The setting is casual/comfortable/foodie chic - Manson is hardly the place for white linen service. The menu options are "focused", which is to say there are typically only 3 or 4 choices for each course. Most items are gluten free but vegetarians are going to have a tougher time as there was no vegetarian entree the night we visited.
Service was efficient and friendly and the kitchen seemed well able to keep up with the flow of orders - we were the last table seated for the night.
The wine list was very reasonably priced, unfortunately so for some of the local wines as far superior foreign alternatives were presented for significantly lower prices than wine made right in the region. Chelan is a very new AVA, and although almost all local wines are quite expensive, the quality seems very hit and miss.
Shrimp Bisque was commendably light and flavorful, and the mushroom plate provided an interesting range of flavors and textures. From the kitchen-garden, pickled green tomatoes provided an excellent cornichon alternative, and a nice spice kick.
I wasn't quite sure if the Iceberg Wedge was offered in an ironic salute to steak houses of the '70s, but it provided a nice salad break between courses.
Duck Confit was competently prepared, but arguably not duck confit at all - and here's where we get to the completely subjective notion of "too creative".
Making Duck Confit is a centuries old process that's extremely well established - the portion of duck is dry cured with salt, garlic and herbs for 24-48 hours. Next, and this is arguably what defines the dish, it is poached in rendered duck fat at a fairly low temperature. This low, slow, poaching not only infuses the entire serving with rich duck flavor, but also leaves it incredibly tender. The duck portions can now be canned or preserved in the cooled fat for quite a long period of time - potentially a year or more if kept cool. To serve, the duck is typically roasted which causes the fat to melt away and leave a crispy finished to the meat - almost like duck baby back ribs!
At Cafe Manson Duck "confit" appeared to be a Chinese 5-spice inspired rub that was then baked/roasted. It was well enough done, but to me it wasn't "confit" at all - it didn't fall apart in the way that confit does, and it definitely lacked the rich almost nutty flavor I associate with confit. If described as spiced, roast duck I wouldn't have had any quarrel with the dish, but unfortunately my heart was set on confit, and expectations in place accordingly. It came with what seemed to be pure mashed pumpkin, but which the menu suggested contained potato too, and chopped kale in a balsamic vinaigrette/reduction. A touch of vinegar is a good add to kale, but here it was just a little more than was called for - again a very subjective opinion.
Shared dessert was a very nice bread pudding, made all the better by the accompaniment of two tastes of complimentary port - a very welcome touch.
So, a thoroughly splendid evening in an extremely promising restaurant. The only negative being that my tastes and those of the kitchen didn't completely align when it came to the entree.
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