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[SF] Michael Mina


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Guest Aaron T

Dinner at the bar at Michael Mina last night. The restaurant is the flagship for Mina's many restaurants in SF, Vegas, Florida and several other locales, including several international outposts. The restaurant is located in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis hotel on Union Square. I found the setting and the decor pleasing. I know online some have not liked that it is in the lobby, but it is raised up significantly above the lobby so that one cannot see into the restaurant from the lobby proper.

 

Last night there was a break in the storm and so I decided to venture out before the deluge began anew. The time of year plus the weather meant the restaurant was less than full, which I appreciated.

 

At tables, the choice is between a 3 course menu with many choices or a 6 course tasting menu. At the bar you can order that way or go a la carte. I chose to go ala carte as I did not want dessert and wanted flexibility.

 

Amuse of american caviar on top of a blini that had creme fraiche, smoked salmon and several other items piled on in layers. Visually interesting and tasty.

American Kobe Beef And Foie Gras Shabu - Shabu dashi broth, watermelon radish, cilantro. This was the highlight of my meal. An A+ dish. Reminds me of Evelyn's descriptions of a similar dish at Urusawa. The broth has some matsutake mushrooms and was delicious on its own. The shabu shabu broth bowl was brought out over a flame so it stayed hot. The kobe and foie flavored the broth and made it richer as it cooked the meat. There was also a ladle and a separate bowl to eat the soup out of. I would have been happy with just the plain soup, but the added ingredients made it spectacular. The presentation is also quite attractive as the bowl with flame is brought out first immediately followed by the wagyu and foie to dip into it. Kobe and foie quite delicious as well.

 

Wedge Salad point reyes blue cheese, walnuts, pomegranate vinaigrette - a light dish, not especially noteworthy

John Dory - Seared And Steamed black trumpet mushrooms, sunchokes, short rib jus. The mushrooms are on the side, pureed or diced into a scoop. The sunchokes were crisps. The short rib juice nicely complemented the fish, came together well. This was a good fish dish, very meaty for a fish dish, both because it was John Dory and the beef juice, which was on the bottom of the plate - not too much, just enough. It was hard to be fair to this dish as for me the Shabu Shabu was the dish of the evening and set a standard that couldn't be matched.

 

I drank a sparkling dry riesling with the second half of the meal and a Prager riesling with the first half. The wine by the glass program was interesting. No chardonnay or pinot grigio on the list. :cool: A bunch of rieslings and other interesting wines. Some thought was put into it.

 

Service by the bartender was excellent. He knew the menu and wine list inside and out. I really enjoyed the meal and will return and probably get the shabu shabu again, and try some new things. I should note that this is not an inexpensive restaurant.

 

Squeat - I believe you posted on the Michelin thread that you had been to Michael Mina and were less than satisfied. Any thoughts?

 

The executive chef at Michael Mina's came there this spring from Thomas Keller's NYC outpost Per Se, and may have improved things since you last visited.

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For me, it's a drag that the room used to be a lovely open spot called the Compass Rose with a good bar, live jazz and food service that included a caviar cart and a little grill that would cook the fresh blini. There wasn't a better "shopping-pick-me-up" than some of that caviar and ice cold vodka. It just seemed like a good, solid, public San Francisco place that served everybody, whereas Mina seems a special occasion locale.

 

Do they still wash the coins at the St Francis?

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Thanks for the report, Aaron. Yes, I've been once and, like you, ordered a la carte at the bar. My meal was fine, but not memorable (literally, I can't remember a single dish). I think I was in a bad mood that night. And part of me was seething the whole time that the St. Francis could allow that to happen to the Compass Rose. Boo, St. Francis! :angry: :angry: Like Gordo, I adored that place.

 

Also, I used to really enjoy Mina's food when he was actually in the kitchen at Aqua, and I remember thinking it was not quite up to those old standards, especially for the price.

 

Maybe I was just being a grumpus. From your description, I should probably give it another chance.

 

(Steve: they still clean the coins at the St. Francis, but these days they do it by machine. The last human coin-washer retired in the early '90s, I think.)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Working my way through "the best that San Francisco has to offer," I was almost ashamed that I had not yet visited Michael Mina. I almost felt I did not need to, as my visit to his Stonehill Tavern last August was far from memorable. But I hate to judge any restaurant chain on only one visit so I made the excursion last evening to Mina's San Francisco branch for a pre-theater excursion.

