Saturday, June 26, 2010

Walter Manzke: Around the World in 8 Dishes

On June 24, 2010, a huge nerd convention took place here. Yeah, I went.
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Breadbar's Hatchi Series features a guest chef every month for a "one-night-only suite of plates, including six savory dishes and two sweet creations." Each plate is $8.

Past guest chefs include Michael Voltaggio, Marcel Vigneron, Debbie Lee, Waylynn Lucas, Saul Cooperstein, Brian Redzikowski, Roberto Cortez, Ricardo Zarate, Eda Vesterman, Iso Rabins, Kuniko Yagi, and Remi Lauvand.

In light of Chef Walter Manzke's recent departure from the wonderful Church & State, the geeky food-blogging masses mobbed Breadbar for this event. Who knows when Chef Manzke will resurface with his new restaurant? Gotta catch him while we can.
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Chef Manzke took us on a culinary tour around the world in eight dishes. A big thank you to my pal Daily Gluttony for inviting sinosoul, his wife, and me to join her!

Also, special shout-out to Stuffy Cheaks, who sat next to us, and Exploratory Degustation, who stood right behind us as we waited for our table. It's fun to see other bloggers you already know (even the ones who pretend not to know you, despite the fact you've met six times before) (and we saw 58 billion of them this night) (including the snooty ones who don't say hello), but it's a special treat to meet new bloggers (especially friendly ones)!

Breadbar epi with foie gras butter ($8).
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So rich and decadent that I'm giving you two photos to better admire that fabulous flecked foie fat. Why can't all butter be like this?

Mexico: Yellowtail ceviche, jalapeño, tomatillo sorbet ($8).
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Fresh. Nice texture. Fine. But I'm not buying that jalapeño + hamachi = "Mexico."

Thailand: White corn curry soup, mussels, coconut tapioca ($8).
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Pleasant, creamy, and mild -- Jitlada, this is not. Fresh. Nice texture. Fine. Again.

Spain: Santa Barbara spot prawns, garlic, sherry ($8).
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Forgettable. Not nearly as good as a similar dish I'd enjoyed at Church & State. Also not sure what makes this "Spain."

Vietnam: Banh mi pig's feet sliders ($8).
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Definitely not something you'd get at Lee's Sandwiches. Very enjoyable. Fried, golden, juicy, and just salty enough with lovely, tangy, crunchy pickled daikon and carrot shreds. Fancy finger food that's worth your time.

Italy: English pea ravioli, soft egg, parmesan ($8).
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My favorite of the night, mostly because of the perfectly cooked soft egg. This was all about tenderness. Tender pasta. Tender egg. Love me tender. Love me true. All my dreams fulfilled.

And here is where I take a moment to bitch about the atrocious service at Breadbar.

Bad service doesn't usually faze me. What matters to me most about a meal is the food. I eat at places where servers grunt and shove dishes at me, and I still leave happy because what I ate was great. Food can usually triumph over bad service.

But sometimes bad service is so bad that it really ruins everything. This is what happened to us this night.

In reading other bloggers' accounts, I've discovered that we never received an amuse bouche at all.

Not amused. Literally, no less.

We waited eons between dishes. My mouth felt like the Sahara because my water glass was rarely filled. There were no apologies for the wait or assurances that food would come out soon.

And then, after we finished our ravioli dish above (well, not exactly "after" -- more like "long after"), we were served our desserts.
"Um, where is our tarte flambe? We didn't get that yet."
"What? No, this is your dessert."
"No, we still have two more orders of an entree. Two pizzas."
"You ordered that?"
[unintelligible mumbling]
Needless to say, we waited a hell of a long time for our fancy flatbreads to arrive.

When it was truly time for dessert, I'm pretty sure we were served the same damn two desserts that we'd been mistakenly presented before. The ice cream was a melted mess.


I shake my fist at you, Breadbar. Your disorganization and scatterbrained service marred our entire Manzke meal. Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Ok, now that I've gotten that out, let's proceed with the food show.

France: Tarte flambe, caramelized onion, bacon, Gruyere ($8).
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Like the spot prawns, the flammenküche I had at Church & State impressed me more than this supposedly identical offering. Or maybe I was still angry about the shitty service. Still, this sweet pizza with bacon was rather photogenic. Click, click.

Philippines: Leche flan, pandan, coconut ice cream ($8).
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You see that puddle? See that? Ugh. Puddled ice cream notwithstanding, the flan had an excellent consistency and was not too sweet. Well done, Chef.

Japan: Chocolate fondant, Bing cherries, black sesame ice cream, green tea ($8).
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More puddle action here. Grrrrr. Yet, even so, this dessert kicked ass. It had everything -- warm, cool, crusty, creamy, sweet, tart, mellow, and smoky. Big thumbs up.

Bonus Breadbar bakery buy: Berry yogurt tart (not a Manzke product).
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When you're waiting long enough between courses that you could knit full blankets, members of your party wander over to the bakery and secure interim nourishment that is neither Manzke-made nor a sensible insertion into your purported culinary world tour.

And you eat it because your real food hasn't made it to the table yet.

While we certainly experienced some high points during the night, I can't lie. This night was a pretty big disappointment. I hope not all the Hatchi nights are like this.

Breadbar, you did Chef Manzke a great disservice with your service.


  1. Both of the hatchi's I've attended had similar results. The first one was somehow better, because like Food She Thought + Hub, we sat at the bar.

    That said, I just finished the berry yogurt tart with half a bottle Normandie hard cidre. Dare I say it was the best part of the evening?

