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Restaurants & Bars 9

Michael Mina - Is My Palate Too Jaded? (Long)

Lives to Eat | Aug 10, 200407:03 PM

Last night I decided to treat myself to dinner at Michael Mina. Although I was more than full as I walked out, there was also an overriding feeling of disappointment. For a dinner that totaled $145.00 with tax & tip, I thought that at least once during the meal I should have said to myself, “Wow – this is great!” and I never did. Obviously my expectations were too high. (Unfortunately, when I did a search on this board, I put in the full name of the restaurant and only found the earliest reviews. It wasn't until today when I just put in "Mina" that I saw the subsequent thread...I might not have gone if I had seen it first.)

As mentioned by other posters, in the dining room, there are only a few choices…a three-course menu for $78 and two chef’s tasting menus for $120. There are a number of items on the three-course menu for which they charge a $10 or $15 supplement like the lobster and caviar first courses and the Kobe beef and lobster pot pie second courses. However, don’t be fooled when it says, “first course” - in reality most “courses” consist of six small bites/tastes that I didn’t think was all that successful. Out of 18 different items, plus the 3-part amuse bouche starter and the iced bon bons that ended the meal, I didn’t LOVE anything. I have been to other restaurants where they offer plates like these (three or four variations on a theme), but usually not every choice in the course is like that. I know this is his “hook” but it didn’t work for me. I felt like I was at a food tasting and was supposed to compare the different preparations and rank them instead of enjoying each on their own merits.

Now for specifics. I started with a Cosmopolitan ($12 and not very good). For a first course, I chose the lobster ($10 supplement) - 3 variations of lobster and heirloom tomatoes plus 3 versions of ceviche. I liked 3 of the 6 items okay (lobster with Brandywine tomato and the Brandywine and Green Zebra ceviches) but was underwhelmed by the other 3. For a second course, I had the pork, of which I thought only the first pairing with the risotto was successful. I would have liked this as an entrée without the others. For dessert I had the warm chocolate cakes and milkshakes – 3 little chocolate cakes which were fairly tasty, and 3 versions of milkshakes. I think they switched them because they didn’t taste like they were in the order the server said. However, I shouldn’t have even been thinking about whether the milkshake tasted like peanut butter or milk chocolate! I should have just been enjoying my food instead of analyzing it, but by then the shear preciousness of it all had done me in.

I must compliment them on two things…the wine list and service. Although there were a couple of small glitches (like starting to give me someone else’s after-dinner tea), overall the service was very good. It is sometimes risky when you’re a woman dining alone, because often the wait staff ignores you. I don’t know if they figure women don’t tip as well or what, but everyone was top notch and I never felt uncomfortable being alone.

As for the wine list, I really like that they offer wine by the glass or by the taste, and that the prices are very reasonable. I had a Sauvignon Blanc taste with my lobster and Pinot Noir taste with my pork. The 2 combined were only $11 and the wine was fine.

In a nutshell...been there, done that, will go back to Gary Danko, Boulevard, Chez Panisse or the French Laundry before I go here again. I’ve had unforgettable food at each, which is more than I can say about MM.

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