Chef Michael Mina Closes Test Kitchen

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The bar at the Mina Test Kitchen
The bar at the Mina Test Kitchen

Chef Michael Mina’s plate is officially full. The chef has recently announced the closure of his popular Marina district pop-up, Mina Test Kitchen. It’s final service was an extravagant dinner on New Year’s Eve. The last concept, Mi Almita, featured authentic Mexican cuisine in partnership with Houston-based chef, Hugo Ortega.

Ayesha Curry, Adam Sobel, and Michael Mina
Ayesha Curry, Adam Sobel, and Michael Mina

Mina opened the test kitchen two-and-a-half years ago as an experimental restaurant where he and his chefs could refine new concepts and perfect recipes. Seven different concepts were tested, starting with Middle’terranea, a partnership between Mina and his right hand man, chef Adam Sobel, that featured Mediterranean and Egyptian food. The second pop-up, Little Italy, paid homage to Sobel’s Italian-American heritage. Next came a collaboration between Mina and star sommelier Rajat Parr, The Company—it featured creative Indian cuisine. Diane’s Bloody Mary Brunch showcased Mina’s wife, Diane’s love of all things brunch and included her famous bloody Mary. Ayesha Curry jumped on the test kitchen bandwagon with International Smoke, a globally-focused barbecue joint that was an instant success. Postcards from La Costiera was a concept inspired by Mina and Sobel’s exploratory journey through coastal Italy.

A duck dish from Mi Almita's menu
A duck dish from Mi Almita’s menu

The main reason for the closure? Mina is busy launching restaurants that resulted out of the test kitchen experiments. International Smoke opened in mid-November to much fanfare in the space formerly occupied by Mina’s French-centric wine bar, RN74. Postcards of La Costiera inspired Cal Mare, Mina’s recently opened Los Angeles eatery. Nanu Lu is a spinoff of Little Italy that opened in Mina’s Honolulu food hall, The Street.

Chef Michael Mina
Chef Michael Mina

“Frankly, we don’t have the time for it right now,” Mina told Eater SF. “And, we don’t have our next one lined up. The magic of it has been that we’ve done it the right way every time: We took our time, researched, and had great chef partners with great chemistry.” Mina confirms that the closure is temporary and once things quiet down with the new eateries, he’ll return to testing concepts and recipes. He will hold on to the Union Street space and has no plans of turning it into a full-time regular restaurant.

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