Michael Mina Restaurant
2016 Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne
Siberian Osetra Caviar Parfait – Alderwood-Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraiche, Shallot Potato Cake, Hard Boiled Egg, Chive Oil
Frozen Belvedere Vodka Cleanser
Sourdough and Honey Whole Wheat Rolls with Salted and Unsalted Butter
Beet Terrine – Persimmon, Butter Poached Lobster, Chicory-Radicchio, Roasted Yogurt Honey Vinaigrette
Kona Kampachi – Calabrian Chili Marinade, Radish, Preserved Orange, Micro-Cucumber, Mint, Cucumber-Lemon Broth
Chestnut Agnolotti – Truffles, Braised Salsify, Salsify Puree, Salsify Chips, Santa Barbara Spot Prawns
Wild Alaskan Halibut – Veronique Sauce, Grape “Scales,” Roasted Grapes, Daikon Fondant, Crushed Turnips, Pistou
Wild French Turbot – Chicken Skin, Sunchoke Puree, Matsutake Mushroom, Sauce Chasseur
Maine Lobster Pot Pie – Baby Vegetables, Truffle Lobster Cream
2014 Sauternes Château Roûmieu-Lacoste
Whole Roasted Hudson Valley Foie Gras – Carved tableside with Brioche, Brandied Cherries, Pickled Red Onion, Allspice Dram, Long-peppercorn Pain Perdu
Vanilla Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta – Macerated Strawberries, Basil Oil, Lemon Zest
Michael’s Root Beer Float – Sassafras Ice Cream, IBC Root Beer, Chocolate Straw, Warm Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie
Dark Chocolate Tart – Chocolate Mousse, Cookie Butter Ganache, Raspberry Coulis
While many well-traveled gourmands have long set their minds against Michael Mina, his restaurants called everything from ‘generic Celebrity Chef stuff’ to ‘fancy hotel food for people from Indiana,’ those viewing the Chef’s food in the context of its location are making the same mistake they do when judging Las Vegas as a whole, many years in the business seeing Mina himself take a largely hands-off approach that allows his talented cadre of Chefs a lot of flexibility and creative control with the sort of ingredients most small ‘independent’ restaurants would be grateful to have.
Admittedly an easily forgotten location, the tastefully dressed room with modern art, subdued lighting and a soft soundtrack residing behind the Bellagio Conservatory as opposed to just off the gaming floor like the rest of The Bellagio’s impressive collection of restaurants, it was on the first day of the new Autumn menu that five friends sat down for a grand tasting, Chef Nick Sharpe proving every bit as skilled as former Chef Ben Jenkins while the same waiter working the room for over a dozen years provided superlative service assuring a memorable evening.
Now in charge of Michael Mina Restaurant since late-2016, Chef Mina’s propensity for promoting from within seeing Jenkins take a job in Hawaii and Chef Sharpe brought back to the place where he last worked over five years prior, it was quickly upon arrival that five glasses of Champagne were poured for the group and with a “Cheers” things began, Michael Mina’s Caviar Parfait given the Siberian Osetra-upgrade as worthy a signature as ever with all five layers distinct in their contribution but also melding just as they should and the salinity further exaggerated by intermittent sips of ice cold Belvedere.
With two enjoying Wine pairings and the rest sticking to the aforementioned beverages plus Bread to refresh the palate between courses, both warm Rolls good on their own and also useful for mopping up sauces, it was with an all-new plate of sliced and stacked Beets that the evening continued on, the use of Persimmon and Honey Vinaigrette for sweetness unfortunately seeing chunks of chilled Lobster get lost amidst bolder flavors though the Terrine itself was quite delicious.
Frequently offering raw Fish as part of the Tasting Menu, a mild Tuna Tartare from last visit replaced this time with meaty slices of Yellowtail marinated in Calabrian Chilis alongside Radishes, Mint and Citrus in a glistening Abalone Shell, it was with a light tingle on the lips that all enjoyed the dish before Chef Sharpe presented tableside with the night’s pasta course, an all-new plate of tender Chestnut Agnolotti topped in Australian Truffles on a bed of snappy Spot Prawns and three textures of Salsify.
Impressed by Chef Sharpe’s ability to balance sometimes challenging ingredients, Calabrian Chiles not overwhelming the Kampachi and Salsify’s sometimes ‘earthy’ flavors largely absent with its more Oyster-like characteristics helping to spotlight the Prawns, it was in a re-tooled classic that the menu continued, a beautiful filet of Line-caught Halibut deemed “Veronique” thanks to scales made from thinly sliced Grapes truly delightful next to the creamed and crushed Radishes and Turnips.
Progressing at a careful pace, the conversation flowing and servers patiently waiting at times to describe dishes, it was with another Fish that the night’s last new dish was presented, a meaty slice of French Turbot given extra oomph as it was wrapped in Chicken Skin and served atop bitter Sunchoke puree with a Matsutake Mushroom cap and savory Sauce Chasseur.
At this point veering off the traditional tasting, two longtime Michael Mina Restaurant favorites specially requested when making the reservation, it was by the hand of longtime General Manager Jorge Pagani that both the signature Pot Pie and Whole Roasted Foie Gras were presented tableside, the former easily enough to feed two hungry adults with nearly 2 1/2lbs of Lobster Meat in Truffle Bisque while the latter should only be ordered by groups of four or more, the perfectly cleaned Liver as good as one will find anywhere with a caramelized exterior and firm yet smooth center served next to seasonal condiments.
Enjoying the Foie Gras with a half-pour of Sauternes, a highly recommended pairing even for those who typically shy away with Wine, it was with most of the Pot Pie’s shell as well as too many slices of Pain Perdu consumed that Dessert was served once every ounce of Liver was accounted for, the lone remnant of Michael Mina’s former “trios” featuring his classic Rootbeer Float alongside seasonal Panna Cotta and a Dark Chocolate Tart with “Passionfruit Pearls” removed, all of it quite good but none save for the warm Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie particularly memorable compared to the beautiful meal they followed.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Still an under-appreciated Restaurateur no matter how far his empire extends, spaces on both coasts universally outperforming expectations for more than fifteen years, Michael Mina has continuously shown great faith in both Chefs and Staff to execute his vision without much oversight, and on Saturday night Chef Sharpe once again proved that whether supposed ‘experts’ like it or not those entering Michael Mina Restaurant at The Bellagio with an open mind and the right budget can expect a very memorable night.
RECOMMENDED: Whole Foie Gras, Lobster Pot Pie, Kona Kampachi, Halibut Veronique, Chestnut Agnolotti.
AVOID: The Beet Terrine needs a little bit of work to make the Lobster stand out and Desserts, though fine, are a far cry from the interesting sweets served at Stripsteak, Bardot or other Michael Mina Restaurants.
TIP: Although the date is as yet unannounced, Michael Mina Restaurant will be temporarily closing later this year to touch up the interior with a new menu promised to be more Seafood-centric like that from the Chef’s Aqua days.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.