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Appetizers & Cocktails at Michael Mina

Frosty Melon (was Chowderhead) | Sep 17, 200401:10 PM

Another poster described an evening of appetizers & drinks at the bar at Michael Mina soon after he opened. Last night, a friend and I followed suit.

We initially went because we happened to be in Union Square for another event, which turned out to be very lame. "Let's check out Michael Mina, just to see the space, since we'll never get a seat." Off we went, following the "M" logo from the exterior windows of the Westin St. Francis, to the "M" logo on the interior decor of the lobby, to the "M" logo on the posted menu at the base of the stairs.

Up we went to the dining area, which was quite full, although the din was so minimal we wished we could overhear more conversation (about the food being served, of course). It is a beautiful space, defined by huge columns and decked out in pale blue and taupe. After scanning the dining room and seeing several plates go by, we spot a few open seats at the bar. That was it; we were hooked to sit down and have a drink.

After a Grey Goose martini with a twist ($11) and a Ketel One martini with an olive ($10), and after watching more plates go by, we felt obligated to at least look at a menu. I of course got overexcited and immediately stated, "I'm in splurge mode. Let's do the tasting menu." Which, if I recall correctly, you can do at the bar if there are two of you, and you share it. $78 for three courses. Our very friendly bartender informed us that you cannot do either $120 five-course tasting menu at the bar.

I was denied the full splurge by my companion on the grounds that such extravagance must be preceded by at least a day's worth of anticipation and meal planning. Fine. Let's stick with the a la carte menu and get an appetizer to prime us for a return visit. Plus two more martinis.

I chose the lobster salad with quacamole ($17), which was a smallish yet good-sized lobster tail under a bed of guacamole and greens, with a few plum tomato slices. Off to the side was a ramekin filled with a wonderful ceviche of mango, red onion and a large chunk of lobster, topped with an oval-shaped cracker with more quacamole. It was an excellent, unusual combination of flavors and each bite took at least one full minute to savor and swallow.

Companion chose the ahi tuna tartare ($14), which we saw go by a number of times before. It was a very good-sized mound of fresh tuna, with a small raw egg on top, surrounded by pine nuts, sea salt and a third item which today escapes me. The server (even at the bar) presents it and proceeds to prepare it for you, mixing and dicing the tuna and egg and explaining how to taste each surrounding addition for different flavors. There were three or four toast points on the plate as well. It was wonderful, and I am picky about my ahi tuna. I think from the appetizer menu, this is THE not-to-be-missed selection.

We left $95 poorer, yet perfectly content, and didn't need to eat a thing afterwards (likely aided by the martinis), and looking forward to a special occasion when we can try a full menu. Until then, I'd gladly return when in semi-splurge mode.

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