Saturday, February 21, 2009

Highlight #146: The start of big birthdays! - Restaurant: Michael Mina (San Fran)

J's mom kicked off the big birthdays in our family. With four people turning something followed by zero this year, we'll be doing lots of feasting. Being the nice parents they are, they decided to come meet us in San Fran rather than having us fly back to Singapore. Not that we would have fought that, but a four day Singapore turn around trip would not have been fun, at least not for the part on the plane.

After considering the tolerance of the in-laws (they are not the type to sit through a three hour tasting menu), we decided on Michael Mina for the big dinner. Getting to the restaurant was somewhat challenging as we ran into a parade taking place right outside the portion of Union Square where the restaurant is located. After twenty minutes of trying to get through the crowd with a car, we abandoned it in a park garage five blocks away and walked.

We were half an hour late for the reservation, but had no problem claiming our prime seating right in front of the window overlooking, what else, but the parade. :) It was much more fun to watch from the inside. The table centerpiece propped up a birthday card from the restaurant, a very nice touch.

Soon after getting settled, we asked for the five course tasting menu and sat back to enjoy the evening. Things started quickly with the first oyster topped with a slightly sweet sorbet. I am use to acidity on my oysters, so the sweetness was a surprise. Gentler, it countered the brininess with a less direct approach. A good way to lead into the meal.

As you can see, when foie gras terrine hit the table, I forgot all about the obligations of a food blogger and took a bite first. But maybe I can take this opportunity to explain something about this food blogger. The thing is, as much as I am immensely grateful to the 70-90 people that come to read this humble little blog everyday, what's written here is really not intended to please the readers, but is rather to document my eating life, to keep a record of sort in delicious details for me to look back and relive. And look back I do, often. My husband is a bit scared by the fact that I can recount almost every single meal we've had together as a couple (even before this blog, although much easier with the blog). But beyond that, he is amaze by how much these meals speak of our life together. This blog outlines my travels and documents my many joys and the occasional disappointments. As I said in my very first post, this is really just an open journal. I am glad that you read it and enjoy it along with me, but it is, at the most fundamental, a place for me, to put up things I like and write without editing, with no case citations or blue booking. The photos are what tie it all together. They compose a theme that string along the random thoughts. So, considering that I even forget to take the right photos sometimes, this blog is probably not "together" enough, focused enough, or tailored enough to be the kind of "it" blogs that attract a massive following. But that's okay. Because this blog is, at its heart, a personal indulgence to me. And to that end, it's more than good enough. It makes me smile every time I post to it or read it.

Now getting back to food, the foie gras was excellent. :) The under layer of crumb is actually crispy gingerbread that, together with the huckleberry gelee, really balanced out the very intense richness and savoriness of the thick as fudge foie. Even J's mom, who tend to like much lighter tasting things, loved this.

Taking a slight step back from intense richness, we were served seared sea scallops as a second course. Unfortunately, I was unable to capture the lobster mousse in its more solid form before it melted from the heat of the scallops. Regardless, it was the most fabulous element of this whole plate. I mean deep lobster essence and cream, that's a winning combination no matter what it's on. And it fell on some superb scallops. Just caramelized on the outside, these were not the biggest, but certainly very naturally sweet specimen. The black trumpet mushrooms and celery root gratin in the middle were fine, but neither tasted strongly of what they were made of, so paled in comparison to the scallop and lobster mousse combination.

The "crispy" skin striped bass was not very crispy, but it was well-cooked and seasoned right. The savoy cabbage on the side, however, was sublime, because it harbored within a big nugget of braised short rib. Now that's what I call a very pleasant surprise.

By now, you can probably tell, Michael Mina isn't the most obsessed with plating. Most of the dishes so far were arranged, but more organically than artistically. This is especially true of this chicken dish, where the chicken pieces looked very much like something out of my own kitchen. Although they were quite juicy (not to say that mine are not, they usual are). The leg roulade to the right was much deeper in flavor. Perhaps because there was some sort of bacon addition in the filling? I certainly felt the love of the pig.

This innocent looking dish absolutely blown me away! When I first saw it, I was almost a little upset by how much a supplement they charged for such normal looking "kobe beef." Where's the marbling? Where is the pinkness? But I was so wrong! This flesh was so tender it literally melted in my mouth. So so so lovely! I can't even come up with fancier words to describe this dish. I simply savored every mouthful.

The birthday girl got her apple tarte tatin with a burnt cinnamon ice cream. A simple and well-executed classic dessert to end a good meal.

In the end, the in-laws really loved that the whole meal felt special, but still approachable, which is the point of such a celebratory meal. I am so happy that we went.

As always, I looked forward to the petite four. Maybe I just hate to see a good meal end no matter how full I am. The fruit pates were excellent. The s'mores could have used just a little more caramelizing though.

The happy family left very full.

Michael Mina
335 Powell St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 397-9222

No comments: