Photo Credit: Eric Wolfinger
Expectations are a natural aspect of dining at a premier restaurant. Reviews, chef reputation, and word-of-mouth prepare a diner for what he or she might encounter. But a meal at the Michelin-starred Michael Mina in San Francisco, no matter the prior reconnaissance, is an experience in expectations exceeded.
From the teeny-tiny nasturtium placed ‘just so’ on a bite of pâté, to the individual silver tureen of ricotta/mascarpone with honey in which to dip a slice of bread, to dine at Michael Mina, the hautest of the Mina Group’s 24 restaurants nationwide, is to be delighted and surprised at every turn.
One of the nicest surprises is the reappearance of the famed Trios Menu for which Mina first received accolades several years ago while in his original Westin St. Francis location. When the restaurant relocated in 2010 to its current address at 252 California St., kitchen space limitations forced the Trios off the menu. A recent expansion has allowed the return of the signature Trios experience that invites guests to taste one featured ingredient—such as tomatoes, quail, lobster or duck – in a progression of three variations.
Selections from the Trios Menu propel diners into a culinary adventure that pleases both the palate and the eye. Foodie photography is forgiven at Michael Mina; in addition to creating incredibly delicious dishes, Chef Ron Siegel and his staff are creating edible art too beautiful to not be captured in perpetuity. The understated elegance of the cool grey and taupe interior, and the stunning handmade white porcelain serving pieces, made specifically for the restaurant and the Trios Menu, provide the perfect neutral backdrop for the explosion of color and texture coming out of the kitchen.
With the Trios Menu, guests select an item from each of three courses, and then the fun begins. Humble heirloom tomatoes are presented with red miso and stracciatella. A second version includes Banyuls wine vinegar. The third, sea salt and olive oil. A sashimi tasting includes exotic versions with tuna, Japanese butterfish and sea urchin, and Japanese barracuda. If wasabi is desired, the waiter grates a personal serving tableside from fresh wasabi root. Additional first course offerings include variations with Pan-Pacific Seafood Tasting, and Quail.
Second course choices include versions of duck, lobster, pork or salmon. Duck preparations, for instance, incorporate nectarine and turnip, then cranberry bean, black truffle and tomato, and finally a foie gras with blackberry and Pedro Ximenez (a Spanish wine.) Butter-poached Maine lobster variations include ingredients such as miso, mushroom and scallion, tofu, avocado, Parmesan, summer squash and basil, and a sweet corn risotto.
The third course presents a choice of luscious cheeses, or the Dessert Trio of caramel drizzled beignet, crème caramel and chocolate/coconut torte. Just when diners believe the meal is complete and the last sip of a rich and satisfying cappuccino has been enjoyed, a final treat of handmade candies is placed on the table.
One visit is not nearly enough to fully explore the menu, but for those who might not be able to readily return, a tasting menu is also offered featuring a wide variety of items. Signature dishes, such as Ahi Tuna Tartare and Beef Shabu Shabu, are also offered in lieu of Trios selections.
Every bite of every varied preparation is a revelation, and an exploration of taste and texture. Even the most distracted of restaurant goers will find contentment amongst the vast array of flavors. Though Siegel and his staff are presenting serious food in a seriously seductive environment, the entire experience is playful, fun, and very haute – a winning trio.
Michael Mina, 252 California St. in the Financial District, is open for lunch, Monday – Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and dinner Sunday -Thursday 5:30 p.m.- 9:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5:30 p.m.-10:30p.m. The sleek Bar/Lounge serves an a la carte menu and is open Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.- close and Saturday-Sunday 5 p.m.- close.
Photography by Eric Wolfinger