  2. Boo on the bad service since that can definitely kill a good mood. Sorry about the melted ice cream too, since it's so good with leche flan.

  3. Oh man.. bad service is the worst! Some places with just mediocre food can bring people back for more.. but when a place with lovely food with bad service.. I hate it. It's called the HOSPITALITY industry!! I can understand wanting to treat unreasonable customers badly but even then it's really no excuse. And I can't imagine you being an over bearing and rude customer so no bueno on them.

  4. if/when we ever meet, i won't be snooty - i promise. haha. i love hints of rivalries/infighting/bad manners amongst the blogger consegnati. thanks for sharing.

  5. dude, that sucks. too bad the pizza wasn't as good as the great flatbreads at c&s.

  6. Bad service sucks, but the food looks amazing!!

  7. I was actually planning on going, but I've been sick. :( At least, I was able to live vicariously through your post. That ravioli with the egg probably would have been my fav dish of the night, too. Any dish with egg usually calls to me. lol

  8. Who didn't say hi? Who pretended they didn't know you? :P

    My verification word is "derepity." which makes me think of the opposite of serendipity, which is what what happened to you. :) Or maybe the "pity" part is what I should have honed in on. But derepity should be a word. It sounds so apropos!

  9. "I hope not all the Hatchi nights are like this." -- They are, unfortunately. I guess I'm used to it.

    @Tricerapops, there were more than "hints," at least at my table.

  10. Too bad about the poopy service! Is the 3rd street location just as bad? I'm glad that you made mention of it because you are a reasonable person (and how can people not say hi to someone with a smile like you have! people, please!) so it must have been atrocious. Glad the food was fun, at least! I want that yogurt berry bar.

  11. that foi butter looks mighty good...and pig's feet sliders! jealous. not jealous about the bad service though. *shakes head*

  12. I'm sorry to hear about the crappy service, especially since I know you'd really looked forward to the dinner. Melted ice-cream makes me sad. :(

  13. Bummer on the bad service. I want one of the LA food bloggers to dish about the rivalries in glorious detail. First one to do so gets me as a follower!

  14. 1) Jalapeno totally makes any dish Mexican - all you have to do is add it in. Want Mexican corn bread? Just add jalapenos. Mexican Mac and Cheese? Add jalapenoa. Mexican moules mariniere? You guessed it.

    2) I didn't realize we got spot prawn so far south! I'm so excited, that's usually my favorite thing about B.C.

  15. darn, that amuse was pretty good too! we bought extra bread from the bar to dip in the soup and ravioli-but loaf they gave us was rock hard--hard to return it for new one.

  16. too bad that the service was shittastic. manzke deserves better than that.

    re: snooty bloggers. i totally pretend that i don't know people because i'm shy and awkward and strangers scare me. we totally ninja'd in and out of the last ludo bites, and it was a blogger party then too. true story.

  17. Guess we got lucky with our server, then. Which I guess sucks for Breadbar because I was apparently at the only table without any bloggers :)

  18. Yikes, that's a shame about the service. Can totally ruin even the best of meals! And I hate receiving a dessery with runny ice cream. I like to be the one to swirl it into a melty mess, thank you very much!

    P.S. Have we met? ;)

  19. Hi weezermonkey,

    Great photos and thoughts, and bummer about the atrocious service! :(

  20. Great photos and a excellent recap of your dinner. It was great meeting you there; thank you for the mention. Our service was also hit and miss though I'm glad I got to try everything before things started running out. The ravioli, tarte, and flan were my favs (but what happened to your flan? It's as if it was placed under a heating lamp). And the berry yogurt tart looks delicious!

  21. That is some terrible service. I like the idea for the menu though.

  22. I can't believe you said you didn't like your photos...they're lovely!

    My thoughts on that night's Hatchi basically boils down to this: company>food>service. I really hope they get their act together for future events.

    Good laughs with you guys as always!

  23. despite the shitty service, it sounds like a good time overall. and the photos are gorgeous as always!

  24. OMG, I cannot BELIEVE that puddle! totally unacceptable. I'm angry for you!

    glad the rest of your dinner was good. even if you did have to wait 5 days for it.

  25. I swear I didn't pretend I didn't know you! I didn't see youuu

    On another note, the other Hatchi I attended is also like this. You'd think after doing it once a month they'd get the hang of it ...

  26. Thanks for the shoutout :) did ya see? I have a couple tweets so far.. need to read up the FAQ though.. still confusing. In any case, so glad to meet you!! At least breadbar did a good job of seating us by each other :) So sorry about your horrible service. Eventhough I didn't experience bad service this time, I've had the same bad experience that you had at other Hatchi events. Melted ice cream is NOT acceptable!!! How dare they!!!

  27. Those puddles look like crap - litrallee. Not good. The breadbar item shines in comparison. I smell industrial sabotage, conspiracy and ... Melted ice cream.

  28. Really disappointing to hear about the service - that can be a dealbreaker even when the food is great.

    You did get some great pics though!

  29. I loathe bad service.

    Your photos are rad though.

  30. Every single hatchi event I've been to, the service has been poor. You would think after all this time they would be USED to dinner service! But, that foie gras butter was divine, wasn't it?!?

    So great to finally meet you tho! :)

  31. i'm sad the service sucked. BOOOOOOOOOOO.

    on a happier note, your photos were superb! loving the natural light. loving it indeed.

  32. Your pics looks great as always.

    Maybe it's not bad thing I missed this dinner after all. Sucks that you and Pam received bad service though.....


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