 

Dining alone, I opted for the more extensive, 6-course tasting menu instead of the limiting 3-course/3-taste option. The evening's offerings:

 

Amuse - a demitasse of creamy porcini soup topped with crème fraîche. With as cold as it has been, accompanied with some Iron Horse Michael Mina Blanc de Blanc bubbly, it was a nice start; warm, rich, and comforting.

 

Albacore Tataki - served with Japanese Cucumber, pickled radish, tamari vinaigrette. The wine pairing was a Maximin Grünhaus Riesling Kabinett 'Herrenberg' Ruwer, 2006. This was a cold preparation on the fish; previously grilled for a crust, but then chilled with a raw interior and topped with a sweet, dark glaze. The cucumber/radish combination were paper-thin slices which ringed the dish. These were more decorative than adding anything to the flavors. Honestly, the wine pairing for this dish was an abomination. The wine was exquisite with a hint of a lime nose and a sweet, compelling flavor, but far too sweet to accompany the sweet glaze on the fish. A Grüner Veltliner would have been a far better choice.

 

Grilled Spanish Mackeral - served with Vandovan curry, granny smith apple, and wood sorrel paired with Joseph Matrot Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru, Burgundy, 1998. To start, the wine was creamy with a hint of wood and citrus and a faint layer of butterscotch; rich and unctuous. The fish was a hot presentation, grilled atop a layer of creamy curry. While perfectly grilled and prepared, I would have preferred more sauce and definitely more apples to accompany the piece. The apples were a tiny brunoise, and then, only two or three tiny cubes at that. This one went back mostly half un-eaten.

 

California Squab - served with foie gras, toasted farro, and Lacinot kale. This wine pairing was L'Arlot Nuits St. Georges 'Petits Plets' 1er Cru, Burgundy, 2005. The wine had a strong, bright berry aroma and was young on the mouth. It paired well with the dish which was ultimately the winner of the evening. The squab was placed next to a 1" square of seared foie and both sat separated by the greens atop a bed of farro. The sauce was rich and the perfectly-prepared squab was a nice contrast against the meltingly elegant foie.

 

Kurabuto Pork Loin - served with crispy belly, canary tongue greens, red onion marmalade paired with Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône, Rhône, 2003. The wine produced a nose of fabulous dark fruit, black raspberry, and a hint of dried herb. There was an earthy entry with a eucalyptus finish. This is an astonishingly fabulous wine and some research will be done so acquire some as I think it will taste amazing in a decade or so. This was the heartbreak dish of the evening; the loin was so tough has to require no less than eight to ten passes of the knife to cut a bite (yes, I counted as I sawed). It was also too remarkably similar to the squab with a pedestrian protein being served next to a contrasting square of melting fat and in this case, the crispy belly was barely that. Honestly, when I want to eat fat, I either order foie or marrow bones. I only ate a bite or two of this and sent it back most un-eaten. Travesty.

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Loin - served with socca, baby artichokes, and Castelveltrano olives. The wine pairing was Qupé Syrah Cuvée Michael Mina, Santa Barbara County, 2006. Two loins, each one had more than a fingernail-sized hunk of fat within which had to be butchered out. What was edible was tender but I didn't like having to work for it. The accompaniment of artichokes and olives was odd. It worked well with the Syrah which was horrifically too young to drink. Dark cherry and molasses, there was a clean mint hint on the entry but turned harsh with alcohol in its youth.

 

Running out of time, I could not opt for the Apple Tart Tartin sweet and had only the cheese offering:

 

Blue Del Moncenisio - served with Aleppo oil, celery sorbet, and Marcona almonds. The wine pairing was Charles Hours Jurançon 'Clos Uroulat', Pyrenees, France, 2004. This is a lovely sweet wine, a relatively closed nose due to its chill but blossoming in the mouth with tangy floral delight. It also paired extremely well with the cheese -- but only the cheese. Honestly, the combination of a celery sorbet and a spicy pepper oil was a perversion of an offering. The celery flavor with the sweet wine did nothing other than taste fishy and the pepper oil fought with the spice of the mold in the cheese. What were they thinking?

