HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Michael Mina mediocre experience

  • m

My wife and I finally had dinner at Michael Mina. The food was creative and very good. But not one of those meals that I replay in my mind like French Laundry. However, space is noisy and we felt that the service was stiff, hovering and, most of all, nudging us along so as to turn the table. Of course, they were fully booked for the evening. As a result we got stuck at a table on the Geary St side and I looked out the window at the bright green neon sign of Lefty O'Douls bar and restaurant. Dining Room at the Ritz is a hands down better dining experience.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Michael Mina and French Laundry are in completely different leagues and they have different atmospheres and levels of execution. It is not fair to the French Laundry for you to expect Mina to give you the same experience. FL has honed it and earned it. Mina is an relatively new restaurant that is currently more glitz than substance IMO.

    If you have been to and enjoyed FL, you know should know that immediately walking into Mina that it is a different type of place and it won't be an FL experience. Moreover, I don't think anybody at Mina would claim that it is a FL experience. It's a Mina experience in the big city. Lastly, you have paid a lot more for your meal at FL, close to a grand for the two of you. You were probably out several hundred dollars at Mina (both cases less wine).

    3 Replies
    1. re: waffleman

      MM really can't be considered a "new" restaurant anymore -- it's been open for 2.5 years, more than long enough to "refine" itself, and Michael Mina has run several high-end restaurants over his career, so he wasn't starting from square one.

      It's always a bit unfair to expect anything to be better than the best you've ever had (unless it touts itself as being in that class -- if I ever get to El Bulli, it better knock my socks off!), but in addition to comparing MM to FL, the original poster compared it to the Ritz, which I think anyone would consider a reasonable comparison.

      At any rate, for "several hundred dollars" I want to be impressed. It might not be the best meal of my life, but I would expect it to be an experience worth the cost.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Point of my post is that MM and FL are different types of restaurants - and the comparison is unfair. A more appropriate comparison to FL is to the Ritz or Masa's or something along that line. Or for Mina to compare to perhaps, Danko (probably disrespecting Danko here) or Jardinere.

        I too was not impressed at Mina nor any of his others that I have been to - more flair than substance and service always tends to be needed to be kicked up several notches.

      2. re: waffleman

        To be fair to the original poster, Merv said "it wasn't one of those meals that I replay in my mind" and gave French Laundry as an example, not a comparison. You could have used any restaurant where you were delighted by the combo of food, service and atmosphere in that sentence, I think.

      3. Considering its price point, I was not wowed by my experience at Michael Mina either. The only memorable dish of the evening was the tuna tartare (which was mostly memorable for the degree of waiter-intrusion it involved) and a warm rum-infused anglaise dessert drink. The rest of the dinner was totally "meh". I think we would have been better of with the "3 version" a la carte menu instead of the tasting menu. Most infuriating was when the fish course arrived at the table and the waiter said "Chilean Sea Bass" when the menu had only said "sea bass" as though it were corvina. If it had said "Chilean Sea Bass" we wouldn't have ordered it and told the waiter as much. He said "oh, that's why we don't list it, b/c it scares people but the fishermen tell us it's okay to eat". The fishermen?!! They're not biased at all.

        MM may be a different vibe than FL but it certainly touts itself as a $$$$/four star experience and in my experienxce that standard was not met.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jbsirkin

          Precisely why this place does not interest me.

          The tuna tartare is most likely perfected since he put it on the map, I have good memories when he made it at Aqua.

          I find most star struck SF restaurants do not live up to their hype in general.

        2. Should've gone to Lefty O'Douls instead. Could have had great corned beef and bought the house a round or to and sang the blues with the piano player. Just a thought........

          1. I ate at MM last week and was also underwhelmed... in some ways the menu was creative (i.e. seared duck or filet mignon three different ways-- or more like on top of three different sauces) but the food was not particularly memorable. For the price, there are other restaurants creating much more excting dishes, and I entirely agree about the service! I thought our main water was slightly creepy, and the other servers reciting their lines about the dish sounded robotic.

            2 Replies
            1. re: butter

              My knowledge of the fine dining scene is out of date - I don't go out for that kind of experience very often anymore....would you elaborate on your statement "for the price, there are other restaurants creating much more exciting dishes" Names and dishes please ..... have a couple of occasions coming up and would love to hear some more opinions. Thanks.

              1. re: gordon wing

                Silks at the Mandarin Oriental was equally formal/$$$$ but much more intimate dining room. Dishes had more interesting play of ingredients and textures: the eggs,bacon and toast was a tempura duck egg, crispy pork belly and brioche with truffle foam. I don't usually go in for molecular gastronomy and foams and such but the chef was very reserved in his use and didn't add things that didn't have a point on the plate. You can see the menu at http://www.mandarinoriental.com/hotel... but the website is pretty poorly formatted.

