Category Archives: BBQ Ribs

Prix Fixe Dinner – Michael Mina

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

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

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 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

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

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

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.

Free reservations at Michael Mina via OpenTable.com

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

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Baby Back Ribs (Oola, SF)

Baby Back Ribs – Oola, SF

BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs - OOLA, SF
BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs - OOLA, SF

There’s a lot of hype around Oola restaurant’s BBQ baby back ribs, and they did not disappoint. Crisp and charred on the exterior, they do that fall-off-the-bone thing once you grab onto them. Call that the rib version of seduction. The barbecue sauce is sweet and tangy with a slow-rolling peppery smoke that catches up on the finish. Ginger, soy sauce, cilantro, pepper, brown sugar…they’re all in there.  The problem is, if you order 3 (appetizer portion), you’ll wish you ordered the full 6 plate. The side slaw of red cabbage and apple is tasty but somewhat mild and creamy for my taste. The dramatic punch of the ribs craves a stronger counterpart. 

Some baby back ribs and a cocktail or a glass of wine make a perfect little meal. But if you have the motivation to make Oola’s BBQ baby back ribs yourself, Food & Wine magazine published Oola’s crispy ribs recipe in 2006. It’s almost the Fourth of July…go for it.

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $14 half /$26 full

The Skinny: Oola Restaurant & Bar

860 Folsom Street (between 4th St & 5th St)
San Francisco, CA 94107
Phone: (415) 995-2061

Website: http://www.oola-sf.com/

BBQ Ribs Platter (Salt Lick BBQ near Austin TX)

Salt Lick Barbecue, (near) Austin TX

Gimme My Dang Bar-B-Que!! Salt Lick!!
Gimme My Dang Bar-B-Que!! Salt Lick!!

The Dish: Barbecue Ribs Platter

Salt Lick is really more about a great rustic, summer-camp atmosphere than earth-shattering barbecue. Nice little plate of barbecue will fill you up; the sauce is tasty. The brisket, sausage, and pork ribs are good, and the portions acceptable for the price. I liked the more mustard-driven potato salad and the other sides are OK but they don’t have any demanding, distinctive sense of homemade flavor. If you said they were from a vat, nobody would disagree (unless they work for Salt Lick and know better). With Salt Lick’s eternal popularity, maybe they’re both homemade and from a vat. Still a fun place  and decent grub for the price.

Rib Platter at The Salt Lick BBQ, near Austin TX
Rib Platter at The Salt Lick BBQ, near Austin TX

The Damage: Platter (your choice) for $11.95

Includes either beef, sausage, pork ribs, or a meat combo, with potato salad, cole slaw, beans, bread, pickles, and onions.

If you go in a group, it’s easier to just get the $18.95 all-you-can-eat platters. They keep comin’ round the bend with more food until you say, “Whoa.” (See plate below for example of heapin’ helpin’…)

Combo BBQ Meat Platter, The Salt Lick BBQ
Combo BBQ Meat Platter, The Salt Lick BBQ

The Grade: Very Good (food) but Great (experience)

A lot of why you’ll like Salt Lick Barbecue is due in no small part to the laid-back, way in-the-sticks atmosphere. It’s like a big summer campground: big old WWII-era cabins with long picnic tables, and an outdoor seating area that busts out with local live bands on weekends. You’re encouraged to tote in your own coolers full of beer (or whatever), so it’s a nonplussed party atmosphere that’s also somehow family friendly, with kids romping around all over. It feels like a Southern family reunion you got invited to, actually, with lots of distant cousins who you don’t know so well at the other tables. The barbecue itself is actually more ‘very good’ tasting than great, but the vibe at Salt Lick Barbecue should provide a fun afternoon or evening for a group.

Outside at The Salt Lick BBQ, Driftwood TX
Outside at The Salt Lick BBQ, Driftwood TX

The Spot: Salt Lick Barbecue

Salt Lick is really fun and worth the trip to its hot, dusty boondocks, so I highly recommend you go out there with a group of hungry friends and while away an hour or two and some giant plates of barbecue. Salt Lick is a fun, rustic place from another generation, with neighborly friendly service and very decent (but not phenomenal) grub. It’s an icon of the Austin area, and a must-see for you hungry tourist folk.

Toothsome: Cobbler (Peach or Blackberry Pie)

You must, must, must get a slice of fresh cobbler. In fact, get one to eat there and one to take home for breakfast. Salt Lick BBQ’s blackberry pie is insane. In fact, I remembered the pie with more drool than any of the BBQ.

A whole heap of pies are lined up along a counter next to the cash register, like some super-long Aunt Bea windowsill in Mayberry, RFD. Salt Lick may have peach and other kinds of fruit or berry pie, depending on the season, and pecan pie is a staple. I suspect that any Salt Lick BBQ pie along the line is pretty darn good. Salt Lick BBQ is like that, no nonsense and down-home sweet.

The Skinny: Salt Lick Barbecue

18300 FM Rd 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619

Phone: (512) 858-4959

Website: http://www.saltlickbbq.com/

Note 1:  Salt Lick is cash only, so bring a heap if you’re a group. No credit cards accepted.

Note 2: Be sure to go to this Salt Lick in Driftwood; there’s another Salt Lick (from the same group) that’s more like a chain restaurant than the rustic, cool outpost of the original Salt Lick.

the_salt_lick_bbq_woodensign_austin_tx_meatmeister

BBQ Baby Back Ribs (Roy’s, San Francisco, CA)

BABY BACK PORK RIBS

THE DISH: Fire-grilled, Szechuan-spiced BABY BACK PORK RIBS

The pork ribs at Roy’s are one of those appetizers you might order on a whim, then you’ll dream about it for the next week until you can get back and have more. They’re a perfect mix of spicy-hot and sweet, and finger lickin’, finger lickin’ good y’all. If in downtown SF and in need of a cocktail and appetizer, get right to Roy’s and get yourself right.

THE SPOT: ROY’S RESTAURANT, San Francisco CA

(Note: Roy’s has quite a few restaurants in different locations; this is a review of the baby back pork ribs at Roy’s in San Francisco, CA.)

A bastion of Asian fusion cuisine, with deep (taro) roots in the Hawaiian Islands, Roy Yamaguchi’s Roy’s Restaurant is truly a flurry of flavors. Although I don’t visit Roy’s often, when I recall certain dishes I’ve enjoyed there, I contemplate why I’ve not been there lately and consider how soon I can get back there. A great way to enjoy Roy’s, if you’re not up for a dinner in the formal dining room, is to go for some appetizers and a couple of their wicked cocktails (Original Hawaiian Martini, Mango Mojito, etc.) The bar at Roy’s is probably a great place to start a date, as the drinks are awesome, the servers are friendly, the atmosphere is rich but relaxed, and the app’s are worth the trip alone.

THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (4 out of 5)

THE DAMAGE: $15

A better way to go is Roy’s combo appetizer (pu pu) platter for $28. It includes a couple ribs and a handful of other great appetizers on one giant plate.

THE SKINNY: ROY’S RESTAURANT

575 Mission Street, San Francisco CA

Phone: (415) 777-0277

Website: http://www.roysrestaurant.com

Roy’s Classics http://www.roysrestaurant.com/roysclassics.asp

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