I had a gorgeous lunch at The Bywater on my recent trip back to California. On this last trip, I had my list of who to see, who to teach and of course where to eat. I didn’t have much time in between teaching my cooking classes but I was eager to try some of the new places that have opened since I left. I arrived late on the Monday and kept Tuesday as a non working day so that I could see friends and get over my jetlag. I had lunch with my work wife and all round fixer, Erin, at The Bywater, the most talked about new opening in Los Gatos. She arrived with a cuddle and a huge bag of lemons from her tree – both things I miss now we live away.
The Bywater opened a few months ago and is a love letter to New Orleans, the place owner David Kinch learned to cook. He is also Chef owner of the 3 Michelin star Manresa, which is just down the street from this place. He also has the most amazing bakery, Manresa bread, where I started most of my days while I was there. I had been at his book launch at Love Apple Farms, the farm he gets all his amazing produce from in the Santa Cruz mountains, a couple of years ago and continue to be inspired by what he’s creating. I couldn’t wait to see how he’d interpret the unique and much loved food of New Orleans.
The Bywater cocktails
We arrived at midday and easily settled in at the bar for lunch. Because we were both driving we couldn’t do justice to the amazing drinks menu.
We shared a Clarified Ramos Gin Fizz and it was a perfect daytime cocktail made from gin, lemon, lime, orange flower water, soda and clarified cream. Because the cream was clarified it was magically clear not cloudy but still had a mellow flavour that balanced out the sourness of the citrus. I’d love to go back at night and try some of their other offerings as they all looked to be beautifully made.
We shared three plates, just enough for lunch. We really wanted the fried chicken as it looked amazing but we’ll save that for when we go in the evening and can cope with the food coma that follows.
Ours hands down favourite was the chicken liver mousse, served in a mason jar and topped with a thin layer of schmalz (rendered chicken fat) and tomatillo jam. This was served with amazing toasted bead from the Manresa bread. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten in ages. Most mousses and pâtés are served with clarified butter on top but the use of the chicken fat made it just perfectly chickeny and amazing. I know a few people may squirm at the idea of chicken fat but just get over it and taste it please. The tomatillo jam gave the perfect sweetness and sourness to balance out the mousse. Just a perfect a plate of food and one I’ll be trying to recreate by tinkering with the pâté recipe I have on here.
In an attempt to keep things light and lunchtime friendly we had the shrimp remoulade and avocado. Big fat chunks of shrimp were stirred through a punchy mayonnaise sauce and were served with avocado and romaine leaves. I can see this becoming a favourite with the low carb brigade but don’t let that put you off. It was delicious and would make a dreamy sandwich filling too.
We also had the fried green tomatoes with anchovy and boiled egg. You can’t get much more America than these beauties and I’m a sucker for anything with tomato. The green tomatoes, which I’m guessing came from Love Apple Farms, were dusted in cornmeal and fried to a crisp. The sauce was similar to a sauce gribiche and balanced out the egg and crunchy tomato perfectly.
Because Erin will make friends with anyone she sits next to – we even ended up trying some of the food the couple next to us had ordered. They had over ordered so gave us some of their hush puppies to try. We were hoping we could try their Mint Julep too but they never offered!
We finished with beignets because it just felt right. The mini donut-esque bites arrived with a Scarface amount of white powder (sugar) dusted on top of them. They were a little too sweet for me but I’d have loved them dunked in bitter melted dark chocolate or a tart lemon curd. My children would adore them so I imagine if they’d have been with me I’d have taken a box home.
The Bywater overall
It is a great spot and a welcome new addition to Los Gatos. The music is brilliant, something that is so often overlooked. And because I’m a nerd, I also got excited about the menu design and fonts they’d chosen. The staff were great and I hope they start selling the NOLA t-shirts they’re all wearing soon…if that’s not a bit too Planet Hollywood. I’d recommend sitting at the bar, not only because it is a shorter wait but also so you can watch the fabulous cocktails being crafted.