Michael Mina Restaurant
2017 Chartogne Taillet Michael Mina Cuvee Champagne
Chilled Spring Pea Soup – Gulf Shrimp, Horseradish Panna Cotta, Crème Fraiche
Laffa Bread – Kalamata Olive Tapenade, Housemade Hummus, Red Onion Labneh
Michael Mina’s Caviar Parfait – Royal Kaluga Caviar, Alderwood Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraiche, Shallot Potato Cake, Parsley Oil, Egg Mimosa, Onion Syrup
Hamachi Provencal – Sauce Vierge, Cucumber Broth, Harissa, Tomato Raisins, Serrano Peppers
Medai Snapper – Fermented Soy, Fresh Wasabi, Spring Radish, Daikon Pickle
Monterey Bay Squid – Bell Pepper Dashi, Urfa Chili Oil, Yuzu
Grilled Portuguese Octopus – Green Garlic, Fermented Garlic Chimichurri, Buttermilk Allium Broth, Crispy Fingerling Potatoes, Chive Oil
Warm White Asparagus Tartine – Sauce Vin Jaune, Foie Gras, Black Truffle, Bottarga
Foie Gras Torchon – Rhubarb, Sumac, Anise Streusel, Toasted Brioche, Cognac Brioche Pudding
Ricotta Gnudi – Maine Lobster, Morel Mushrooms, Fava Beans, Verjus, Black Truffle Beurre Blanc
Spanish Turbot Pithivier – Shrimp Mousseline, Scallop Sauce au Poivre, Brik Pastry, Escarole
Roasted Foie Gras – Savoy Cabbage, Grilled Kalettes, Ginger Vinaigrette, Puffed Quinoa, Grilled Brioche
Broiled Tai Snapper – Basmati Rice, Grilled Spring Onion, Butter Chicken Oysters, Cardamom Ghee
Grilled Branzino – Chermoula, Haricots Coco, Braised Marcona Almonds, Olives
Double Espresso – Ice
Root Beer Float – Caramelized Rice Krispies, Root Beer Sorbet, Vanilla Ice Cream, Meringue
Pineapple Parfait – Mangoes, Dragon Fruit, Pineapple, Banana Sabayon, Vanilla Cake, Rum Soaked Lemon Cake
Chocolate Mina Cake – Milk Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Custard, Beet Sorbet, Beet Chips, Raspberry
Key Lime White Chocolate, Hazelnut Milk Chocolate
Originally known as Aqua, but since reborn twice as MICHAEL MINA Restaurant, it was behind The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens that five guests sat down for Dinner on Saturday, service led by Jorge Pagani once again faultless as the kitchen showed off a seasonal bounty.
A former Michelin star recipient in the guide’s Las Vegas days, accolades that would have undoubtedly continued or received an upgrade with MICHAEL MINA’s 2018 shift towards market-fresh Seafood, it is from the hands of Executive Chef Nick Dugan that spring is expressed a la carte or via tasting menu, each featuring several new items in addition to Chef Mina’s classics.
A large yet serene space, natural lighting prominent at 6:00pm before slowly being replaced by the soft-glow of chandeliers, it was from familiar servers that Dinner started with complimentary Champagne, Mina’s own Cuvee soon joined by an Amuse of Spring Pea Soup served cold atop textural elements including Horseradish Panna Cotta and tiny Gulf Shrimp.
Next offered the first of two Bread baskets, Mina’s Laffa and trio of Spreads appropriately light to avoid filling up but simultaneously compelling enough to overeat, it was with shots of iced Belvedere poured that Michael Mina’s Caviar Parfait was presented, layers of Caviar, Salmon and Crème Fraiche luxurious as ever atop a crisp Latke and deviled Eggs.
Continuing with a tower of Market List raw preparations, the tiered service an elegant touch and throwback to Mina’s early trios, those seeking to dine light cannot go wrong with Hamachi or Snapper that carefully balance heat and acid, though the star comes by way of sliced Squid carefully dressed in Miso and smoky Urfa with brightness added by Yuzu.
Unaware of Chef Dugan’s recent history with Gavin Kaysen until later, the Bocuse d’Or Head Coach employing Nick as his Chef de Cuisine at Bellecour for nearly two years, it is in retrospect that dishes including grilled Octopus with Onions and Belgian White Asparagus fortified by Truffles and Bottarga stand out even more prominently, each boldly expressing the season but never losing focus despite implementing several strong flavors.
Not about to forget Duck Liver, the first of two styles offering a creamy Torchon ready for spreading on Brioche with various forms of Rhubarb, it was continuing on to richer dishes that Chef Dugan presented housemade Gnudi with Oregon Morels and Lobster from Maine, fresh Favas adding freshness while Butter and a bit of Wine tie it all together.
Describing the next dish as “Chef Nick’s signature,” something that if not already a fact will soon be, it is much like Josh Smith’s Beef Wellington at BARDOT Brasserie that Spanish Turbot comes surrounded by Pastry, a layer of Shrimp Mousse keeping flesh moist while Scallop-infused Peppercorn Sauce does well to compliment but not overwhelm the Flatfish’s subtleties.
Briefly veering off-menu for a surprise, Mina’s iconic whole lobe of Foie roasted and served with Cabbage and a Brussels Sprout-Kale hybrid, it was in follow-up that two whole Fish were presented tableside, scale-on Sea Bass standing up well against vibrant Chermoula and Olives while broiled Snapper carried Indian Butter Chicken as its inspiration atop a bed of Rice perfumed by Onions and Spices.
Smart to save room for Dessert, Pastry Chef Vivian Chang’s move from Waldorf Astoria to The Mina Group displaying her talent to its largest audience since opening Yardbird, it was on three as-yet unreleased choices that guests were left to indulge, the “Chocolate Mina Cake” spinning Red Velvet by separating Chocolate and Beets without excessive sweetness while a Pineapple Parfait and the reinvention of Chef Mina’s Root Beer Float are textural masterpieces that look gorgeous and eat light.
FIVE STARS:In an ever-changing market it is easy to overlook small changes, but with its reinvention last year MICHAEL MINA took a big step forward, and with Chefs Nick Dugan and Vivian Chang now overseeing the Kitchen and Pastry program, respectively, the Restaurant remains nothing short of remarkable.
RECOMMENDED: Michael Mina’s Caviar Parfait, Monterey Bay Squid, Warm White Asparagus Tartine, Foie Gras Torchon, Ricotta Gnudi, Spanish Turbot Pithivier, Broiled Tai Snapper, Pineapple Parfait, Root Beer Float.
TIP: The Market List Menu is prone to daily change and Whole Foie Gras requires advanced notice.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.