Hatchi with Walter Manzke
One of my regrets at Church & State was that, on the two occasions I dined there during Chef Walter Manzke’s tenure, he wasn’t in the kitchen.
And on the second visit, I felt that it showed in the food.
Now I’ve eaten at many restaurants with absentee chefs (e.g. John Besh’s August, Tom Colicchio’s Craft, Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys, Gordon Ramsay at the London, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern, Jose Andre’s The Bazaar, etc) and had no problem with it because I knew the name on the door wasn’t the man behind the stove. But Church & State under Walter Manzke was never intended to be that.
So when Walter Manzke surfaced at Hatchi after he left Church & State, I jumped at the chance knowing he would definitely be in the kitchen.
In a departure from his French bistro fare at Church & State, Chef Manzke decided instead to take diners around the world in eight dishes.
Given that we were at Breadbar, dinner began with the now familiar epi bread but this time with foie gras butter. Relatively subtle, the foie gras imparted a gentle livery-ness, punctuated by the honey gelée on top, which was flecked with gold leaf. I guess if you’re going to do foie gras butter, you might as well make it luxurious.
The first cocktail of the night was barman Michel Dozois’s Untamed Cherries, made with freshly squeezed lemon juice, cherries, yellow chili peppers and organic rum. Sweet to begin, this cocktail soon became about the heat of the chili peppers. Perhaps too much heat. Capsaicin tends to overpower most dishes you pair with it.
To whet our appetites for our around the world trip, the amuse bouche was a deconstructed shrimp cocktail. Essentially a skewered grilled shrimp atop a shot of ceviche sauce, which provided the acid.
Our journey began in Mexico, with a Yellowtail Ceviche with Jalapeno and Tomatillo Sorbet. One of my favorite dishes of the night, the yellowtail was fresh and plump but what made this dish sing was the jalapeno sorbet, which added both heat and a refreshing cold bite.
Leaving Latin America, we travelled next to Thailand with a White Corn Curry Soup with Mussels and Coconut Tapioca. The mussels were well cooked but the soup was exceptional, with the sweetness of corn playing nicely off the subtle curry and the tapioca balls adding an interesting textural counterpoint. Again, another great dish.
Next up was Spain with a Santa Barbara Spot Prawn with Garlic and Sherry. I love Santa Barbara spot prawns, which is lucky given their appearance on menus all over town, but mine unfortunately came out overdone. I also found the tapenade on top slightly heavy handed.
Moving on to Vietnam, we were presented with “Banh Mi” Pig’s Feet Sliders. I can’t say that these reminded me of banh mi except for the picked vegetables, but what’s not to like about panko breaded pig’s trotter patties? The homemade siracha sauce definitely added the requisite Asian kick.
Back to Europe, this time to Italy via an English Pea Ravioli with Soft Egg and Parmesan. Whilst I’m usually a sucker for a perfectly poached egg, this dish underwhelmed me. The English pea ravioli seemed bland, especially after the big flavors of the banh mi pig’s feet sliders. Perhaps if I’d started with this dish, I may have enjoyed it more.
Next to France, Chef Manzke’s usual stomping ground, with an old favorite from Church & State, the Tarte Flambe with Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Gruyere. Essentially a flatbread pizza, perfectly crispy, sweet with caramelized onions, salty with bacon and rich with gruyere. Perhaps a safe choice for Manzke, he’s had plenty of time to perfect this dish and it showed. My favorite dish of the night, which perhaps says to me that he’s best when working within his French roots.
The second cocktail of the night was the Hidden Secret, a concoction of freshly squeezed lemon juice, grape tomatoes, maraschino cordial and True organic gin. Less overwhelming than my first cocktail, definitely more fruity and sweet.
Onto dessert, we move to the Philippines with a Pandan Leche Flan with Coconut Sorbet. I love a good flan and this one did not disappoint. Rich and eggy, this flan brought me back to my childhood with the floral taste of pandan, and nicely balanced with the sweetness of the coconut sorbet and foam. This, to me, was Chef Manzke’s most successful Asian inspired dish and a dessert I would return for over and over again. Whatever his next restaurant ends up being, I hope he finds a place for this dessert on his menu.
The journey ended in Japan with a Chocolate Fondant with Bing Cherries, Black Sesame Ice Cream and Green Tea. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a way to enjoy this dessert. This was the only course I failed to finish and I HATE to leave food on my plate, so that speaks volumes. But one bad destination on a whirlwind around the world trip ain’t bad.
Like any around the world trip, I came home with some great memories and experiences, a few missed steps and lots of photos. Chef Manzke definitely showed his range with this menu and proved he’s happy to venture outside his French roots at Church & State and Bastide before that.
Is this a sign that his own highly anticipated restaurant will feature an international menu? Probably not. I think this was more about mixing it up and flexing his chef muscles.
But, whatever his next dining concept may be, I’ll be there, hopefully on opening night, to support one of the most talented chef’s currently working in LA.
And, before that, I’ll hopefully have a chance to try his next pop-up menu at Test Kitchen.
A menu I’ve been promised will again be a departure from this Hatchi tasting.Hatchi at Breadbar with Walter Manzke
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067 (310) 277-3770