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Feb 26, 2007 09:52 AM

Michael Mina mediocre experience

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.

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  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 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.