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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

Bacon Heart Attack Dinner (6) – Bacon + Rabbit Presse, Turnip Puree, Dates, Bacon Cream

Bacon & Rabbit Presse, Bacon Cream

Bacon Rabbit Presse, Pureed Turnips, Date, Bacon Cream

Bacon Rabbit Presse, Pureed Turnips, Date, Bacon Cream

Bacon Heart Attack Dinner, Course 6:

Bacon & Rabbit Presse, with pureed turnips, date, and bacon cream.

This is where we can safely say “Over the top, dude.”

Sweet and earthy, fatty and chewy, this dish was ridiculous. By that, I mean so absurdly rich and good you fantasize about it later. Or perhaps weekly, and perhaps for years to come.

To ameliorate the panic: thankfully, there was no heart attack involved anywhere during the course of the dinner. And, we presume, none afterwards.

But if one dish made my blood-thumper expand to a hardening cannonball rubbing like an angry pirate ship against the inside of my ribs rushing towards enemy mast, this was the dish. Breathe deep, breathe deep.

The colors of the bacon here—bright pink flesh, Tide-y whitie fat stripes—were modestly terrifying. I suspected it was slow-cooked via sous vide but my mind saw “raw” bacon….by this time, I was too gone to care. Trust is surrendered at the click, when I signed up online for this blind bacon masquerade.

 

Bacon Rabbit Presse, Pureed Turnips, Date, Bacon Cream
Bacon Rabbit Presse, Pureed Turnips, Date, Bacon Cream

To a certain extent, underground or ‘subculture dining,’  as the Dissident Chef calls it, is akin to his love of Jean Lafitte and pirates. He literally has a captive audience; nobody knows how many course are coming out, what’s coming next, when it’s going to end. So at this point, I’m feeling very along for the ride and very far afloat in the richness of bacon cream, softness of pureed turnips and very rich and fatty rabbit and bacon. I’ve never been one to put the kibosh on pirate ships, anyway: I had a pirate birthday party when I was 7, decades before Johnny Depp made rogue vogue.

Turnips are fantastic root vegetables and aren’t given the glory of cousins like potatoes or carrots, so the puree alone was great. The rabbit and bacon presse—flesh & fat—was a stunning morsel when paired with the sweet, chewy date, the root-down turnip smoothness, and the crème de bacon. Really, bacon cream? OMG…bottle that stuff ASAP.

Overall, the ‘bacon heart attack’ evening was glorious; this was one of the evening’s singular triumphs.