Michael Mina

335 Powell Street

San Francisco CA 94102

tel. (415) 397-9222

October, 2006

Extraordinary is the word that comes to mind when I think about the dinner I enjoyed at Michael Mina recently. Everything from the food to the service was truly exceptional. My only quibble was with the noise level, which can be rather high, especially around the 6pm cocktail hour. Once immersed into the menu, however, such considerations take a back seat to the eating and drinking experience.

We opted for the Tasting of Seasonal and Classic Dishes which seemed like the best match for the wines we had chosen. I was utterly captivated by the seductive 1980 Philipponat Clos des Goisses. It presented a beguiling, alluring nose, with suggestions of roasted nuts, brioche and minerals. Soft and caressing on the palate, its purity of fruit, delicate personality and clean finish were the perfect complement to the fried oyster and rich quail egg topped with osetra caviar that were served as amuse-bouches. The Clos des Goisses also paired beautifully with our trio of sashimi preparations, which featured Japanese Fluke, Tasmanian Trout and King Amberjack.  Roulot's 1996 Meursault Vireuils was an ideal match to the crispy Potato-Crusted Florida Pompano. Its lively acidity and mineral, stone and smoke nuances offered an excellent counterpoint to the rich texture of the Pompano and its accompanying lime aioli.

Chef Mina served his Sonoma County Duck in three small preparations that featured different starch, fruit and nut accompaniments - saffron couscous, asian pear and pistachios; barley risotto, cranberries and pecans; and quinoa, huckleberries and almonds.  It was a remarkable sequence of dishes. Our wine was unfortunately less inspired. This bottle of Giacomo Conterno's 1961 Barolo was surprisingly dark. Showing a deep red color to the core, it was oddly oxidized and volatile on the nose, offering little of note.  We had far better luck with the stunning bottle of Conterno's 1964 Barolo that followed.  I have long been a fan of this wine, and this particular bottle was perhaps the freshest I've ever had, with soaring aromatics and a plush core of sweet, perfumed fruit and spice cake notes buttressed by lively acidity. Its sweetness and fullness on the palate paired gorgeously with the Colorado Rack of Lamb and it offered great length as well as terrific overall balance.

The highlight of the dinner was the Kobe Beef, which was also brought to the table in the three different miniature preparations. The beef itself was intense and deeply flavored.  The three accompaniments - artichoke roasted garlic, porcini and mushroom jus; wasabi garbanzo bean, radish and teriyaki; horseradish fingerling, pearl onions and Worcestershire; all complemented of the beef in different ways, offering new flavor combinations with each taste.  The 1978 Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà from the Produttori del Barbaresco was more than up to the challenge. Still showing a deep, dark color, the 1978 Rabajà came across as youthful, with tightly wound layers of dark macerated cherries, spices and menthol along with expressive balsamic notes that gradually revealed themselves as the wine sat in the glass. As is typical of the vintage, the 1978 Rabajà gave the impression of still being incredibly youthful, and significant decanting is advised, although further cellaring is ideal. It was a phenomenal wine. The 1978 Rabajà is a historically significant Barbaresco, as it is the wine that put the Produttori on the map. Tasting this bottle it is easy to see why. A selection of artisan cheese was nice low-key way to end the evening and allowed us to circle back to the wines after they had been opened for a few hours. All in all, it was a memorable evening at Michael Mina.


Trio of Sashimi

Potato Crusted Florida Pompano

Sonoma County Duck – Foie Gras

Colorado Rack of Lamb

Braised Kobe-Style Beef Zabuton

Selection of Artisan Cheeses


1980   Philipponat Clos des Goisses           94

1996   Roulot Meursault Vireuils    89

1961   Giacomo Conterno Barolo   ?

1964   Giacomo Conterno Barolo   96

1978   Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà   93

[Photo and credit: Michael Mina, San Francisco]

--Antonio Galloni