Photos by Gabrielle Lurie
The gist: After a decade of exclusively running one of the Bay Area’s most lauded restaurants, Manresa, chef-owner David Kinch and partner Andrew Burnham are expanding for the first time with a second full-scale restaurant concept, The Bywater, opening today. Though it's located down the street from Manresa, it's not exactly a spin-off concept. Instead, it's Kinch’s ode to his hometown of New Orleans. As the chef says, it's “the kind of place where I want to go after work or hang out on my day off.” Not only did Kinch grow up in the Crescent City but he started his cooking career there too, learning from the late legendary chef Paul Prudhomme and the city’s most renowned kitchen, Commander’s Palace.
Rich man's red beans and rice
The food: Chef de cuisine David Morgan (Cyrus, August in New Orleans) and Kinch focused the menu around Creole dishes, including standards like gumbo and fried green tomatoes. Red snapper court-bouillon brings ones of the lesser-known Southern stews to Los Gatos, rich with andouille sausage and shrimp. Po’ boys are available with three different fillings: fried oysters, homemade hot links or shrimp, all served on torpedo rolls baked by Manresa and Manresa Bread baker Avery Ruzicka. Speaking of oysters, The Bywater features them cooked and at the raw bar with a nightly selection of Gulf and Atlantic bivalves. Kinch doesn’t focus only on seafood, however. He pairs fried chicken with butter beans and pork chop with black-eyed pears for heartier fare. The menu will change depending on the night of the week. Changing specials mean that Tuesdays include Creole shrimp and Thursdays feature cochon de lait. Dessert is a key part of any New Orleans dining experience, as evidenced by the lengthy lines at the legendary French Quarter beignet purveyor Cafe du Monde, even at midnight. The Bywater team's beignets are made by Manresa’s pastry chef Stephanie Prida; other sweet endings include a butterscotch pot de crème and chocolate bread pudding.
The drinks: Chad Arnholt and Claire Sprouse, the duo behind Bay Area cocktail consulting group Tin Roof Drink Community, designed the cocktails. To get the good times rolling (and keep them rolling), cocktails are divided into three categories: “Crescent City Classics,” “Exotic Delights” and “Creole Goods,” with the latter presenting new “culinary cocktails.” The first includes NOLA drink favorites like a Sazerac, gin fizz and milk punch. Tropical cocktails influenced by the Caribbean immigrant history of New Orleans comprise the “Exotic Delights.” Also expect low-ABV cocktails including cobblers and spritzes. It doesn’t get as muggy in Los Gatos as it does by the Mississippi Delta in summer, but there still will be a frozen daiquiri machine because, hey, it’s New Orleans. It should also be mentioned that The Bywater will tackle one of the great cocktail challenges of the country (and infamous beverages from Bourbon Street) — the hurricane, using a Jamaican rum blend, Campari and passion fruit purée to improve the beleaguered drink.
The space: Reservations won’t be accepted in the 60-seat space, divided among a 10-seat bar, a heated, covered 20-seat patio and the main 30-seat dining room. Bay Area architects Eaton Hall Architecture and Robert van Horne designed the casual space, emphasizing the character of New Orleans with shutters, artwork from the city and even the bright exterior colors that Bywater the neighborhood is known for. Inside, an open kitchen, zinc bar and tile floors in the bar area contrast with cozy brown leather booths and bare wooden beam tables and flooring. Colorful masks and beads? Not part of the decor but maybe they'll be brought in for Mardi Gras. And will there be jazz? Absolutely. Kinch assures diners will be hearing not just jazz but a wide range of New Orleans music including brass bands.
The Bywater is open for dinner nightly. Brunch service begins in February.
The details: 523 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos; 408-560-9639