Michael Mina – San Francisco

Michael Mina
Westin St. Francis
335 Powell St
San Francisco, CA 94102

After the great meal we had at Michael Mina Vegas, knowing the San Francisco restaurant was rumored to be even better, I was very much looking forward to the meal. We decided before we even arrived that we would most likely do the seasonal tasting menu. Luckily it was perfectly laid out for us with the “or” choices on just the right dishes.

Course one was Grilled Japanese Kanburi (tatsoi, Asian pear, ginger vinaigrette). This was amazing. The fish was perfectly cooked. The savory and sweet had an absolute perfect balance. It was a wonderful start. The wine pairing did not start well though. There is this trend that we’ve been experiencing with the chef’s tastings and pairings of sweet, fruity wines served with Asian flavored dishes. This one was a Spanish Moscatel Seco (2007 Jorge Ordonez Botani) that was full of pineapple and mango. It was dry but had a coy sweetness from the tropical fruit flavors. This would be a good hot day quaffing wine, but did not pair with the food.

The next dish was one I thought I would love but it ended up being my least favorite of the evening: Extra Virgin Olive Oil-poached Wild Sturgeon (pickled cabbage, pumpernickel panade, dijon emulsion). It was an interesting flavor combination but the mustard overwhelmed everything else and, combined with the pickled cabbage, reminded me of a hot dog! “I’ll have the sturgeon with mustard and kraut please!”

I’m not usually a fan of squab. I mean, really, it’s pigeon! Why the fancy name? Anyway, WOW! It was practically rare, but a tender, perfect texture, not at all squab-like. It wasn’t stringy or gamey although it was intensely smoky. Luckily, the sommelier paired this one with a Pinot Noir (2006 Whetstone Pinot Noir, Jon Boat) that cut through the smoke.

Michael Mina isn’t immune to the influence of the Kobe trend. They have added a great twist to it though: “Thai Beef Salad” (grilled little gems, serrano peppers, green curry). The beef was tender, the curry had some heat and, unpredictably, this was our favorite dish of the evening. The other surprise was that the 2007 Celebration Gamay Noir (Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon) worked so well. Red wine with beef, sure, of course! Red wine with spicy serrano, Thai curry… what? It was awesome.

The Apple Tarte Tatin (Burnt cinnamon ice cream, cider foam, toffee) for dessert was spiced and sweet and tart cinnamony. The 2003 Tokaji brought out a brown sugar in the dish which made it a very good pairing. There was an extra little bite that came out, a sort of s’more gelée. I don’t tend to like the textures gelées and foams but this little bite was so intensely S’MORE! Great finish to the meal.

We had a lovely time — oh, and this was my birthday dinner so they wrote “Happy Birthday” on my Tarte Tatin plate in chocolate… cute!

I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to return to Michael Mina. It’s an extravagant meal but there’s nothing wrong with that if the dishes deliver and these sure did.