 

Needing to rush to the get to the theater, I rushed through my coffee and ice cream lollipops; one chocolate-covered bergamot and the other, a green tea. These were nice and I'm sorry I didn't get to savor them a bit more instead of having to scoff them down.

 

A note on the ambience; the room is large with vaulted ceilings and large columns. However, the proximity of a busy bar and the acoustics of the room made it louder than I would have thought. In considering this against some place like the Ritz, this is quite bustling and noisy.

 

Lastly, a word on service. In my last year of high-end dining, rarely I have met with such amiable and enthusiastic servers. They were considerate of the fact that I had a book open in front of me during my two-hour meal, pleasant and cordial. While I was obviously taking WINE notes (I took home a menu and made no food notes during the meal), they were conscientious of that fact and forward in pouring more of something they thought I would appreciate. I mentioned that I thought the Riesling was an incorrect pairing and the server indicated he would share my thoughts.

 

If only the food matched the amazing service. In all six courses, only one was worthwhile; the squab. And one of the two fishes was definitely not fresh (as attested to some later evening "difficulties" to which I succumbed). How desperately sad. In thinking back over the meal, it was too often a travesty of mediocre meat with a slight smattering of vegetables that lacked balance and thought.

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  • 1 month later...

Bauer gives Michael Mina four stars.

 

Sitting in the magnificent Barbara Barry-designed room, with soaring columns and scrim windows that overlookings Union Square, affords a view that is at once romantic and urbane. You feel isolated from the conventioneers running through the Westin St. Francis lobby and the panhandlers outside the door; it's a rarefied vision of what we want San Francisco to be.

 

Michael Mina is a great and ambitious chef - he earned four stars at Aqua more than a decade ago - and at this restaurant he's cooking on a more complicated and distinctive level.

 

Each item on the menu incorporates several ingredients and presents them multiple ways on the same plate. With the help of chef de cuisine Chris L'Hommedieu, who was executive sous chef at Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York and also worked with Mina at Aqua, Mina's vision has been fully realized. He still cooks most weeks in San Francisco; when he travels to his other properties he talks to L'Hommedieu at least once a day to plan the menus.

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Bauer gives Michael Mina four stars.

 

Sitting in the magnificent Barbara Barry-designed room, with soaring columns and scrim windows that overlookings Union Square, affords a view that is at once romantic and urbane. You feel isolated from the conventioneers running through the Westin St. Francis lobby and the panhandlers outside the door; it's a rarefied vision of what we want San Francisco to be.

 

Michael Mina is a great and ambitious chef - he earned four stars at Aqua more than a decade ago - and at this restaurant he's cooking on a more complicated and distinctive level.

 

Each item on the menu incorporates several ingredients and presents them multiple ways on the same plate. With the help of chef de cuisine Chris L'Hommedieu, who was executive sous chef at Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York and also worked with Mina at Aqua, Mina's vision has been fully realized. He still cooks most weeks in San Francisco; when he travels to his other properties he talks to L'Hommedieu at least once a day to plan the menus.

 

Jaw-droppingly stupefying and if you link through to his six pages worth of comments after the review, my astonishment is somewhere on the first page, two or three down. One of the worst meals I've had in this city!

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Guest Aaron T

I thought it odd that he didn't mention the foie shabu shabu, which was the best thing I had there and an outstanding dish. I think I recall reading about a similar dish in the past several days on MF, perhaps on the Momofuku Ko thread?

 

I don't know about 4 stars but I'll try and get back in the next month or so.

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I thought it odd that he didn't mention the foie shabu shabu, which was the best thing I had there and an outstanding dish. I think I recall reading about a similar dish in the past several days on MF, perhaps on the Momofuku Ko thread?

 

I don't know about 4 stars but I'll try and get back in the next month or so.

 

There was no foie shabu-shabu on the menu when I was there a month ago. I would have ordered it...

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I thought it odd that he didn't mention the foie shabu shabu, which was the best thing I had there and an outstanding dish. I think I recall reading about a similar dish in the past several days on MF, perhaps on the Momofuku Ko thread?

 

That's a classic Masa dish. He's been doing it since the Beverly Hills days. Urasawa does it as well.

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