MICHAEL MINA – RESTAURANT REVIEW – PRIX FIXE DINNER
With an atmosphere of contemporary elegance, plus excellent service and trays of succulent small bites coming in spectacularly focused trios, Michael Mina restaurant is certainly worth the special occasion splurge. Tables are distant enough for your group to feel safe and uncrowded. You enter the room–hidden within the Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square–by climbing a small flight of stairs, perhaps accurately representational of the culinary temple that Michael Mina has enjoyed since its inception.
Michael Mina has many offerings of multi-course (prix fixe) dinners. The standard three-course dinner sets you back $105. Expensive, to be sure, but it’s a wonderful experience. Six-course tasting menus are $135, and a great three-course pre-theatre meal is $55.
COURSE ONE – PASTA, BRAISE & CONFIT
Course 1 – Michael Mina SF Prix Fixe Dinner – Pasta, Braise & Confit
LEFT: Fettucine, Rabbit, English Peas
A beautifully rendered meaty pasta, rife and verdant with variegated greenliness. Few American chefs seem to really honor rabbits effectively; the chefs at Mina certainly do. Tastes like Spring and Summer in a dish; simply delicious.
TOP / CENTER: Orecchiette, Pork Short Rib, and Fava Beans
Perhaps the only faux pas moment of the meal. The potentially rich flavor of the pork short rib was nowhere here, and not supported by typically chewy orecchiette (ear-shaped, dense, and spongy pasta), and born-to-be-mild fava beans. Blah.
RIGHT: Ravioli, Duck Leg, Radicchio
Wow; utterly phenomenal. This is a little triumph: rich duck confit, sumptuous in its dark gravy, magical in its layered tones of smell and taste. If you go this season to Michael Mina, request your waiter if you can get a single large portion of this instead of the trio; I surmise they would oblige you. This is the best meaty ravioli I’ve eaten in 2009, and among the best meaty pastas of the year. I’d like to have a big bowl of it and a glass of Super Tuscan; that would be a perfect meal.
Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio – Michael Mina SF
COURSE TWO – BRANDT FARM BEEF and SPRING VEGETABLES
At first, the tiny bites of steak on the tri-partite plate seem light. But the incredible flavors from each steak made every bite fulfilling, worth enjoying slowly. Each of the three steak dishes was excellent.
Course 2 – Steak & Spring Vegetables – Michael Mina restaurant
COURSE TWO, LEFT: FILET MIGNON with Sauce Bernaise, Sacramento Delta green asparagus
Beautiful little stacked portion of filet mignon with a perfect bernaise sauce, paired with slivered green asparagus. Cleverly piled like a double-stack…not sure if this is a wink on a double burger but it was great, either way.
Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise – Michael Mina, SF
COURSE TWO, CENTER: DRY AGED RIBEYE, wilted spinach, morel jus (plus potatoes)
If you’ve ever wondered why people pay so much money to get dry-aged beef, wonder no more. This is a tiny piece of steak that packs a wallop of flavor. Another perfect presentation, and a great piece of steak.
Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF
COURSE TWO, RIGHT: BRAISED TRIO, young leeks, horseradish vinaigrette
Our waiter described this as “Tongue and Cheek,” so there’s beef tongue, beef cheek, and something else equally tender and delicious. A great balance of the beef parts with the earthiness of both the leeks and the brightness of the horseradish vinaigrette.
Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina – SF
COURSE THREE: CHEESES – GOAT, SHEEP, COW
For my last course, I opted for the cheese plate and it was again a small triumph of three. Savory with sweet, earthy and salty; everything well paired.
• Minuet, Pear Purée, Hazelnuts
• Pecorino Ginepro, Port Cherries, Juniper Balsamic Vinegar
• Pianoforte, Porcini Syrup, Puffed Wild Rice
There are some great options for sweeter things, but I like cheese to finish a languorous meal. Mina’s renowned for amazing desserts, and anything you order will be pretty great.
THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE: $105
THE INSIDE TIP: Get a very similar three-course meal at Michael Mina for $55. (Each course will be single, not trio, servings but most of the dishes for the regular prix fixe will be available at the beginning of dinner service for the lower price.) Make your reservation for between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. for their special pre-theatre dinner price. Go-go, early birds.
THE SKINNY: MICHAEL MINA
Inside the lobby of the Westin St. Francis Hotel
335 Powell Street, San Francisco CA 94102
Phone: (415) 397-9222
Website with menus: http://www.michaelmina.net
Hours: Dinner: Tuesday – Thursday 5:30pm – 9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm