but there was interesting textural contrast.
France is Manzke’s home base, and to represent the country, he produced a signature item from Church & State: Tarte flambe. People kept calling it a pizza; it’s not, it’s a cracker-like Alsatian flatbread featuring caramelized onion, crème fraiche seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme, bacon and gruyere. If you want to learn how to make it, CLICK HERE.
Our last dish was inspired by the Philippines, the country where Manzke’s pastry chef wife Marge was born. The devastating leche flan came with pandan foam, refreshing coconut sorbet and a crispy sugar tuile.
By the time we reached the end of our international sojourn, they sold out of Japan, “Chocolate fondant, Bing cherries, black sesame ice cream, green tea.”
Drink smith Michel Dozois, who used to bookend Manzke at Church & State, provided the cocktail pairings, featuring Neve Luxury Ice. When asked about his approach, Dozois said he wanted “something light to go with Walter’s food,” cocktails that are “crazy enough so that nobody would give me shit, but simple enough so that nobody would say it’s too crazy.”
Dozois’ refreshing, summery Hidden Secret involved Tru2 organic gin, fresh squeezed lemon juice, maraschino cordial and a sunken grape tomato garnish.
We also experienced the drink smith’s Untamed Cherries, another seasonal cocktail made with Greenbar Collective’s Crusoe Rum, fresh squeezed lemon juice, cherries, yellow chilies and a cherry garnish. Of course the glass included a gigantic Névé rocks ice cube.
The meal may not have offered a glimpse into Manzke’s future, but at the very least, it was a great reminder of past triumphs and an interesting international exercise.