Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

April 11, 2009 11:51 AM

Restaurant: Michael Mina

Michael Mina

335 Powell Street
(In the St. Francis Hotel)
San Francisco CA 94102
Michael Mina came to San Francisco as Executive Chef at Aqua, where he made a name for himself.

Eventually he opened "Michael Mina" in the St. Francis Hotel. This was the first of many restaurants that he has subsequently opened, Bourbon Steak being the most recent.

The two restaurants could not be more different, except for the fact that each of them is directly off the lobby of a major hotel.

As bright, energizing, and noisy as Bourbon Steak is, that is how quiet, dimly lit, and laid back is this restaurant. It is just plain fancier than its DC cousin. Dinner was with Julia and Stan.

At first blush, the menus seem to be quite different, and in general they are, but there are some dishes that are available in both restaurants. For example, the Lobster Pot Pie, Japanese Kobe beef, Elysian Fields Lamb, and Ahi Tuna Tartare show up on both menus, and there are iterations of various dishes that seem to have a common root. The "amuse buse" was a Caviar Parfait.

Julia, who prefers vegetarian dishes, had "Seasonal Squash Trio," including pumpkin soup, tempura squash salad, and a grilled sandwich. She also enjoyed "Scotch" Hen Egg, Forest mushrooms, Heirloom radishes, and Consomme. As an entre she requested and received a specially-made vegetarian dish, which included such delicacies as fried ravioli.

Stanley started with the Ahi Tuna Tartare, Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Bosc Pear, Sesame Oil. For his entree he selected the Elysian Fields Farm Lamb, Cassoulet of Pole Beans, Dry Farmed Tomatoes, Herb Bread Crumbs. [Note: Stanley seems to like lamb. You will note that it was also his selection at "piperade" which is written up later.]

I began with Roasted Heirloom Beets, Braised Endive, Mache, Black Truffle Vinaigrette, followed by a main course of "Bouillabaisse - Mina Style. [Note: I also had the Fish Soup at "piperade."]

And then there were the desserts. Julia selected an assortment of Cheeses - Goat, Sheep, Cow. Stanley chose the White Chocolate Panna Cotta, Passion Fruit, Almond Crumble.

I went with the ordinary. A Root Beer Float accompanied by Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies. Notably, the DC menu includes a Banana Split.

The food was great tasting, but as served is quite fancy and a bit fussy.

It almost goes without saying that the service was excellent.

At the bottom line, Bourbon Steak is more my kind of restaurant than Michael Mina. But for that special quiet evening ,you can't beat Michael Mina in the St. Francis.

The restaurant seats about 100 people and is open for dinner only, Tuesday - Saturday. Reservations are recommended, although the restaurant does accept walk-ins. The night we were there, a Tuesday, the restaurant was not half full.

The restaurant uses the basic hotel restrooms, so a review is not included.

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