                I'm checking out Coi for my next special occasion.

            2. We liked our dinner at Michael Minna in October, but remember thinking it seemed a little too pricy (especially compared to others of that caliber). We liked the multiple preparation style,, particularly the foie gras and the beef, and the wines were well-paired. That being said, I don't think we would go back (and probably wouldn't have gone at all) but for that it is one of the few very high level fine dining places open on Sunday. Another day, I would have gone to Coi or spent the weekend at Cyrus.

              1. Bring back the comfortable, affordable and elegant Compass Rose and while you're at it...also bring back Dewey's Pub that was located across the lobby from the Compass Rose.

                1. I was very underwhelmed when I finally went to Michael Mina. I was expecting a lot out of his concept of different preparations of a dish, but the experience was almost disappointing. It was just that nothing was exciting. If you're a foodie, you will have *far* more fun at places like Coi.


                  1. Maybe because I went in expecting so little, I really enjoyed MM a few years back. In retrospect, the flavors didn't pop or were not as memorable as The Dining Room at the Ritz ... I can still tell you about the pea soup and a lot of the meal without looking at notes ... but I liked MM. The price wasn't bad and it was a lot better to me than Gary Danko.

                    1. Above posts are why I hesitate to go to the pricey restaurants - they have let me down too many times in the past. You drop a lot of money, and they act like they are doing YOU a favor by letting you eat there. I have not been to MM or FL. FL is the only high-end restaurant that consistently gets raves for the entire experience - a noteworthy point.

                      As the prices go up, I expect not only great food, but complete and comfortable dining experience. Often, it's the service that is out of synch. Sometimes, the food is great, but skimpy. If I'm going to shell out for a dining experience (vs. a meal), I want ALL of it to be great - is that asking too much?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Fiftyishfoodie

                        I don't think it is asking too much and I think that is why places like Boulevard and Gary Danko really hit it out of the park. When you have a restaurant that is beautiful to look at, reasonably quiet, with great service and normal-sized portions of fantastic food, you will be very very popular. Places like MM will definitely impress certain dates, but if I have family or buddies in town, I head to Blvd or GD to have a great time with loved ones.

                        1. re: Fiftyishfoodie

                          "Asking too much"? The problem is, different people like different things. It's impossible to please everyone because different people have different palates, tastes, standards. What one person considers hovering, another might consider attentive. What one person considers seasoned another might consider bland....

                        2. If by FL you mean French Laundry ... no, it does not always get raves. It cerainly didn't get one from me. I admired and appreciated what they were doing ... but it didn't ring my chow bells.

                          1. Well, rwoorange, we are probably the only two people on the planet that were not hopping up and down with pleasure. Three of my courses were cold.

                            1. You two are not alone! Please add me to that list. Without going into too much detail, our service was terrible on our last vist and the food was well-prepared, but not earth-shattering (though our bill certainly was).

                              1. Perhaps our dining experiences are more limited than many who have posted here, but our experience at Michael Mina's several weeks ago was outstanding. Both my wife and I felt it could well have been the best restaurant meal we've ever had. But then we have never been to either the French Laundry or Boulevard. But we have been to Aqua several times, and what we liked at MM was that every dish we ordered was prepared three ways. True, we liked some of the preparations better than others, but on each dish there was at least one, and usually two or even three, that were fantastic. I think people who choose the dishes prepared only one way are really missing a great experience.

                                Concerning the service, it seemed to us as if there was always someone there when we needed them but not when we didn't - exactly what one would want. I don't mean to sound like a polyanna but I would hate for someone reading this thread not to try MM because of all the "mediocre" comments posted.

                                1. We also recently had a great dinner at MM's. We chose the 3-way dishes, and were very happy with the food. Service was excellent... although not quite the same caliber as French Laundry. We had a quiet table, and found the seats & location to be very comfortable for a longer dining experience. I would recommend MM as a very nice dinner out in SF. French Laundry is much more of a production and (financial) commitment; for which you get better food/service/ambience in return.

                                  1. I went here with a date and overall had a good experience.. had the foie gras and scallops for appetizers. the foie gras was sweet, and while i liked the scallops, mixed with the foie gras made it chewier than it really was. I luved the kobe beef. Also, I really enjoyed the banana desserts (better than the chocolates). Service was excellent, and wine pairings were well-fitting. They even gave us extra mini-corn dog appetizers which were cute..