Michael Mina, San Francisco
January 26, 2008
On January 24, 2008 we went to Michael Mina for dinner. Although Mina now has 11 restaurants scattered around the US, including the one in the Bellagio in Las Vegas where we dined last March, this is his flagship. Our waitress told us that he was in the kitchen that night checking every dish as it was plated. The dining room, to the left of the entrance to the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square is spacious with high ceilings. The tables are well spaced so the noise level is not bad even with some boisterous tables nearby. The centerpieces look like silver plate warmers, but are inoffensive.We ordered glasses of the Cuvee Mina champagnes which were quite nice. The menu choice was between a three course meal for $98 and, our selection, a six course tasting menu at $135.
We did not take the wine pairings offered at $90 @ and ordered a bottle of the 1997 Calera “Mills” vineyard Mt. Harlan Estates (Central Coast) Pinot Noir. It was strong and elegant.
The amuse-gueule was a cup of a cappuccino of golden chanterelles with scallion. .
The first course was an Albacore Tataki, Japanese cucumber, pickled radish, tamari vinaigrette. A bit of vegetable with each bite of fish was a good combination
Second came Nantucket Bay scallops, Vadouvan curry, Granny Smith apple, wood sorrel. To me, searing Nantucket Bay scallops as if they were sea scallops does not acknowledge their elegant flavor.
Third was California squab, foie gras, toasted faro, lacinato kale. The foie gras was delicious; the squab skin could have been crispier.
Fourth we had Kurabuto Pork Loin and Belly, squash puree, canary tongue greens, red onion gastrique. The belly was more interesting than the loin slices. The “greens” turned out to be a delicious piece of chicory.
The fifth course was Elysian Fields Farm lamb loin, socca, baby artichokes, Castelveltrano olives.
Our combined cheese and dessert course was Blue del Moncenisio, Aleppo oil, celery sorbet, Marcona almond. The celery sorbet, a first for me, went very well with the cheese, a blue from the Italian Piemonte. I asked why they didn’t serve a California cheese. The waitress said they change the cheese every week and sometimes it is local.
The mignardises were green tea ice cream coated with white chocolate and toasted coconut crumbs and bergamot ice cream coated with dark chocolate. They were served on a cheap snail serving dish.
All in all the meal was fine; we enjoyed it and there were no bad courses. It was very nice having three substantial meat courses in the tasting menu rather than the typical string of fish and seafood dishes followed by only one meat course, which can leave a red wine drinker stranded. On the other hand Michael Mina is a Michelin two-star restaurant, one of few in what is supposed to be America’s second culinary center. The prices are very high. The meal did not live up to those two standards and expectations. It was all very nice without being challenging or memorable. There wasn’t any course which will be even close to being a candidate to be considered for my roundup Fantasy Meal of 2008. The meal ten months before at Michael Mina Bellagio had some superior dishes. I think that, with all the other choices there are in San Francisco, I would not go back.