Wednesday, April 20, 2011

six years later

Six years ago, D was given a $200 on-call bonus that could only be used to go out to a nice dinner, so we booked a reservation and went to Michael Mina. We had a really great experience; at the time they had a three-course prix fixe where each course was itself a trio. For instance, my "citrus" dessert featured orange, lemon, and lime.

We finally returned to Michael Mina last month for the first time. I've never been to Aqua, so I'd never seen the "new" location even in its previous incarnation. Initially I thought it was nicer, because it wasn't located off of a hotel lobby like the old spot (now Bourbon Steak), but after awhile I decided I liked it less; it's noisier and feels more casual.

We went with some friends, and the four of us decided to order a la carte.

First we were served this grilled cheese sandwich with artichoke soup. I guess it was a large amuse. The soup was quite tasty but the sandwich was unremarkable.

D ordered this pork belly and geoduck clam "salad", which was served with butternut squash puree and vadouvan curry. I liked it very much; more than my own appetizer.

Mine was this "Australian wagyu" shabu shabu, served with foie gras torchon, radish salad, and a hot dashi broth, in which we cooked our own meat. It was pretty good (hard to complain about wagyu and foie), but I thought D's was more unique.

We also ordered this kabocha squash souffle with black truffle cream, for the table. It had been awhile since I'd had a savory souffle, and this one was well-flavored as well as being properly light and airy.

D ordered a duo of crispy fish with pea shoots, hearts of palm, and Thai lobster sauce.

My entree was a braised kurobuta pork with spring garlic, green polenta, bourbon, and apple. I usually don't like polenta much but enjoyed this green version very much; it wasn't just the color that was different. The sauce was a bit sweet for me, but the pork was nicely tender.

This "pre-dessert" was comprised of vanilla ice cream and cooked pineapple on some kind of cake. It was too strongly flavored to count as a real palate cleanser, and was probably too large as well.

For dessert, of course we ordered the full tasting.

The first course was a little bit savory; it was a passionfruit panna cotta with grapefruit, avocado, and passionfruit chicharrones. I liked it very much, after removing the avocado.

The next dish was deceptively simple; there were two wafers infused with jasmine & brown sugar. This was actually my favorite; I reallly liked the jasmine flavor and the flakiness of the wafers.

These crisps were flavored with white chocolate and grapefruit. D liked these very much but I thought they were a little bland.

The next dish looked really cool, but wasn't that interesting in flavor. The ingredients were listed as campfire marshmallows, devil's food, cocoa nib, and smoked sugar.

I also liked these tiny milk chocolate and honey lozenges very much, but I love fresh honey.

The final dish was a briquette of coffee and cardamom. The coffee flavor was very strong, which meant I liked it and D did not.

Overall I would say we were a bit disappointed. The first time we'd gone, we walked out thinking it was one of the best meals that we'd ever had. This time, we thought the food was good, but not amazing. We really missed the trio approach; when each ingredient was prepared three different ways, it felt almost like we were judges at an Iron Chef competition. I'm guessing that we're also less easily impressed now, having been lots of nice restaurants in the past six years. Anyway, it was a fun night out with friends, and I do think that the dessert tasting was very good.

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