LOS GATOS -- After a two-alarm fire ripped through the roof of Manresa, the famous South Bay restaurant with two coveted Michelin stars, its chef and owner said he's "devastated" by the loss but made it clear that the vaunted eatery will once again plate its top-shelf fare.

As far as when diners can expect to see the return of a four-hour, 14-course tasting menu featuring items like abalone and local milk panna cotta or suckling porcelet with chanterelles, apricots and a courgette velouté, that's a little less certain. While David Kinch would not put an estimate on how long the doors will stay shut at his famous establishment, one fire investigator estimated it could be several months.

"Absolutely, I think we're going to be a stronger and better restaurant," Kinch said after surveying the aftermath Monday afternoon.

It's a tall order -- Manresa was already the South Bay's premier dining experience, a gem that's earned the venue and superstar chef Kinch numerous accolades since it opened in 2002. The extravagant tasting menu earned raves from gourmets who came from far and wide to plunk down $190 per person for the experience -- and nearly double that for a premium wine pairing.


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It was a repeat performer, nailing the two-star (on a three-star scale) Michelin rating for eight years in a row -- an honor held by only seven Bay Area eateries, and that's the most in any one region countrywide. And Kinch won the best chef in America award for the Pacific region from the James Beard Foundation in 2010, shortly after a major remodeling job that brought in a lounge, wine cellar and bar -- complete with concoctions worthy of accompanying the spectacular dishes.

Kinch, who flew in from the East Coast upon hearing the news that his pride and joy was damaged in Monday's early-morning blaze, was noticeably rattled and softly praised firefighters for their quick actions.

"They're about 200 feet away from us and they responded and did a magnificent job," he said. "It could have been a lot worse."

Fire officials gave an early estimate that the structure had about $300,000 worth of damage, but Kinch said it's far too early to make such claims and called it "speculation."

The restaurant, at 320 Village Lane, will need a new roof but did not experience much interior damage other than from smoke and water. Items such as linens and carpeting will need to be replaced before the restaurant can reopen.

"It's mostly intact," Santa Clara County fire Battalion Chief Kendall Pearson said.

Santa Clara County chief arson investigator Dennis Johnsen said the blaze started outside just before 4 a.m., and arriving crews saw the fire damage a gas meter, which further fueled the flames. It spread to the eaves and attic and into a storage area where plastic bins added to the intensity. At 6 a.m., fire crews had the blaze under control and were in overhaul phase.

"It's arduous manual labor," Pearson said. "We have to take the ceiling down, cut away the roof and make sure all the fire is out."

One firefighter was injured after tripping over debris but should be OK, Pearson said.

Johnsen said a home with similar damage could take a year to rebuild, but because Manresa is a business, he would not be surprised to see it up and running in three to four months. There are no obvious signs of arson, but investigators are not ruling anything out, Johnsen said.

The restaurant has been closed for vacation since July 3, and was supposed to reopen Wednesday, serving its Euro-inspired, locally-sourced California cuisine.

Laura Bjorklund, who lives around the corner from Manresa, called it a "special occasion" venue that she's been to three times.

"I always had the greatest experience," she said. "I'm a vegetarian, but they prepared it special for me. It was when foam food was big, and it was all excellent."

Manaz Tankamani owns a boutique women's clothing shop in Los Gatos and was heartbroken to see the fire-damaged restaurant.

Tankamani said her business was destroyed by a fire in 2007 and it took her a year to reopen.

"This is horrible," said Tankamani, adding that Kinch "worked so hard to build" Manresa.

Condolences and best wishes for a speedy reopening were tweeted from @MichelinGuideSF and @ZagatSF, among others.

"Our thoughts are with David Kinch and everyone @ManresaCA," tweeted Thomas Keller, owner of the famed French Laundry in Yountville.

Monday's fire at Manresa came a year after Chez Panisse, another of the region's top restaurants, reopened after a fire closed it down for three months. The March 8, 2013, fire caused $200,000 in damage. Chez Panisse reopened on June 24, 2013.

Staff writer Linda Zavoral contributed to this report.