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Michael Mina: should I even bother?

I'm going to visit SF at the end of April and I have a reservation at Michael Mina. Last time I was in town I went to Gary Danko and enjoyed it, but from what I read here, MM won't measure up.

Could someone give me their short list of alternatives to look into?

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  1. I far preferred Michael Mina to Gary Danko. However, if it is tasing menus you are going for, then The Dining Room at the Ritz was the best.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Is the Ritz jacket and tie?

      1. re: jakew8

        You'll see lots of jackets and ties and suits at the Ritz, but I showed up without a tie or a jacket and was welcomed warmly.

        1. re: jakew8

          The French Laundry's the only restaurant in the Bay Area that requires a jacket.

      2. Okay let's say that I'm interested in restaurants of the same caliber as GD and MM, tasting menu or not. What else should I consider?

        7 Replies
        1. re: jakew8

          Boulevard and Chez Panisse [in Berkeley] are both worthy of consideration.

          1. re: jakew8

            In San Francisco, besides Gary Danko and Michael Mina, consider

            Aqua
            Coi
            Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton
            Fifth Floor (new chef, not sure of current quality)
            Masa's

            Slightly lower quality, but still very good are:

            Ame, and
            La Folie

            1. re: Paul H

              I don't think the Fifth Floor has hired a new chef yet.

            2. re: jakew8

              Both the Ritz and Fleur De Lys are exceptional and i enjoyed both more than Danko.

              1. re: Lord Griffin

                I'm really happy to read that everyone here still recommends the Dining Room at the Ritz. We'll be visiting from the east coast and have reservations there next Thursday...I'm very excited!!
                We also have reservations at the Slanted Door...still deciding on some cheap eats for the other nights in the city (we're heading to San Fransisco from Sonoma, where we have reservations at Cyrus, Cafe La Haye and the Farmhouse Inn). This trip might require a second mortgage if we don't look out. :)

              2. re: jakew8

                The suggestions are valid, but I prefer Mina's to most. I love GD and Boulevard, and am an odd ball supporter of Aqua, but would choose Mina for a special occaison almost everytime. His specialty is seafood, I wouldn't go if I wanted meat.

                1. re: Chris Rising

                  I ate at the Dining Room about 2 weeks ago and I told the chef I only wanted fish. Ron blew me away! I really don't think anyone is doing fish better in SF (at this level of dining-I am still so in love with Kiss...) Really, I like Michael Mina as a person but this was so much better than anything I have ever tried at Mina's or Aqua during his tenure there. FWIW, the beef trio was better at Mina than the cod trio but it still wasn't roll-my-socks-up-and-down fantastic.

              3. I prefer Masa's but I'm glad I tried MM at least once for the experience.

                1. The 2 of the 3 finest meals we have evr had in SF were at MM. The food was phenomonal. The dining room is elegant and well lit. Food is perfectly executed with the freshest ingredients. Very helpful but not intrusive staff. Well worth it!!!!!

                  1. Are you coming from Manhattan?

                    My meal at Mina didn't come close to touching my meals at Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, or Bouley. Although, I wasn't blown away by Gary Danko either.

                    I was disappointed because I thought that each tasting of 6 would be like Le Bernardin's fluke tasting times two - one ingredient, done 6 ways, each one distinctly different and insanely delicious. Instead, I found the preparations didn't differ enough from each other to really register. The scallop sextet came closest to achieving that, but was marred by greasiness on the cooked scallop/potato cake side (a combination that reminded me of the infinitely superior potato crusted scallop at Aureole)

                    The short rib sextet was even more disappointing - the flavors in each preparation were so similar that they melded together into one big, expensive mass of shortrib.

                    The dessert was the most disappointing of all. I ordered a trio of berry preparations (the sort of thing that Gramercy Tavern used to excel at, when Claudia Fleming was there), and it was just meh.

                    I actually swore off fancy tasting menus in SF for a little while, but recent posts are convincing me to give Coi and the Dining Room at the Ritz a shot.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: daveena

                      My complaints with MM are identical. The same ingredient isn't really prepared 3 ways. It's mostly a different sauce with the same ravioli or grilled fish. To be honest, it felt kind of gimmicky.

                      I swore off high end dining in SF for a while also. I think SF/bayarea's strength's lie in the middle-tier (Bar Tartine, Oliveto's Whole Hog and Truffle dinners, Incanto). However, Manresa is a notable exception. I can't wait to try the tasting with wine pairing. We ordered a la carte and it was delicious. I was a little disappointed that they didn't have beignets the night we went. "Just call ahead next time," said our waiter. "We can prepare it for you." That's the kind of place Manresa is.

                      The Ritz is another place that didn't live up to my expectations foodwise. If I do go back, I would try something like the Salt and Pepper tasting if it were still available.

                    2. Been to both GD and MM, and actually liked MM more. I would keep that reservation.

                      1. MM will measure up to Gary Danko. Had great dining experience there--excellent food, wonderful, attentive service. Alternatives are Ritz Dining Room and La Folie.

                        1. I've only been to GD, but the folks went there and MM in relatively close succession and vastly preferred MM.

                          1. I like Michael Mina. I enjoy eating at the Bar so you can see both the Dinning Room and the Bar menu. I would also suggest Rubicon and Quince.

                            1. Okay the moment you've all been waiting for... I kept my MM reservation and here's the report.

                              I had the tuna tartare app, which was excellent but HUGE--so big that I only finished half of it. I think that after a while, I just got tired of eating it. Not really a complaint about the dish itself, but it's pretty homogenous and I didn't want 10 ounces of it. For my main I had the duck three ways, which was good but not great. (A little gimmicky, as Porthos on this board pointed out. I also would have preferred preparations that differed in more than just sauce.) Dessert was the "citrus" and I enjoyed it.

                              She had the foie gras three ways app; she loved the preparation of the FG but it was a little too soft for me (I like mine a bit more seared and firm). The terrines were good but to be honest, foie gras terrines are served at only a certain type of restaurant and they all do them more or less the same. She had the sturgeon trio, which was good but not mind-blowing. Her dessert was the three cheese plate, which I loved but her reaction was equivocal (probably b/c she was too full).

                              All in all, I'd give the food an 7/10 and a 4/10 as compared with other restaurants in this price range.

                              The service was excellent; no complaints. I had narrowed the lengthy wine list down to a minerally Chablis, and the sommelier recommended a 2004 William Fevre grand cru (I'd have to look up the name of the clos) which was expensive ($160) and possibly an unnecassary upsell, but was excellent and paired well so I can't complain.

                              Overall I was pleased with the meal on the whole and, while I won't take pains to go back, I'm glad I kept my table.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jakew8

                                I was there last Friday, imho, MM's seafood dishes are way better than their meat dishes. The lobster dishes that we had were excellent!
                                Photos here...
                                http://www.xanga.com/item.aspx?tab=we...