Michael Mina

Bellagio (last visit: April 2006).

This restaurant emphasizes seafood, but has other good choices as well.  I've eaten here three times, and the food is very good; it's one of the better seafood restaurants in town.  The full menu is available at the bar; it’s a pretty friendly spot if you’re eating by yourself.

The Atmosphere
The overall tone of the dining room is informal: lots of light wood; cream and tan carpet, upholstery and table cloths; medium lighting; bustling.  Another adjective that comes to mind is noisy - not just high energy, but noisy.  I prefer the bar area, which is quieter and more relaxed.

Service is good at the bar, but was somewhat lacking in the dining room.  The server was friendly but not especially good, with awkward waits at times.  I noticed similar problems at the table next to mine.

The Meals
What Michael Mina lacks in atmosphere and service, it makes up for in food quality.

Meal #1: Excellent foie gras (not quite as good as at Picasso, but close), lobster pot pie, and ice cream for dessert.

Meal #2: I tried the seasonal tasting menu (pricey at a bit over $100) and the accompanying wine pairings (pricier still at $80 or $85).  Picasso is better, and no more expensive, but I still enjoyed myself.  The meal included hamachi tartare; lobster salad; (third course that I can’t remember); kobe beef, foie gras and lobster mashed potatoes; trio of desserts, including an improbable but excellent sasparilla float.  Excellent meal.

Meal #3: The meal started off with an amuse bouche of sweet pea soup: thin, slightly sweet, with a slight graininess.  A good start.  On the other hand, the roll that accompanied the meal had good flavor, but was doughy inside.

I started with one of the signature trios: foie gras, served both hot and cold, with three different accompaniments (lychee, poached pear, and pineapple).  The roasted foie gras was buttery smooth, but could have been a little crisper on the outside.  Still, it was very good.  The chilled torchon was as soft as warm butter, and full of flavor.  Overall, very good.

My entree was Phyllo-Dusted Dover Sole with Dungeness Cod Brandade.  It takes a simple dish like fried fish and mashed potatoes, and shows just how good it can be.  The fish was barely coated with phyllo, fried until crisp but very juicy and tender.  Under it was a bed of nicely flavored cod brandade.  Accompanying all this was horseradish butter and two tasty sauces.  A winner!

Dessert was three flavors of panna cotta: mango, coconut, and passion fruit.  I was a little disappointed.  The mango version was bland; it barely had the flavor of the fruit.  The same was true for the coconut version, which paled in comparison to a perfect version I had at Okada a few months earlier.  The passion fruit panna cotta was much better, with the sweet and very tart flavor of fresh passion fruit.

Service and atmosphere need work, but the food is good enough to make Michael Mina worth returning to.

The Bill
Expect a three course meal to cost close to $100, plus drinks, tax, and tip.

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