June 19, 2013

Manna Avenue - A Must in Wimington, NC!

Last Friday night I had what was the best meal I've ever had in Wilmington, and the best steak I've ever had in my life.  Thanks to the kindness of some very generous friends, Grant and I got to dine at Manna Avenue in downtown Wilmington as a treat!

Let me start by saying, if you ever want to make anyone excited and happy for the rest of the week, even on a Monday, email them in the morning and tell them you want to treat them to dinner.  If they are anything like me they will be giddy and filled with the spirit of generosity until said dinner arrives.
Now on to the meal.  When we first arrived I saw we had a star next to our name on the reservation list.  So VIP!
The owner and the waiters at this restaurant are in a class all of their own.  Our waiter was helpful, hilarious, knowledgeable, patient, and as non-pushy as a waiter could possibly be.  He recommended a glorious ride wine for us:

We figured since we were being treated to such a nice dinner we were going to live it up and take a cab to dinner.  Good thing we did because we savored every last drop of the bottle of wine.  And we shared an Old Cuban at the beginning of dinner.  How cool is this glass?  Everything was presented to perfection.

Everything on the menu has really clever names.  As if eating beautiful food isn't fun enough!  We started off with some delicious salads, I had the Great Lettuce Debate and Grant had the Strong to the Finish salad.  Mine tasted so light and refreshing and had perfect crunchy little pistachios on it. 

Grant's had homemade fried cheese curd!  But he wouldn't let me take a picture, even though I was being very discreet, hence the sub par quality of the photos.  Here's a picture of the menu though, so you can get the full description:
While we were waiting for our meals the waiter also brought us this, because we "had to get the full experience":

That is a honey, basil, thyme compound butter!  And a rhubarb compote.  This was my first time eating rhubarb, and I'm sure not all rhubarb tastes this great, but this one was so sweet it almost tasted like dessert.  So yummy!
Enough about all that, let me tell you about the pis de resistance - Iron Chef: Bobby Filet:

Hello gorgeous
It was cooked to absolute perfection.  I like my steaks medium.  The shitake mushrooms were so tender and big I didn't even think they were shitakes.  I thought they were some mythical forest mushrooms I'd never seen before.  But I asked and, indeed, they were just really amazing shitakes. 
What really made this dish out of this world was the green peppercorn jus.  It was decadent but not overpowering.  And there was just enough to savor it on every bite but not drown the steak.  Absolute perfection.  I will be going back again and again to have this steak.  It was that good.  Every bite was like a taste 'gasm of flavor perfection.  It basically melted in my mouth.  Which was probably hard for the steak to do since I wouldn't stop talking about how good it was with my big mouth.
Grant ordered something delicious as well.  It was called the Reel Deal with Sheep's Head Fish, which was the local fish of the day.  Manna uses all fresh ingredients, thus their menu changes often.

Love these colors!
This dish had a lot of broth in it so he was able to use the rest of the crusty bread from the butter and rhubarb compote to sop up all of the smoked mushroom and poblano broth.  So Provencal!
Finally, we had dessert.  We were instantly drawn to the chocolate, hazelnut dish.  We had been told by our friends that dessert was not to be missed because of the talent of the pastry chef at Manna.  We had been told correctly, my friends!
It was like artwork:

I love beautiful, perfectly petite, flavorful servings.  It was heavenly, as I'm sure the picture conveys.  And the After picture:

Hell, even the spoons were cool at this place!  I would give this dining experience a 110%.  We left beaming.  Not just because the food was so incredible.  But also because the wait staff was top notch.  And mainly because the whole experience was born of such a wonderful and generous offer from such giving people. 
We decided to pay it forward by giving all of the rest of our money, less $5, to the waiter.  We then spent the remaining $5 on beer at a bar called the River Rat.  We had to do something low brow to take us back down to our roots after such a luxurious experience.

I want to go back already!

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