San Francisco, CA

August 2007

Michael Mina is housed in a great space in the lobby of the Westin Hotel facing Union Square in San Francisco. The huge room is punctuated by some dramatic columns which gives the space much needed ceiling height since the tables are squeezed a bit too close together and is especially distracting if your neighbors are a tad strange.  (The night we were there, the couple to our left didn’t look at each other once but would gaze eagerly at the kitchen doors every time they swung open.) Annoying as the swinging doors were, the service was exact and extremely attentive.

Here’s the line-up of our Tasting Menu Extraordinaire:  An amuse bouche of oysters on the half shell topped with caviar then followed by a demitasse chaser of bean soup with a few bites of spicy sausage. A wonderful first course of lobster tortelloni came next with a light tarragon cream sauce flavored with fennel and pernod.  The second course of Wallu (a Hawaiian fish) was lightly grilled and served in a lemongrass green curry sauce.  Third course up: I had a beautifully roasted squab with a slab of grilled foie gras that was served with roasted figs and cipollini onions.  Lynn had the pork tenderloin accompanied with a pork short rib and a side of corn pudding.  We both moved on to the kobe beef slices plus a version of kobe beef pot roast which had a sweet BBQ glaze brushed on top.

A palette cleanser soon appeared in the form of a slice of hard cheese served with grapes and a grape marmalade.

Dessert was organic strawberries with a quenelle-like concoction filled with ice cream.  Working on the notion one can never have too much ice cream, lollipop ice cream chasers were served (kind of like miniature good humor bars) but dipped in milk and white chocolate.

The wine list was extensive but a bit on the high end.  We settled for a bottle of Gary Farrell Pinot Noir.

Follow-up visit

January 2008

We had a bit of a problem with the bartender tonight.  We kept ordering vodkas straight up — no veggies, no fruit, in other words naked vodka, shaken not stirred and he kept sending us drinks with an awful amount of vermouth.  We sent the drinks back twice and decided to just drink the third try. (We hate vermouth.)

In other words, we weren’t off to a good beginning.  Our server, however, was mortified and was trying to do everything right to make us happy. 

Lynn and I both started with the foie gras three ways  — first roasted, then a slice that was both hot and cold served with figs and as a terrine.  It carried a hefty supplement but we figured if any more chefs jump on the “ban the foie gras band wagon” we had better eat as much of it as we can now.

For the second course, Lynn had the duck – also three ways – duck leg, breast and confit.  I opted for the “three little pigs” loin, belly and rib – a dish I think that wanted to be German since it was served with Spätzle and red cabbage.  The pork was very good but I thought the portion was a tad small and guess what – the dish wasn’t very warm.

We moved on and split the cheese plate and then were “suckered” into trying an amuse bouche dessert of tea-flavored lollipops.  They didn’t work.

Even with the bartender mix up, the service was still impeccable, the meal less so the second time around and the restaurant a tad less crowded for a Thursday night.

Wrap up.  Still worthy of two Michelin stars; great location; fantastic service; expensive.


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